BOOK REVIEW | American Gods by Neil Gaiman

REVIEW | American Gods (2001) by Neil Gaiman
Review by Mark David Major

(Publisher’s blurb begins) First published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic, lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose” (Washington Post) and as a modern phantasmagoria that “distills the essence of America” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). It is the story of Shadow – released from prison just days after his cheating wife and best friend are killed in an accident – who gets recruited to be bodyguard, driver, and errand boy for the enigmatic trickster, Mr. Wednesday. So begins Shadow’s dark and strange road trip, one that introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. For, beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and Shadow is standing squarely in its path (blurb ends).

I liked American Gods (2001) by Neil Gaiman. However, I did not love it. It has a clever premise but it seems like the author could, perhaps should, have done a lot more with the inherent richness of that premise than this story. This makes it somewhat unfulfilling. It is a little odd that a book titled American Gods avoids almost entirely – except for a few aside comments here and there – the topic of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, especially given its original publication date of 2001. It feels like a cop-out to the marketing and point-of-purchase ‘gods’ of the publishing world. On a side note, I am dumbfounded by the four pages of Gaiman’s acknowledgements at the end. It almost reads like a committee wrote this novel and Gaiman himself only exists as a godhead figment of some people’s imagination. You won’t be disappointed by American Gods, not per se, but you will not take much of anything about it away with you after you finish reading. In that sense, Gaiman’s novel is popcorn literature. Certainly, American Gods does not belong on any list of “sci-fi/fantasy books you should read”, as it mistakenly does in some instances. There are much better options out there. But there is nothing wrong with a little popcorn. Personally, I am intrigued to see if the new STARZ series based on this novel can realize some of the inherent potential that Gaiman leaves mysteriously untapped in the novel’s premise. Mark’s Grade:

American Gods
by Neil Gaiman

English, 784 pages
William Morrow: Originally published, 2001; 10th Anniversary Edition, 2016
ISBN-10: 0062472100
ISBN-13: 978-0062472106

You can purchase American Gods by Neil Gaiman on Amazon here.

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