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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

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In his Sandman series of comics, Neil Gaiman took familiar stories from mythology and history and created a dark and mysterious version of our own reality. In American Gods, Gaiman again invited some old friends into our modern world and revealed them to be complex and multi-faceted beings.

The big idea behind this novel is how old European and African myths might be translated into a modern American context. In this world that is not entirely unlike ours, gods and other mythological creatures may have originated as ideas or symbols in the minds of their believers, but faith made them real. Faith is the life-force of gods; without faith, gods fade into oblivion. (This is an idea that Gaiman’s friend Terry Pratchett has dealt with in books such as Small Gods.) A whole host of gods travelled with their believers to America, and found themselves stranded there as Americans gradually adopted the new gods of technology, media and their ilk. The principle narrative of this book describes the final months of an epic showdown between the old and new gods, played out amidst an unsuspecting population of ordinary mortals.

I have read two other novels by Gaiman: Good Omens, written with Pratchett, and Neverwhere, which began as a TV series. While those stories were original and captivating, I thought the writing style was rather mundane and simple. In contrast, American Gods proves that Gaiman is an accomplished prose writer as well as an imaginative world-maker.

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About Claudine Chionh

  • i had some real issues with this novel.

    i LOVE neil gaiman, don’t get me wrong. but this novel was just too messy and busy. it needed a good final heavy edit.

    and i found the character of shadow to be too far removed to be realistically possible in the context of the story.

    but props to gaiman for covering so much mythological ground.

  • Personally, I preferred Neverwhere and Stardust to American Gods. I found American Gods uneven and muddled; in the other novels, Gaiman kept his narrative clean and on target.

  • I thought GOOD OMENS was dreadfully unfunny. It had one line that brought a smile (not “laugh out loud). The one about Ygor clocking overtime while it was not a dark & stormy night.

    But much of GOOD OMENS was “trying to hard” to be zany and wacky and funny. For instance, in end when the guy flies through the air on a scooter wearing a “pink helmet.” Why pink? Because it’s zanier that way?

    Very tiresome book with old themes.

  • Good Omens was awful because Terry Pratchett was involved in it. Anything Pratchett writes is irritating and then mistaken for wit by humorless nerds, much like Douglas Adams.

    American Gods, on the other hand, is a damned fine novel with an original premise and some clean, enjoyable writing.


  • I really liked American Gods. I traveled the northwest a lot when I was kid with my parents and it was weird to read about places I had visited as kids. Beyond that I found it to be well written and inteligent.

    All Hail Odin! Whoops, Jesus, I mean Jesus.