Since this book is basically a mythic road trip across America, it was a fitting book to listen to while I was driving across America, which I just did, literally.
The basic story is old gods vs. new gods. The old gods of all the ancient tribal civilizations, all the faded empires, all the myths, have been brought to America by immigrants who retained a trace of belief, and here they have begun to fade, no longer sustained by that belief. Meanwhile, new gods, sustained by belief in whatever is the next big thing -- advertising, candy bars, trains, planes, automobiles, the Internet -- are replacing them, but think the old gods aren't getting out of the way fast enough. Gods, as usual, are jealous and don't want to share. So a bunch of squabbling gods line up to take sides in what's shaping up to be a great big godswar.
It's an interesting premise, and while I liked the story, and all the tangential side stories, Neil Gaiman is more of a storyteller than a writer. American Gods
is like some of the better parts of Sandman
, reshaped to be made into an entirely new story. Not a bad thing, but it's something I've seen Gaiman do before, and in this case, sometimes the writing felt like he was writing episodic graphic novels. Gaiman is good enough to make the transition from graphic novels to long-form novels, but he's not a great
novelist, and frankly while I did like this book a lot, it's more of a 4.5 for me. I think it might be a little overrated by people who think it's fantastically original and new and innovative because they haven't read Sandman
, or Terry Pratchett.
And I know I was supposed to be moved by Shadow's undying (literally) love for his wife, but the fact that (a) Shadow is a passive schmuck through most of the book; (b) his wife is an unrepentant adulterer, accomplice to bank robbery, and murderer, I found the romance somewhat lacking, even aside from the whole maggoty-corpse thing. I mean, let's face it, if she had lived, these two would have been divorced inside of two years. So making her his motivation to go get mixed up in a god war and be willing to sacrifice his life... uh, Gaiman's character development has always been a bit uneven.
Still, if you like books that are pure story, and especially if you're a mythology buff, American Gods
is enormously fun and a good read. Don't think too hard about the logic behind how the gods work and just get over the fact that Shadow doesn't actually do a whole lot and you'll have a good time.