Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Finally conquered this monster! While not quite that big a doorstopper at close to 700 pages (ahem...When you compare this to the mammoth Steven Erikson’s I been ploughing through, that is!) American Gods is indeed a meandering road trip that takes detours into all kinds of sub-genres that has been defined under “Speculative Fiction”, yet not quite fitting into any one niche. One word that definitely comes to my mind after having finished this, was – Staggering. It’s quite an achievement to have written this “weird” fiction that speaks volumes about the powerhouse of talent that Neil Gaiman truly is.
The first I heard about Gaiman, was way back in 2005 when I saw the “Anansi Boys” and “American Gods” in my local bookstore. However I never followed up on that first teaser chapter about “Shadow” that I read then. Then I watched the movie, “Stardust” – a simple pure enchanting old style love story that had me flip over and see Gaiman in a new light. Then came the “SandMan” graphic novels.
– These are just the subtlest of the descriptions that my friends gave about SandMan series. Given that, I was all the more wary now. But then my wife finished “Neverwhere” and was all praises about this book, set in a parallel alternate world London. That tipped me over the edge and we got two more books, “American Gods” and “StarDust”. The former had every possible fantasy award stamped all over the cover. Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy..Blah and blah. This must be one helluva book then. And I plunged straight into the heart of America, a dark gritty world as imagined by Gaiman.
For a long while, not a lot happens in the book. But the brilliant prose of Gaiman kept me up turning page after page, devouring all those absolutely real-world analogies that he brings out and helps us visualize his world. “Shadow” the protagonist meets this stranger, “Wednesday” on the plane the day he gets out of jail after having served a 3-year sentence and then gets whisked into the dirty politics of Gods, one such that never existed or are now forgotten and the modern-day Gods worshipped by Americans ( Hold your breathe, Malls, Television, Media!! I especially LOVED the bit about where television comes alive and speaks to Shadow - "Lucy, Show me your tits!" Ha ha ha!).
Majorly this story is about character development. Of just one single person. “Shadow”. Indeed one of the most powerful protagonist I have read about – how he slowly discovers himself over the course of the road trip that takes us through the lush landscape called America. And all the colorful encounters he has with your typical “American” tropes. Well detailed and engagingly written. The twist in tale is something you never see coming and am sure would leave you slack jawed. The petty inconsequential events all throughout the book all comes together finally in a neat little grand climax that is extremely satisfying. For all those who are complaining about the lack of “action” in this book, I would advise just stick through. The end answers all your questions. And you will love it. I loved the book.
A full 4/5 for the same.
Might try “Anansi Boys” next. Details one of the minor characters who surfaces in this book. Lets see. Am now swamped with all the indulgent buy I did at the sale at my local bookstore – more on that next post :)