on June 22, 2016
Many of my friends read and recommended this book in highschool, now ten years later I finally got myself a copy. I can see why many find this book enjoyable and why it won so many awards in its time. It's very distinct in its approach to building plot and characters. If you're a new reader, this may be just the book that delights you to dive into the fantasy genre. However, I found myself struggling to get through this novel. Perhaps this is because I've been reading fantasy my whole life and this just wasn't anything super new or intriguing to me.
The main character mostly floats through the plot and the plot is like a maze with a hundred dead ends. Every chapter introduces a dozen new concepts without tying up any loose ends. To be honest, I tried my best and only got through 46% of it before I couldn't force myself to read another word.
A super interesting concept that's well drawn out, but it failed to take it anywhere substantial, instead feeding you little spoonfuls of icing when you want the whole cake. Since I did not finish it, I assume the whole cake is given at the end, but I want willing to stick around when there are so many other things to read.
on July 1, 2004
I went into this book with high expectations and was disappointed even more than expected. As usual, Gaiman is one of the best idea men ever. Unfortunately his writing is still a bit torturous in such a long format. I found the characters a bit fleeting or too shallow. Many of the characters seemed skimmed over, but when he did indulge us, they often disappeared, never to be heard of again. Overall, the idea was awesome, but it simply didn't pan out as well as it could have. Stick to his shorter stories, or books he worked on with other, more experienced authors.
My biggest gripe with this book is the obvious lack of research. If you are going to set so much of your book in a select region of the country, you should visit it.... in the winter. As a resident of Northern Wisconsin, I found myself cringing far too much. Not only were the characters off, but I don't think he even consulted a map when picking locations. We have a lot of interesting crazies and stereotypes up here, but oddly he didn't hit any of them. If you have never been to the Upper Midwest, I'm sure you won't even notice, but if you live up here, read something else.
on January 29, 2004
I have read a lot of sagas, mythology, Zelazny, Harlan Ellison, cyber-punk, and I loved Gaiman's novel Coraline. I ended up skimming my way through the second half of this one. The central character is very two dimensional, and the book is an endless string of enticing brief encounters that lead to not very much. The plot is a pretty standard murder mystery/travelogue. All the "epic" aspects are just rehashes of ancient stories I've long since read elsewhere in much more truly epic form. They might be very impressive if you had not encountered them before, and I certainly respect his taste in borrowing them.
Gaiman has a wonderful talent for description, and is a good smooth writer, though he has a hard time not patting himself on the back every so often for his knowledge of grammar. He has clearly read and explored and researched a great deal, but never managed to go very deep in this one. He kept reminding me of books I'd rather be reading. Check it out at the library, I wish I had.
on January 23, 2004
Gods are walking the Earth again... and that is the short summary of this book. But, to make a good book, interesting preposition (or a plot) is not good enough. Thoguh Gaiman had a good idea, idea that could have been developed in a more complex way (considering he got a Nebula for this), book lacks a few important things.
Amongst them are: 1. Prolonged narration - author often leads his characters in endless and meaningless converstion, just for sake of building his novel hundred or so pages more than is necessary
2. If we take the general idea of strugle of modern and ancinent pantheon out of the picture, what we are left with is average narrative story about lifepath of one man who find himself in strange situation... we read that story about couple hundred times, and this one does not jump out and screams: "Look at me, I'm extraordinaire"
3. Ending is catstrophic, just like those endings in a B production movies, with an enexpected twist in the tale, and resolution that satisfies all
Eventually, one finds himself wondering wath is good in this book, and one does not find and answer... this is a book that will draw attention for one reading and then it'll be forgotten... if you look for that kind of book I reccomend this, putting all things asside I cannot deny that it is entertaining, but if you look for something else, look elsewhere...
on December 7, 2003
Surprised, that is, that this book has been met with such critical acclaim. I found the characters, especially Shadow, to be wafer-thin, and plot holes abound, many of which have been pointed out by previous reviewers. The writing is pedestrian, without much spark, and never did I reread a section for the simply enjoyment of well-crafted prose. It wasn't a bad read; it was just very average, and I certainly don't think its worthy of the accolades heaped upon it. Perhaps my luke-warm response was in part due to the fact that I read Meiville's fantastic Perdido Street Station immediately prior to this. The ideas in American Gods are tired and recycled, folks, not incredibly imaginative - if you want to be blown away by a writer's imagination, try China Meiville. My theory as to why this book has met with such success: the sci-fi community is always looking for those authors it feels can accomplish two things 1. impart literary respectibility to the genre and 2. reach a wide audience. Gaimain is the current anointed one, so he's going to keep piling up the awards until everyone realizes the mainstream literary community still just doesn't give a damn.
on October 9, 2003
Having heard loads of good things about Gaiman's work, and this huge novel in particular, I decided to check out this story of the decline of "old" gods in the face of the "new" gods of technology. The notion that the power of gods is derived from belief in them is a fairly basic one, and forms the underlying framework for "the coming storm", where the old gods in America band together to fight the new ones. The premise here is that centuries of immigrants have brought their native gods to the shores of America, where, we are told, there were no gods. Gaiman uses a few flashbacks to show these gods in action, which are some of the most effective bits of writing in the book. But there are three main conceptual flaws in the premise. The first is that the American mainland was hardly a tabula rasa, there were plenty of Native American deities in place (Raven, Wolf, Turtle, etc.). Secondly, does that mean that there are multiple manifestations of deities-one per geographic location? If the Norse gods die off in America due to dwindling belief, does that mean they live on in Scandinavia? Thirdly, the book totally ignores the monotheistic traditions which dominate modern American belief, which seems like a massive cop-out by Gaiman. Of course, this is a work of fantasy, and one doesn't look for total realism-but these issues undermine the internal logic of the story.
The story's protagonist is the cheesily names Shadow, who we meet right before he is released from prison. Upon his release, he is enlisted by the leader of the "old" gods, Wednesday, as a bodyguard. It's troubling that Shadow never seems that perturbed by Wednesday's creepy knowledge of his life, and it's one of the books central flaws that Shadow takes the most bizarre, X-Filesque events in stride, barely batting an eye. He's such a non-reactive character that it's a real struggle to care about him at all-which is a major problem as he is the center of the story. The two set out on Gaiman's attempt at that most traditional of American genres, the road movie/book, as they attempt to organize a coalition of old gods to do battle with the new ones. So, basically, the whole story is a buildup to this massive battle, which... Well, I won't give it away, but it's likely to disappoint many readers. More problematic is the pace, which is numbingly sedentary. The book drags on and on and on at a steady pace, only to culminate in the aforementioned non-climax.
Along with these issues, readers who know their Norse pantheon will probably spot the book's big reveal well in advance (Shadow's prison buddy, Low Key and his boss Wednesday, bear names decodable by a child with an interest in Norse mythology). This is not to say there aren't portions that are well written and intriguing, but as a whole, the book is an unwieldy mess of ideas and scenes. Gaiman clearly has talent and imagination, but sustaining a narrative of this length appears beyond him at this point.
on October 7, 2003
This book gets an incredible amount of praise on Amazon and elsewhere, and the reason why is beyond me. Neil Gaiman is certainly a very literate writer of comics. In fact, over the past 15 years or so, he gave the comic medium a degree of culture and style. This ability, unfortunately, is not present in his novels. Strangely, the SANDMAN comic, written for a medium that is usually dismissed as children's fare, is much more intellectual than his novels, which contain much adult fare (sex, blood, violence, etc.) but are hardly constructed on an adult reading level.
Gaiman's basic premise definitely got my attention: the last showdown between the gods of old civilization and the so-called gods of modern America. Sounds great... in fact, the whole plot of the novel is a lot of fun. The problem is that it is carried out in such an amateurish and lackluster fashion. Gaiman incorporates many tired standards into this novel to further the plot, give foreshadowing, or whatever. He of all people should know better! I knew I was in for a questionable read in the first chapter of the book by this classic and wholly original bit of foreshadowing: "There's a storm coming". Ooooooh, how dark, and how mysterious. It didn't send shivers down my spine, but it sure did make my stomach turn. Why not just start the novel with "It was a dark and stormy night"?
Let's face it: Gaiman works wonders with comics, but his novels are second-rate.
on August 1, 2003
I love the premise, but the writing here is clumsy. The characters are all skeletons--the cool hippie hitchiker, the small town old man who talks in shaggy-dog tale stories, the drunken irishman. It almost seems like Gaiman is unintentionally spoofing himself. And the characters break so far out of character that it made me want to throw the book away on several occaisions.
Example: "Lives are like snowflakes--forming patterns we have seen before, as like on another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in a pod? I mean, really LOOKED at them? There's not a chance you'd mistake one for another, after a minute's close inspection)..." The voice is that of Ibis, but the parenthetical statement here sounds like Gaiman himself. I find it hard to believe that Ibis, a god who writes the stories of all living beings, would either use italics (capitalized above as "LOOKED"), or ask the reader such a casual question. Stephen King, maybe. A god, no.
I find it very hard to believe that American reading public has overlooked Gaiman's poor skills as a writer in deference to his very interesting premise. But it seems they have. If you like Everybody loves Raymond, Khakis with Pleats, and McGriddles then buy this book. If you have slightly higher standards then skip it. It is trash, pure and simple, and not even the good kind.
on May 10, 2003
The concepts in this book have been covered many, many times in literature. Gods thrive on belief; as belief fades away, so goes the god.
Gaimans old gods choose to band together and fight it out with the youngsters instead of fading away with their dying believers. That was a little different twist. Still, I felt like the author couldn't find that one moment which really defined his point. It was a good idea, but it all turned into just another 'shoot 'em up'. His story felt like a group of bad dreams all jumbled together. I did like his idea of 'new gods'.
A much better version of the same story is Terry Pratchett's book, 'Small Gods'. Pratchett's story is comical, full of satire, and characters a reader can get to know a little bit. It also has some of the best dialogue I've ever read. Gaiman tried to show the dark side of the story, but he forgot all about character development. He relied strictly on plot to carry the novel, and that just isn't enough for me.
on December 26, 2002
i was excited about this book when it first came out. i'm a big fan of gaiman's graphic novels and i thought that 'american gods' would launch him securely onto the stage of great sci-fi / fantasy authors. the book starts off well. the main characters are evocatively developed and the hints about the upcoming war between the gods are intriguing.
the problem with the book is that it's basically a road trip novel. a trip that gaiman obviously took himelf. because of this, he's too anxious to get to the next location so he can reveal some new facet of americana which, as a brit, he must find incredibly exotic. the effect is a rushed travelogue that eventually takes center stage over the main characters.
this book reads like it was hard to write. it reads like it suffered from endless revisions and endless edits. the result is impressively stiched together - but it's still stitched together.
['are we living in an age where sex and horror are the new gods?' - frankie goes to hollywood, 1984]