Monday, 3 June 2013

Review: American Gods

Title: American Gods 
Author: Neil Gaiman 
Publisher: Harper Perennial 
Published: 2003 (first published June 2001)
Format and Number of Pages: Paperback, 592 

(This summary was taken from the summary provided by Goodreads)
Days before his release from prison, Shadow's wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm or preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break. Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, American Gods takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You'll be surprised by what and who it finds there...

I enjoyed reading American Gods though I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it.  It's a strange book and at times it was confusing and disorienting but it was interesting as well.  I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading but I'm glad I went into it with no expectations about what I would be reading.  That's why I've only included the brief Goodreads synopsis rather than providing my own.

The majority of the book follows Shadow's life after he is released from prison.  I didn't like Shadow, but I didn't dislike him either.  I think my main issue was that I never felt like I knew Shadow and I had trouble understanding him and his reactions to the events that occur around him. Granted, that was probably the point. I mean his name is Shadow. I still liked to read about him mainly because a lot of strange things happen to him and I wanted to see where the story would take him. There are also a lot of side characters that Shadow encounters and I liked reading about them because they have their own strange personalities and clearly have their own interesting back stories.  It was also a lot of fun trying to figure out their real identities.

It took me a long time to read this book.  It's almost 600 pages long and it's densely packed; there's a lot going on and a lot to take in so it took a while to finish.  I was never bored with this book but at times, especially in the beginning, I was quite confused with what was going on. Once I stopped trying to figure out what was going on and trying to make sense of things, and just sat back and let the story unfold for itself, then I started to enjoy it more. The writing is fantastic and I really liked the narrative and the various ways it is used to tell the story and how it isn't limited to only Shadow's perspective. American Gods is also filled with plot twists and surprises, none of which I expected so for me they added to the overall reading experience.  

American Gods takes place in many different locations throughout the United States and offers a darker and more fantastical side to many familiar cities and landmarks. In a sense it is a road trip story as Shadow travels around the U.S. but it is a very different sort of road trip.  Much of the story takes place in the winter and this offers a darker, colder depiction of the U.S. which was really interesting to read about. The depiction of the United States is fantastical and surreal but the book still calls upon the reader to question what exactly is America and what it means to be American.

Overall I had a lot of fun reading American Gods and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves adult fantasy or who has read and enjoyed other works by Neil Gaiman. This story  is dark and deals with a lot of adult themes and at times can be violent and sexually graphic so if you don't like those elements in a story then this book may not be for you.  Also if you haven't read anything by Neil Gaiman before or primarily read young adult I would suggest you read some of his other works; such as The Graveyard Book, Coraline or Stardust before attempting American Gods

Rating: 4/5

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