Review: American Gods – Neil Gaiman

Good morning fellow blog readers and writers!

Today I am giving you a spoiler-free review of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, in case anybody out there is still yet to jump on the bandwagon. I bought a copy of this book back in May with the book vouchers my sister gave (traded with) me and I have been looking forward to reading this book since!

Following the release of the television series there has been a lot of buzz on the blogosphere for both the series and the book… so I had to see what all the hype was about. I tried not to read too much in the way of spoilers or equally have my perception of the book altered by the opinions of others. Upon starting the book I was advised by a fellow blogger that it was a book that has to be read at least twice to fully grasp.

As much as I took this on board, I did my best to go into the book with an open mind. American Gods isn’t the first book I have read by Neil Gaiman. I perfectly understood and enjoyed Stardust, which I read earlier this year.

American Gods
GoodReads – American Gods

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Having reached “the other side” I can completely understand why I was advised not to just read this book once. It is a complex book and it discusses many important themes. Unlike some other books, I wouldn’t say that the discussion of these things is subtle; in fact the understanding of immigration of Gods from other continents and the waning power of the religion/belief in these Gods is a pivotal point of the story. That being said, I think the book can still be enjoyed whether you only think of these topics on a superficial level, or equally if you want to delve a little deeper into it.

I am going to be perfectly honest here and say that if I have one criticism of the book, is that I found the pace to be a bit slow for the first half. That being said, I also found I had to take frequent breaks to digest what was going on because the story in many places goes from being reasonably normal to rapidly stretching the imagination very quickly.  Were I to read it again I think I could appreciate the build up to the climax more; I was eager to see how events would unfold. Maybe I was a bit slow on the uptake, but I thought the plot finally began to unravel quite late on. The second half was much more readable. I think it took me about four days to get through the first half of the book and then two to complete the second. To me, the prose seemed to flow naturally (plus as well at this point we fully expect the whackiness).

Admittedly when I immediately finished reading the book, I wasn’t sure I was fully satisfied with it. On reflection though, I did enjoy the book and its many themes. It is (for me) a book that it is better to stand back and appreciate as a whole picture rather than individual scenes and characters. I didn’t bond with any of the characters purely because they all had traits I dislike. To my mind that only goes to show that not even Gods, as humans create them, are perfect… and that’s a good thing! I didn’t overly bond with our main character Shadow either but I’m not disappointed about that – a character who has had to persevere serving three years in prison, the death of his wife and then being thrown into the crazy world of Gods is going to be the kind of person who keeps an arms length relationship with people, purely just to cope.

I would highly recommend that anyone out there who hasn’t read this book to do so. I wouldn’t say it is an easy read, but it is an enjoyable one all the same. I will definitely be reading it again. Who knows, maybe I have missed something and will pick it up in a second read. I do think this is one of the books in life that has the power to keep on giving.