Monday, June 23, 2014

Completed: American Gods


I feel like of all the books on my list, I feel like this might be one that you have already read. I got it from a co-worker, Sam, after we were talking about foundational myths and how kids don't really know them anymore. At that time, I was experimenting with doing some myth work with them, but it's been tricky. Maybe reading this book will help me rethink it.

American Gods was published in 2001, and it's easy to see how it led to children's books like the Percy Jackson series. In this book, a man named Shadow is about to be released from prison. However, days before he is released, he finds out his wife has died in a car accident. Upon leaving the prison, he meets a strange man named Wednesday who turns out to be Odin, Thor's father, and they embark upon a long adventure through godless America.

The premise of the plot is that the old gods from other countries were brought here by immigrants, but over time, they were forgotten and replaced by new gods: the gods of trains, cars, and the internet. Wednesday convinces Shadow "a storm is coming": a war fought between the old gods and the new ones. Shadow must help Wednesday as he travels the country, marshaling the old gods together to fight the new ones.

I would not say that I loved this book. It's hard to put my finger on what I didn't like about it. I think, maybe, it was trying to do too much: an adventure! a love story! a meditation on the role of religion and belief in modern life! a mystery! a commentary on Americans and America! For me, it just felt like it was trying to do too much. I don't want to give anything away, but I also felt like it was anticlimactic---sort of like the end of that last awful Twilight book. You spend *hundreds* of pages leading up to the big battle, and it ends with someone explaining to everyone else what has really been going on. I sort of hate those endings.

I realize this is a pretty lackluster review, but it's sort of how I feel about the book. It was okay. There wasn't much to dislike, but there was nothing to rave about either. My most important feeling upon finishing this book is relief that I have knocked another one off my list!

I'm not sure what will be next. I'll have to take a look and see. BUT, my first class of the new quarter is tonight, so I'm pretty happy to have completed this book and its review!



  1. I haven't read it, but it's been on my radar. The aBook is a "full cast production," it's nice and long, and it gets good reviews, so I've checked it out before.

    And even with your review of "meh," I'm still kind of interested. Sometimes lower expectations help a book! Hee.

    The book was originally published in 2001, then re-released in 2011 with an additional 12,000 words. Maybe the shorter version would have been easier to take?

  2. I bet it would be a really good aBook, actually. A lot happens, and I bet it would be action packed and interesting.

  3. As I texted you, I listened to this aBook -- the cast and narration was fantastic. But this book? I second your "Meh" and actually see you a "WTF?" I thought with the warning that it would not be great, my lowered expectations would get me through it, but no.

    As you say, it is trying to be too much. Waaaaay too much. I feel like many of the allusions were just way too vague... maybe it's because I was listening, so I didn't have a chance to carefully examine the text, but, in cases where the "god of ____" wasn't explicitly spelled out, I just found myself thinking, "Wait... what was that supposed to be...?" which was distracting. On the other hand, some of them were so heavy-handed ("Low Key" is "Loki". Har har.) that it just struck me as uneven -- sometimes, we have to read Gaiman's mind, but sometimes he's handing it to us on a platter.

    Gaiman actually includes a cut scene at the end where Shadow meets Jesus -- he said it never really "fit" with the other scenes. Wait... that was a requirement?!

    And maybe I'm just dumb and I'm putting it all out here for the world to see but... it is *explained* how/why Shadow does not know that he is a god for the entirety of the book. Or wait... is he *not* a god? Unclear.

    Aaaand... the Twilight Treatment on that battle. Just... no.

    The things I liked about this book were:
    1. The exhaustive local flavor (lots of pasty talk. Heh.)
    2. The solved murders at the end. I probably would have been interested in a book that just focused on *that* with that being the payoff.

    Hrm... I should probably write some of my own damned reviews, shouldn't I?