An out of practice reader discussing the books I get around to reading.
This book took me a while. I think like a month and a half. I had to renew it from the library about 4 times, which isn't something I've had to do before. So it was a bit of a journey. But I made it through and I'm glad I did. So let's get into this.
For those who don't know, American Gods is about a man, Shadow, who becomes the driver for a man named Mr. Wednesday after being released from jail and the sudden death of his wife. While traveling with Mr. Wednesday, Shadow meets an assortment of ancient gods as well as new and learns of a brewing war between the two groups.
Overall I liked this book. It was interesting and overall just an enjoyable tale. The plot was interesting, as was the concept of the new gods. That wasn't something I had heard before but it absolutely made sense. America has created it's own religions of sorts surrounding things like Media and technology. It had some fun twists, a few I didn't see coming. It was just a good book.
I love mythology and for me that was the best part of this book. Gaiman seems to have really done his research and did a wonderful job of bringing different gods to life in a way that I feel paid respect to their origins. My best friend adores Egyptian and Norse mythology and so I constantly sent her messages about the book, and each time she was delighted with his takes on the deities she adored. My favorite was probably Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jaquel, though I did love Mr. Nancy as well. If you enjoy mythology, I feel you will really enjoy this book.
Speaking of characters, all of them were wonderful. I don't think there was a character I didn't like. They were all well rounded and individual. They weren't like characters I've encountered before, aside from their similarities to the myths I've heard before. Shadow was absolutely my favorite, which is interesting because he was something of an empty vessel (which was kind of the point, as Laura points out). I think that's why I liked him so much. He had a calming vibe about him, a neutral spot to cling to during the chaos surrounding him in the novel. He also just seemed like a nice guy. I'm excited to see how he's brought to life in the TV adaptation.
While I liked a lot about the book, there were a few issues I had with it. The biggest one was I didn't care for the payoff. It felt anticlimactic. This huge battle, which is constantly referenced throughout the book, is just ended by Shadow saying, "Yo, go home"? I was kind of let down by that. I just expected more, which is maybe my own fault. It just felt it wasn't the right way to wrap everything up.
Another thing I didn't care for about the book is some of the twists were somewhat cliche. I have to say, it really irked me that Loki was the bad guy. It did make sense, given that he's the God of Chaos, but Gaiman had been so original in everything else in the book I would have thought he could have chosen a villain that wasn't such an obvious choice. I also didn't like that he teamed up with Odin, just because in the myths they never really got along so it seemed odd they'd get along now. It made sense the way he told it, I just didn't care for it. Finally, Shadow's identity seemed expected. I didn't see it coming necessarily, but I wasn't like, WHOA when it was revealed either.
I feel like Gaiman missed some opportunities to be really creative. I like his stuff and the way he writes (I enjoyed Stardust and Neverwhere very much) and I feel like he could have done more with the story, such as the aspect of Shadow's identity and who the mastermind behind it all was. Maybe I'm just bitter that my theory was wrong, but it does feel like he went with the easy route, rather than take some risks.
Finally, his style could get a little too dense for my taste at times. I noticed this in his other books too, so it's not an American Gods complaint but just a note about his overall style. It did make it hard to get through at times, as there were nights I was just too tired to trudge through his descriptions.
Final rating: 4 out of 5. I debated between a 3.5 or a 4 for a bit before settling on a 4. It was a good, if a bit anticlimactic, book, I'd read it again, and I'm looking forward to the TV adaptation. I recommend it, especially to those who love his other works.