Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman


Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, AMERICAN GODS takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You’ll be surprised by what and who it finds there…


Full disclosure:

I wikipedia’d the ending of American Gods. Because I was 70% finished and still utterly uninvested in the characters and unrolling of plot. Here’s what I discovered on the wiki: almost all the excitement must take place in the final 30%!

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Half of the wikipedia summary is devoted to the final quarter of the novel!

I’m a very forgiving person when it comes to litcrit, but one thing I can’t forgive in a book is boringness! And oh how I was bored! I read American Gods sporadically. The beginning caught my attention but as the book went on, nothing interesting happened. Worse, the protagonist’s personality has less flavor than the BRAT diet I’m currently consuming to recover from the stomach flu.

Like this protagonist is DULL. Another thing I can’t forgive: when things are super enigmatic and it’s obvious that questions MUST BE ASKED, but for NO APPARENT REASON, a character REFUSES TO ASK THESE MUST BE ASKED QUESTIONS. I think most authors use this lack of curiosity on the part of the protag as a way to increase reader interest. Obviously a story isn’t much fun if there is no mystery.

[Imagine the Harry Potter series with more forthright, less pussyfooted characters when it came to #realtalk:

Harry: Yo Dumbledore, why did Voldemort try to kill me but fail and then give me this bizarro lightning scar and now we seem fated to like, kill each other or something?

Dumbledore: Well young Harry, there is a prophecy…

Harry: …Oh]

But I find it hard to enjoy a story when I can feel an author purposely withholding information from me to serve his own storytelling purposes. Gaiman had some super ideas here. It’s an amazing metaphor for American belief and its paradoxical modernity/antiquity and its oft-discussed role as a ‘melting pot.’ I also have mad love for the Midwesterness at the core of this novel (Wisconsin!). Yet for me a story must excite, thrill, titillate…and as a story, American Gods fails.

2 out of 5 stars