Days before his release from prison, Shadow's wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash.
Numbly, he makes his way back home.
Some of this fiction I had read many times, not understanding why the stories resonated so strongly within me, just knowing that I was compelled to return to those worlds, over and over. Others were stories I read during the time surrounding my breakaway, and shortly thereafter.* American Gods made me observe and think differently. During the time I was reading American Gods, it was this which rocked me I was doing the same thing choosing and keeping and killing my own Gods, my own mythologies.
Shadow is paid by Wednesday to be an errand boy while he travels America trying to rally his troops in preparation for a war between The old Gods, and the new Gods (media and money) I guess it's my own fault. I couldn't really bring myself to care about this war between the new and old Gods, because the Gods of Media and Money? Of course that's not the books fault, but I was just expecting to like this book much more than I did. Three stars it is folks, but as most of you know this book is loved by (almost) all, so of course I encourage everyone who is interested in this book already to read it, and form your own opinions.
Anybody who tells you that the book is about old and new gods, or about a man named Shadow, or about coin tricks, or about having one's head smashed in for losing a game of checkers, is selling you a line, because those are just details, not the story itself.
Somehow Gaiman managed to turn a potentially cool premise into something boring. The plot: there is a building power struggle between the old Gods (Norse, Native American, pagan, etc.) and the new Gods (Technology, Television, Money, etc.). Heres the unique twist in American Gods that caused my political antenna to start twitchingevery God (like say Odin) has an avatar of him or herself in each country. I find it politically disagreeable to suggest that every country (or even continent) has different God-avatars. The premise of American Gods manages to privilege the people in one country as somehow being united in their spiritual energy, feeding the Gods only within that country. For Gods sake how many times do other characters have to refer to how big he is? It felt like a character trait on a chart that Gaiman could pull out every couple of chapters. But every once in a while, Gaiman would throw in a chapter from another characters point-of-view. These chapters read in some ways like short stories inserted into the novel to expurgate some backstory, elucidate the God/worshipper premise in more detail, or delve into a side character. One or two interludes in a book might be acceptable but to have an entire story driving in a close third person POV and then jump into another character because you cant explain something from the primary POV is cheap. It made me feel as though Gaiman were talking down to me as the reader, like I was a little kid who didnt get it. Or like his storytelling just wasnt good enough to tell the story without jumping out of it to explain it. Shadow spends a great deal of time stuck in a small town in northern Wisconsin, meeting all these good-hearted locals and exploring bits of small-town life. I felt like I was stuck in a small town in northern Wisconsin during the winter the whole time. Modest spoiler: (view spoiler)The entire chapter where the old Gods meet the new Gods in truce made no logical sense.
You have GOT TO read Gaiman!" "Gaiman is SUCH an important part of popular culture and one of the BEST contemporary writers! Let me quote: "American Gods is Neil Gaiman's best and most ambitious novel yet, a scary, strange, and hallucinogenic road-trip story wrapped around a deep examination of the American spirit." I agree with everything but the beginning and the end. It certainly isn't a book, or an author, you HAVE to read.
Whenever we have a cold snap here in Wisconsin, I find myself thinking about one of my favorite pieces of American Gods. I read the following section of the book nodding to myself, thinking, "Yup, that's exactly what it's like." Then I had another thought: "I bet this comes from that really bad cold snap we had here in Wisconsin about six years ago." It was pretty cool for me, being able to guess where a this piece of this book got its start.... The main character, Shadow, has just come to a small Wisconsin town, and he decides to walk into town to buy some warmer clothes and groceries. * * * The cold snap had come, that was for sure. Soon he began to cough, a dry, thin cough, as the bitterly cold air touched his lungs. But he was already three or four minutes from the apartment, and the bridge over the lake was in sight. Ten more minutes of walking, he guessed, and the bridge seemed to be no nearer. This, thought Shadow, is just a hair away from the places where air comes in buckets and pours just like beer. An old song his mother had loved, Walking in a Winter Wonderland, began to run through his head, and he hummed it through closed lips, kept pace to it as he walked.
I expected some really interesting stuff to happen between all the Gods and mortals, but instead I got sometimes boring, sometimes unintelligible speeches, or really odd occurrences that come out of nowhere and make no sense. In general, I am not really sure why any of it happened other than Gaiman spewed forth some really weird stream of consciousness (This was the same way I felt about The Ocean at the End of the Lane).
The Old Gods - brought over by immigrants. The New Gods - created by the immigrants' descendants. Newly formed out of the hopes, dreams and desires of a people who've long since forgotten the Old Gods. The ideas Neil Gaiman comes up with are simply stunning. I really loved all of the New Gods that Gaiman created. Aside: Does anyone really know why Gaiman always does this? Still, this was an extremely interesting read and one of the few Gaiman books that I enjoyed from cover to cover!
Do you ever read a book and become completely lost in the words and, ultimately, wonder what is actually happening? The plot of this felt completely random, drawn out to the point of ridiculousness and the events, themselves, felt incoherent. I have no idea why most of the events actually happened in here, and at this point, I can honestly say that just I dont care anymore. The book seemed to be going in a weird direction of its own that felt completely ungraspable. I understand the overall meaning of the book, but the way in which the author presented it was awful. Indeed, I had to force myself to complete reading this incredibly packed out, and rambling piece of randomness. If someone asked me to give a concise summary of the book, and tell them what happened, Id be unable to complete the task. At points, this novel felt like a connected series of events that could barely be considered a plot.