Review – American Gods by Neil Gaiman

“I think,” he pronounced, gloomily, “that our kind, we like the cigarettes so much because they remind us of the offerings that once they burned for us, the smoke rising up as they sought our approval or our favor.”

Czernobog, American Gods

As you might surmise from the title, American Gods is about all of the old world mythological gods who traveled to America with their worshippers to seek a better life–most of them now exist on little more than superstition and watered-down holiday remembrances.

The protagonist begins working for a mysterious conman named Wednesday, which–if you know the etymology of that word–you can quickly figure out Wednesday’s identity. The novel has a lot of great not-so-hidden mythological references that are always fun to figure out.

I came late to Gaiman’s American Gods, but I’m glad I am here finally. It has two interwoven stories with the overall gods plot:

  1. A man freshly released from prison and who must find a new life when the old one has died.
  2. A murder mystery where a child disappears each year in a small wintry lake town.

Both of these, of course, relate to the overarching narrative. The book asks the questions, “what is a god?” and “what are the current gods of American life?”.

Source: Flickr user vongterlachter

I finished reading American Gods while riding in a car through the Tennessee mountains, full of signs to “SEE ROCK CITY”. If you know the novel, you’ll know why this was a serendipitous experience.

American Gods is a gritty, witty, urban fantasy story that can be thought provoking and is masterfully plotted. I have not seen the television show so I cannot relate how authentic the show is to the novel. The book is definitely a “hard R” so if your kids want to read Gaiman, send them first to The Graveyard Book or Stardust.

2 thoughts on “Review – American Gods by Neil Gaiman

  1. I’ve been reluctant to read American Gods because it is so highly thought of… and I didn’t care for his Neverwhere at all… despite the fact that I LOVE his Sandman graphic novels.

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    1. I can’t help you with that dilemma, Tony. I’ve never read Neverwhere, only The Graveyard Book (wonderful), Norse Mythology (Gaiman’s audiobook narration is great), and now AG. I like what I’ve read, but I’ve never tried Sandman.

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