This is No Land for Gods

by Chet

Whenever I hear the name Neil Gaiman I instantly think, literary superstar. Primarily all of my Gaiman knowledge extended from friends whom loved anything he had ever penned. First hand, all I had to go on was seeing Coraline. Finally, I’ve read my first Gaiman novel. This decision was heavily influenced by several people whose recommendations I trust, but the winner was American Gods.

American Gods is a book that I had an incredibly difficult time getting in to. I read the first ninety or so pages and was ready to shred it. The main character was dull, nothing seemed to be happening, and it had made me feel so smart because I had already figured out the identities of some of the more secretive characters. (Helpful Hint: They aren’t that secretive at all.) With that, I put the book down for a bit. In the mean time I read Lucky Peach Vol. 2: The Sweet Spot.

After a few friendly chats with the recommenders I resolved to pick up where I left off in American Gods. Which was certainly the correct decision.

At its core American Gods is the tale of the old Gods who have landed in America through years of emigration. Now the old Gods are forced to contend for attention with the new Gods. There is a war coming between the two, and we are along for the recruitment journey, via Shadow.

Shadow is the protagonist in this story. Love him or hate him, he’s who we have. Shadow is released from Prison at the beginning of the story, and meets a stranger as he is travelling home. The stranger, answering to Wednesday, is there to recruit Shadow’s help in his wayward adventure across the American Midwest.

As the story progresses we meet a bevy of other characters and Gods with birthrights from Norse to Egyptian mythology. There are plenty of recognizable faces in the crowd if you have done any religious reading at all, but then there are also some lesser known entities that I found to be highly intriguing.

Eventually the entire scheme begins to fall into place. We’ve seen hardship, and more than one surprising twist along the way. Whenever I finished the book I was very satisfied with the end of it all. There was nothing that happened where I thought, “No, that doesn’t make sense. Why is he motivated to do this?” These are the kind of endings I like. The ones where, and I’m stealing this from a blogger I read for the first time yesterday, you are left with a book hangover. There are ideas implicated with American Gods that can stick in your brain for a while. It’s fun to back this blog up against my Slaughterhouse-Five blog, with all of its fun thoughts and interpretations of fatalism. I hope this book leaves you with that same sense of wonder.

The things I didn’t like about American Gods all happen in those first 90 pages, and I addressed a few of them already. However I wanted to bring up a way that I feel Gaiman was a little sneaky, at least for me. He writes in a simple language. It is easy to understand and usually to the point. His similes and metaphors aren’t lacking, but they aren’t really the greatest I’ve ever read either. This immediately tricked me into thinking that I am smarter than him. As the plot unfolded I learned that this is not the case, well…maybe I know more than him about something or another, but definitely not how to write an intriguing story. Not yet anyway.

Final call is, yes you should definitely read this book. It’s dark, it’s a bit fantastical, and it will stay with you for awhile. Trust me, when you hit that brick wall around page ninety, just hammer through it. You will not regret it.