Date Published: 2005
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Audiobook Length: 19 hours 39 minutes
Audiobook Narrator: Daniel Oreskes, Dennis Boutsikaris, Ron McLarty, Sarah Jones
Description: The extraordinary, highly acclaimed epic novel from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman. After three years in prison, Shadow has done his time. But as the time until his release ticks away, he can feel a storm brewing. Two days before he gets out, his wife Laura dies in a mysterious car crash, in adulterous circumstances. Dazed, Shadow travels home, only to encounter the bizarre Mr Wednesday claiming to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a very strange journey across the States, along the way solving the murders which have occurred every winter in one small American town. But the storm is about to break... Disturbing, gripping and profoundly strange, Gaiman's epic novel sees him on the road to the heart of America. Includes extra material exclusive to this Headline Review edition.
Another ShelfLove book down; but American Gods was quite a slog. I started in January and finally had to switch to the audio to make some progress. I’m not really sure what the problem was. I usually like Neil Gaiman’s books. But I just didn’t connect with this one.
Let’s go with a list style review.
Things I liked:
- The beginning of the novel has Shadow and Mr. Wednesday attending a meeting at House on the Rock. They even take a twirl on the carousel. Every time I’ve visited, I wanted to ride the carousel. Though maybe without all the dust and creepy dolls. As a Midwesterner by birth, House on the Rock is iconic. Who hasn’t seen the countless billboards driving through Wisconsin? These scenes were so well crafted I actually felt like I was there alongside Shadow, wondering what the heck was going on, meeting the other gods, spinning out of control.
- Post Script and interview with Neil Gaiman: I would have been content with more of the post script and less of the novel. The post script explains the inspiration behind American Gods. Learning of Gaiman’s thoughts behind the immigrant experience and American myths was fascinating. I really feel like the post script ties the whole book together.
- The concept\premise: Intellectually, I thought the idea of a battle between old gods (Odin, Easter, et al.) and new gods (Media, Mr.World et al.) very intriguing. The notion that roadside attractions are major points of spiritual interest and power is also interesting. Why else would people trek to see the world’s largest ball of yarn?
“This is a bad land for gods” … “You’ve probably all learned that, in your own way. The old gods are ignored. The new gods are as quickly taken up as they are abandoned, cast aside for the next big thing.”
- The audio narration: It was a full cast recording and I’m always a fan of those. Neil Gaiman even narrates a few sections. Definitely a plus.
Things I didn’t like:
- Everything in the middle. The plot felt very rambling. The three main plots are: 1) follow Shadow to a Midwestern town, where we learn that teenagers have been disappearing since the beginning of the town; 2) follow Shadow to Southern Illinois where he spends some time at a mortuary; and 3) follow Shadow as he drives Wednesday around to visit other gods to convince them to join the cause. There are a number of other sub-plots. And honestly, I did not care about any of the different story-lines.
- I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I wouldn’t want to hang out with any of them. And I didn’t care what happened to any of them.
In the battle of old gods vs new, it was me who lost the 20+ hours it took for me to slog through American Gods. We’ll call this a case of it’s not the book, it’s me.
I would like to point out that I am still excited for the upcoming American Gods tv series. I’m hoping the plot will move along more quickly in one hour segments. If you are interested, check out the trailer below!