American Gods Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 2002
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American Gods is sexy, thrilling, dark, funny and poetic." (Teller, of Penn & Teller)
"American Gods is like a fast run downhill through a maze -- both exhilarating and twisted." (Jane Lindskold, author of Changer and)
From the Publisher
- Publisher : HarperTorch; Reprint edition (April 1, 2002)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 624 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0380789035
- ISBN-13 : 978-0380789030
- Lexile measure : 840L
- Item Weight : 10.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.19 x 1.56 x 6.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #762,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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That said, here goes: it an old idea that you've seen before in a couple of Star Trek episodes and who knows elsewhere: the Greek gods or some other gods (in this case, pretty much all gods, in any pantheon that ever existed) are (or were) real! They derive their power from being worshiped, and only die if they are forgotten.
The twist: believers bring their gods with them when they emigrate. We have old world gods in the new world. New gods don't get along with the old ones, and a conflict ensues.
We follow one individual, Shadow, who isn't himself a god, but who might be employed by one, on journeys to various odd locations in the U.S. which are focal points of power. Not knowing much lore, he nevertheless has to do his best to fulfill his employer's missions, feeling his way through potential dangers and political intrigue.
Well I was wrong this book is full of highways and byways, I touched in the series treatment and in fact has more depth than those eight epidodes could ever dream of and although it never got to the end of the book, in fact it did not even make it to the House on the Rock, the series was an excellent way for me to pick up something that I should have read years ago.
The characters all fully drawn, the plot is well paced and the author is true to his premise throughout, which for me anyhow make this a five star book. When archetypes are needed they are used and used with a deliciously ironic effect. This is the sort of book I could put down and come back to, until of course I received the final chapters. Although the ending is foreshadowed more than once, and I will not spoil any else's enjoyment of this book by pointing it out, I was caught up in the narrative that I could not suspend my disbelief for long enough to puzzle it out. Although I look forward to another season of American Gods, knowing what I know now, will certainly allow me to cast a more critical eye on the transformation of this delightful adventure to the small screen, and I expect great things from the screen writers as they weave the rest of this tale into their streaming video offering.
Honestly, though, I wouldn't want to spoil the oddities and revelations for any reader who hasn't yet had the opportunity to read this. What I can say is that I am very glad I had started to watch the Starz TV series, then stopped as the book caught me up in its pace, and I set aside the show in favor of the book, and now I'll go back to see how the differences between book and series play out for me.
I continue to be impressed with the way Neil Gaiman structures his stories, and I know I'll read more of them. His view of the world, as it is, as it could be, and the vast realms of reality and possibility, are what inspire me to see things a bit differently, too. That's what draws me back to his writing, and the stories of others like him, who see things from an unique and fascinating point of view.
Top reviews from other countries
I haven't watched the TV series of the book but a co-worker has and recommended it to me as being incredibly strange (I like strange). Me, being me, would rather have the book so I decided to take the plunge. Unfortunately, all the way through I kept seeing Ian McShane's face as Mr Wednesday - but I can understand why they cast him as he does irascibly dodgy so well. That aside, it took me a disappointingly long time to twig who Mr Wednesday really is - I know, I know shameful (especially knowing the author's love of Norse Mythology, in fact ALL mythology going off this book). I was also in the dark, along with Shadow, as to who his cell mate really was and it was all there in the open, we were just too blind to see it.
What I did find interesting was how much crossover various Religions have (I can waffle for DAYS about the links between Ancient Egyptian belief and the Old Testament/Torah) but had never really considered Norse tradition, Slavic tradition - even Hinduism and Sikhism have crossovers. It's almost as though "names have been changed" in some cosmic documentary series. It even made me look further in to traditions and religions I had never given much temporal time to (Eastern European belief systems in particular) so probably took me longer to read because of this popping off to research the Zorya, etc..
I found the book to be completely immersive - so much so I spent an entire day off work curled up on the couch in my pjs just reading, been a LONG time since my entire day has been about a book. The warp and weft of the story just captivated me and sucked me right in. I never really felt emotion for the characters though, which is decidedly odd for me; usually if I love a book it is due to character but this one was all about the plot for me. Although, if Shadow was anyone other than himself it just wouldn't have worked - contradictory I know.
I'm not even really sure how to describe the plot - it just IS. There is also that little niggle in the back of your mind (the same one that The Stand gave me) that this could be real. When we create a belief system what happens when it's last adherent passes? Are we keeping the truly Ancient Religions alive by studying the cuneiform writings or the Hieroglyphics? By uttering Odin's name, or Freya's on a weekly basis are we keeping the God alive? By watching MCU movies are Loki and Thor being worshipped once more? Do Marillion have the power to resurrect Grendel? I think I am overthinking a fantasy novel rather too much - but I LIKE that it made me think, that it has entertained me mightily but also that it has given me something new to ponder on when I am cannot sleep.
This is a strange book, this is true. This is a very charming book as well, it's charm coming from the normalcy of every peculiar encounter, dream and circumstance. Shadow just accepts what is happening around and to him with a peculiar equanimity that speaks more of personal serenity than gullibility. This is not a book for public reading though, you need to get comfortable and realise that hours will pass whilst you are under it's spell - not so good for a lunch break or commute.
However, I found Shadow’s stereotypical “dark and brooding” routine quite tired. I didn’t care much for his character and that’s always a bad sign. Whether the lead makes me hate them or love them, I want to feel SOMETHING. With Shadow, I was indifferent. Not a good start. Then the long and drudging dream scenes felt tedious and, in some cases, entirely unnecessary. Some of the scenes with random gods (such as the god who feeds on men whilst they have sex with her), felt crass and forced, whilst not really adding anything to the narrative. Some of it was great. Mr Wednesday’s dialogue was often funny and poetic. I quite liked his time in the funeral home too. But overall, it just didn’t grab me the way I was expecting, and the climax felt utterly anticlimactic. It is well-written, of that there is no doubt, and it’s worth a read. It just wasn’t quite the knockout I had been led to believe.
Almost every character in this expansive work has a backstory and surprising connection to a mythical god and they form part of this alternative universe that main protagonist Shadow lands himself in after being let out of prison just a few days ahead of finishing his sentence for a grisly reason. He lands a job with a grifter and master conman Wednesday, who leads him on a psychedelic cross country quest that is as wild as Dorothy’s journey to the Emerald City laced with acid.
The consequences of lost faith on the fortunes of gods who lose their significance are presented in a darkly humorous and allegorical way that only Gaiman knows how. Shadow finds out the true god identity of a former cell mate who explains his fallen mortal state: “You got to understand the god thing. It's not magic. Not exactly…. You take all the belief, all the prayers and they become a kind of certainty, something that lets you become bigger, cooler, more than human…. And then one day they forget about you, and they don't sacrifice, and they don't care, and the next thing you know you're running a three card monte game on the corner of Broadway and 43rd”.
Richly entertaining and mystical - definitely worth the revisit.
American Gods is awesome. I mean, sincerely, awesome. I loved it. I loved every word. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Did I mention it was awesome yet? Buy it and read and love it and worship it. The book is awesome-sauce. I can’t believe I just wrote that.
I loved the way Gaiman takes so many different myths, some older than others, some I’ve never heard of and uses them as a basis for something so original and interesting. I’m very impressed.
The ending of American Gods is not what I expected at all. When Shadow finds out the real deal and why Wednesday chose him, I was taken completely by surprise. I read the book more than 10 years ago and my memory is hazy. At first, I felt cheated, then and I thought, wow, I like where the story went. Sheer brilliance.
So anyway, American Gods is amazing.
An interesting aside: every time Wednesday appears in the book I saw Ian McShane in my head and heard his voice. Slightly creepy (he plays Wednesday in the show).