I’m playing around with new review templates and I think I found one I love!
Book: American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition (Unabridged)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Length: 19h 39m
My Rating: 5/5
2013 Reading Challenges: 2013 Audio Book Challenge; 2013 Genre Variety Reading Challenge
I’d Recommend to: Devious intelligentsia such as Lucille Bluth (“Suddenly playing with yourself is a scholarly pursuit.”), Tyrion Lannister, Sherlock Holmes
First published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic, an intellectual and artistic benchmark from the multiple-award-winning master of innovative fiction, Neil Gaiman. Now, discover the mystery and magic of American Gods in this 10th anniversary edition. Newly updated and expanded with the author’s preferred text, this commemorative volume is a true celebration of a modern masterpiece by the one, the only, Neil Gaiman.
A storm is coming….
Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.
Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. It is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own.
Along the way, Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and that he is standing squarely in its path.
Relevant and prescient, American Gods has been lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose.”
Not everyone is a fan of Gaiman. I know after I read Stardust I would have put myself in the “Gaiman is overhyped” category. I just wasn’t a huge fan; it seemed jumbled and awkward. However, in 2012 I kept seeing Anansi Boys and American Gods pop up on recommendation lists. I decided to give Anansi Boys a try since it was shorter. That’s when I discovered that Gaiman is one of those authors I need to hear to appreciate. To me, Gaiman is a storyteller. Maybe some people would say that all authors are storytellers by definition, but to me one does not equate to the other. I feel like this review could get derailed by a philosophical discussion on storytelling vs. writing, so suffice it to say this will be some kind of Writer Wednesday post in the near future.
Anyway, American Gods. I thought it was really enjoyable. The full cast audio version really added value – at 20 hours, one narrator might be a little tedious for listening (for me at least). Having the variety made it a more dynamic listening experience, and it was easier to follow different strands and stay engaged. I’ve read a couple of reviews on Goodreads that voice some concerns about buying into the “stakes” of the plot or feeling a connection to the protagonist. I didn’t experience this while listening. In fact, I occasionally found myself feeling earnest for the next major development or a new character to emerge. I just kept wanting to be immersed in this world.
The author’s preface really sets the tone for some of the origin narratives throughout the novel. Gaiman notes that he set out to tell different kinds of stories, one of which was a “coming to America” thread. Frankly, these were some of my favorite parts of the book – how different groups (and thus, different gods) came to America ties in quite nicely with some Gaiman’s interwoven mythology.
The Bottom Line:
American Gods is a bold fictional exploration of mythology in America and what binds us.