The Tenth Anniversary Edition
By Neil Gaiman
June 19, 2001 • 750 pages
I was in a reading rut the past month, and I picked up this book because I knew it wouldn’t fail me.
American Gods follows Shadow, a formerly incarcerated man who tangles fates with Norse gods, deities from West Africa, Egypt, India, Native America, Ireland, and a host of miscellaneous characters. His life is a complete mess and only grows more complicated when he meets Wednesday, the American incarnation of Odin. Wednesday offers him a job as his security guard, liaison, and middle-man and without really meaning to, Shadow accepts.
And in modern day American, where old gods compete with the new (gods of media, gods of technology, gods of obesity) who knows what can happen next? Oh, I know. Nothing good!
This is a jam-packed story that’s witty, page-turning, slightly offensive, and classically Gaiman.
Do I think this novel could be a hundred pages less and still be a gem? Absolutely. I couldn’t put this book down. I was thoroughly engrossed in the mayhem of it all. It was wonderfully random and it all made sense. Something only Gaiman and a few other writers can do. He strikes a beautiful balance between the comical and the sincere, the grotesque and the seductive, weaving a timeless story with several layers, themes, and deeply lovable characters.
Gaiman is just so wonderfully weird!
My favorite part of the novel is the characters. Shadow is passive and a push-over in the beginning of the novel, but grows into a strong protagonist. You can’t help but to root for him. He’s just a genuinely good person who makes the best of the cards he’s dealt. It’s frustrating how unreactive he can be, but refreshing to be in the mind of someone who’s not continually overthinking. Whose only thought is to keep moving and to do the right thing.
Shadow goes to jail for 3 years and a few days before his release, he finds out that the love of his life and best friend died in a car crash. He is continually put in danger and beaten, is being followed by a zombie, seduced by countless women, one of whom wants to swallow him whole with her vagina, and befriended by a man who’ll eventually bludgeon him with his hammer. All the while he just wants to get home to his wife! This man! He just can’t catch a break.
Interspersed within the novel are smaller stories, or “interludes” that don’t always have much to do with the main storyline, but give insight into the different cultures and deities of immigrant gods (gods of America). Each one was captivating in its own way and offered up another layer of American culture that’s often criticized but sometimes uplifted.
The final part of this novel is packed with various twists and you just have to hang out for the very satisfactory conclusion.
There’s a lot that goes on in this novel, but it’s truly an adventure from start to finish and I can’t recommend this enough.
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