American Gods Book Review

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Luke Holcomb, Writer

American Gods is a fantasy novel published on June 19, 2001 by Neil Gaiman.

It follows Shadow, a man recently released from his three-year prison term after his wife died in a car accident.

On his way home to his life in midwestern America, Shadow meets a man who introduces himself by the name of Wednesday, who offers Shadow a job working for him and eerily hints at the life he no longer has in his home.

Shadow, after being ominously followed by Wednesday across state lines, finally accepts the proposed job offer. Wednesday and Shadow travel to the House on the Rock, a tourist attraction in southern Wisconsin, where Shadow learns the identity of Wednesday is Odin, the All-Father.

It is revealed that Wednesday, along with every other imaginable god, is real, and has come to America through the minds of their believers. These gods are told by Wednesday of the threat posed to them by a set of new gods: gods of cars and planes, television and modernity.

This sets Shadow and Wednesday off with the goal of recruiting any and every god they can to help them in the upcoming war between old and new gods.

The two main characters of this novel, Shadow and Wednesday, are people written with very human qualities — both good and bad — that enhance the experience of reading dialogue with either of them involved. Gaiman’s precision at capturing and recreating real-sounding and authentic characters and dialogue makes it easy for the readers to resonate with characters, something replicated just as well in his other novels.

Even the side characters of the book- Czernobog, Mr. Nancy, Mr. Ibis and Sam Black Crow- all have their own unique personalities and forms of speech that all real people do. This is a recurring trait I have seen many times in Gaiman’s works; his articulation and attention-to-detail of how his characters speak is one of many aspects that makes him my favorite author out there.

As for the story of this book, it was truly something wondrous and special. The flow of the novel is, again, one of those things that Gaiman just gets right. It never feels as though events are happening too fast or too slow; I never felt pained to put the book down because I needed multiple sittings to get through a chapter; I was enthralled from front to back of this book both times I read it and could read it again tomorrow and still feel the same thrill I felt when I first picked it up.

Gaiman has a way of writing his stories that gives an unparalleled air to them that is unique to his works. In American Gods, there is a level of surrealism and whimsy that adds intrigue to the novel; bizarre dreams, mind-warping imagery and fascinating questions — most of, I feel the need to mention, are answered in a nice and tidy way by the end of the book — all provide to the reader a captivating quality that I feel is normally difficult to capture, but is done with such ease by Gaiman.

If I struggled to make my thoughts on this book clear by this point, let me clarify by saying that this book is easily one of my favorites. The story, characters, and writing style are all so well-done, as in all of Gaiman’s novels, and I would recommend this book to someone in a heartbeat, especially if you like modern fantasy books with gods, monsters, and more.