A 5280 Geek Book Review
By John Andreula
I can say forthright that I’ve read some really good books over the past few years. There have even been a few that separate themselves from the others enough that they enter into the stratosphere of literary greatness.
American Gods is one of those books.
Written by Neil Gaiman and originally published in 2001, American Gods has since seen two further print versions in English, including a tenth anniversary edition in 2011 and a special collector’s edition in 2017, in addition to a multitude of foreign language variations.
The book has also been released in two audio variations, as well as being reproduced as a graphic novel for Dark Horse Comics, and most recently as a television series on STARZ, which just entered its second season.
I decided to consume the book with the audio CD version of the tenth anniversary edition. It features an ensemble cast of voice actors and reads as much as a play as it does an epic novel.
American Gods is a story that transcends time and space. It spans thousands of years as well as taking place in the lower 48 states, Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and the afterlife. Its central tale follows ex-convict, but pure-hearted, protagonist Shadow, his shyster employer, Wednesday, and their travels and the subsequent occurrences.
Early on Wednesday reveals himself as a literal god amongst men. He also exposes the existence of many others like him. Wednesday introduces Shadow to various other gods and supernatural characters from all walks of history, mythology, and theology. In their travels they rally the Earth’s remaining old gods to battle against the growing tide of the new gods of today’s civiliation.
American Gods includes captivating perspective on how any and all of the gods readers can imagine would thrive in modernity. In the world Gaiman creates they are little more than specters of the immense and limitless gods of mankind’s past. Their power in the present is proportional to the belief they inspire in those who still worship them.
Odin, Anansi the Spider, Leprechauns, Technology, Media, Johnny Appleseed, and Easter are just a sampling of the multitude of supernatural beings that are personified within the book. Each playing roles in this expansive and descriptive epic.
There are twists and betrayals, as well as redemption and closure. The book culminates in an intense and dark climax. The ending does not disappoint either.
American Gods is not just a story with a bunch of flashy, magical characters and places of modern American worship. It’s a buddy story, a journey, a mystery, a thriller, a horror, and so much more. It accomplishes all this while flowing smoothly. It is quite easy to follow, and is an awesome read.
This modern day odyssey stylistically reminds me of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series, in that it exposes readers to many, many characters, while forcing readers to forgo stressing every minute detail. Readers must follow the happenings overall, more than each specific character and their meanings and relevance.
To call the book long would be to seriously understate its immerse length. The payoff is worth it though.
The irony of an Englishman writing an epic based on modern-day America and our values and beliefs is not lost on me. I cannot think of a writer who could have so adequately and expertly accomplished this feat other than Neil Gaiman.
Again, American Gods is a great book! I will definitely be recommending American Gods to anyone who is into fantasy, mythology, mystery, and suspense, as well as those into science fiction, futurism, or theology.
The tale is worthy of its current STARZ TV serialization. However, any true reader should definitely experience the book in its unabridged format before seeing and hearing it in an over-produced, reduced, and altered television version.
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