(This review contains spoilers. Read at your own discretion.)
At long last, I’ve finished this behemoth of a book. I meant that in a good way, of course. It’s Neil Gaiman, what’s not to love?
American Gods centres around ex-convict, Shadow Moon, who was released early due to the death of his wife, Laura, and best friend, Robbie. He is shortly recruited as a bodyguard, driver and errand boy by the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday. Shadow soon learns, through Wednesday and his many godly acquaintances, that spirits and gods exist because people believe in them. Their powers have waned overtime as new gods rose, reflecting the American obsessions with media, technology and drugs, and that a war (referred to as ‘storm’ in-story) is brewing between the two sides.
This novel is the kind that deserves a second read. Not only because it’s just that good, but also because you will have missed some key details the first time around. There are subplots within subplots. There are pauses in the main story dedicated to interludes, recalling how the first gods came to America via immigrants and slaves. Gaiman writes his characters as impressive liars, one deceiving another in a never-ending loop, designed to keep you on the edge of your seat. The characterisation of both mortals and gods alike, even minor side characters, are superb; their nuances hint more than meets the eye. Nothing is ever properly revealed until the very end.
A majority of the book is, in a way, true to life. It takes places in real life—Gaiman included tourist attractions such as House on the Rock and Rock City, but also deliberately obscured some of the towns in the book—and every part of it feels authentic. Even though this book is written in third person, it’s as though you’re viewing things in first person anyway. You feel the lethargy Shadow feels after driving halfway across the States, the eeriness that blankets Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlour, even the savouriness of a freshly cooked pasty. Shadow practising his sleight-of-hand when he has the chance is as clear as day in your mind. The same can be said for the parts that don’t take place in the real world. Valaskjalf, Wednesday’s old hall and a representation for his mind, is described in both vividly yet obscurely, as a mortal would when he
I will say that the conflict resolution could’ve been handled a little better, especially considering that this war has been imminent throughout the entirety of this book. I don’t wish to spoil much, but you would think that the gods would have more to say after all has been revealed. The book also has an open ending, which I prefer in stories like this, but it does make you wonder: what will Shadow and the gods do now?
American Gods is a colourful, morbid, fascinating piece of fiction, a must-read if you’re passionate about the urban fantasy genre. This isn’t only a fantasy story, however, but one of horror and mystery as well. It’s a literary road trip—and quite aptly so. The plot is packed to the brim with marvellous twists and, as I said, if you’ve read it once, then a second read is in order.
If you’ve made it this far into my post, thank you for reading! Have you read American Gods before? If so, what did you think? If not, are you interested to? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you in my next post.
Until next time,