“American Gods” by Neil Gaiman is an award winning piece of fiction. Literally. It won seven literary awards between 2001 and 2003. The TV adaptation was picked up by Starz. To say it’s a popular story is an understatement.
In the forward, Gaiman claims that readers will either love or hate “American Gods.” A bold statement. Yet here I am wondering why I didn’t love it or hate it.
The story was simple enough.Gods from all mythologies crossed the oceans with their subjects. Their power derived from their followers. Over time, the gods strength weakened as their religions dropped in popularity. They were at odds with new American gods based on the current American culture (Internet god, TV god, etc). And just as gods do in mythology, they fuck with mortals (literally and figuratively).
The readers follow Shadow, a married man who’s been in prison for three years. On the day he’s released from prison, Shadow’s hired by one of the old gods and he’s sucked into the action. It’s a straightforward story that’s easy to read. It’s a detailed, but it doesn’t send readers to a dictionary every other sentence. Gaiman talks to the readers, not over them – a trait more authors should adopt.
At more than 550 pages, the story moves at a quick clip, but there were some bumps in the road. The bumps were in the conversations. Any time Shadow talked with any female character. One conversation, between Shadow and a lady hitchhiker, was rough enough where I stopped reading and, in an empty room, said “people don’t talk like that.”
Another scene wasn’t a conversation, but an action. It happens later in the book, during the story’s climax. This character does something that they wouldn’t know to do. The book says they did it at random, but I didn’t buy it. The act being too specific to be random.
But those two instances aren’t story killers. Even though this may come across as a negative review, it isn’t. I liked “American Gods.” I liked the way Gaiman described the areas, gods, and towns. I liked that a scene was in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But I didn’t love it. I would recommend it, but only as a loaner from a friend or local library.