Book Review: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

My Recent Posts

  I'm not saying I'm behind on book reviews, but Emily and I listened to American Gods while driving to and from Missouri—in 2016. So, I am saying I’m behind on book reviews.


Not that Neil Gaiman needs any help from me, especially with American Gods on its way to becoming a TV series. (Wait, the show's first season is over; I'm behind on posting blogs, too.) Better that than a movie—I can’t imagine how they’d fit this story into a two hour or so time frame.


Main character Shadow is released from prison early, on the news that his wife has been killed in an accident. He’s flying home for the funeral when Mr. Wednesday appears next to him during a violent storm, and offers him a job. What’s the job, and how does Wednesday know so much about Shadow? That’s just the beginning of the mystery, and as close to normal as this book ever gets.


The grieving Shadow just wants to be left alone, but soon finds himself in a war pitting old gods against new gods as he wanders across the American Midwest, meeting every sort of odd character, human and otherwise. And that’s about as close as I can come to describing this mind-twisting novel in ten thousand words or less.


Although I like listening to podcasts and audio non-fiction, I haven’t had good experiences with fiction on audiobook. That changed with American Gods, which is narrated (performed?) by George Guidall. At least, my version was; I've since learned that there's at least on other audio version. Thanks to Guidall I can’t imagine Wednesday being played by anyone but Anthony Hopkins (well, I can now), but he does a great job with all the voices, as well as Gaiman’s wonderful narration.


This audio addition of American Gods is, I assume, unabridged, and so seemed to take forever. That’s a compliment. It was like an endless bowl of ice cream that you never get tired of. In fact, this novel is the reason why I usually give books I really like a four out of five rating. That way there’s room when the occasional perfect reading—well, listening—experience arrives. This is it: Five out of five.


(By the way, the series is just as mind blowing. Instead of trying to shove all this story and characters into one movie, there's actually room to expand it a bit. I couldn't imagine how they could turn American Gods into a TV series either, but they did it, and it's a work of surreal genius.)



Utpal Patel Added Jul 11, 2017 - 10:25am
That’s not a book review, it’s more like what someone would write on the back of a book jacket.  A book review requires you to analyze why a book is good or bad.  I would also add that listening to a book is a totally different experience versus reading a book.  So essentially this article is what someone should read on the back of a book tape jacket. 
Ian Thorpe Added Jul 11, 2017 - 1:45pm
A movie? There are some "American Gods" novellas Mark, maybe its one of those. And if it is I hope it is "Monarch of the Glen", in which Odin sings a wonderfully bawdy version of the folk song "My Bonnie" which I recall from my misspent youth. If you want to sing along with it, will find a version of My Bonnie by The Beatles on YouTube.

My father sells drugs in street corners,
My mother makes bootlegger gin,
My sister makes love for ten dollars,
My God how the money rolls in.

Rolls in rolls in my God how the money rolls in rolls in,
rolls in, rolls in, my god how the money rolls in

[2 verses skipped]
My Granddad sells condoms to sailors,
he punctures the ends with a pin,
my Grandma does quickie abortions,
my God how the money rolls in.

John Minehan Added Jul 11, 2017 - 2:13pm
I read the book over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2002 and was very impressed.
I had read the old lines from the Edda, "Nine days, hung I on the World-Tree, a sacrifice to myself of myself . . ." but I never really understood them before reading this book.  
Mark Hunter Added Jul 12, 2017 - 12:19am
It's good because I like it, Utpal. If you don't like it, then it's bad--for you.  Also, your review of my review sounds like something someone would write on the dust jacket of a book of reviews.
Wait ... audio books don't have dust jackets.
Honestly, you're right, but I'm not a professional book reviewer--I just write what interests me. So what I should really do is just change the title ... say, "Book blurb review". I could review blurbs! Much less time consuming.
Mark Hunter Added Jul 12, 2017 - 12:23am
I had no idea there were novellas, Ian -- I'm going to have to look those up. Meanwhile, how weird is it that I was singing "My Bonnie" to myself yesterday, out of the blue? Okay, I was singing it to my dog--only he will put up with my voice--but it's still a coincidence.
Mark Hunter Added Jul 12, 2017 - 12:25am
John, there was a lot of stuff I didn't fully understand before reading the book. Gaiman sure did his research, and it made me want to do more of my own. And it made me want to read more Gaiman!
Ian Thorpe Added Jul 12, 2017 - 1:11pm
Mark, I don't believe in coincidences there's a career in showbiz waiting - if the CIA don't claim you as their 'asset' first - LOL.
The three novellas I know of are Monarch of the Glen which can easily be confused with a schmaltzy UK television series of the same name, Black Dog and The Anansi Boys but I think there are more.
Mark Hunter Added Jul 12, 2017 - 2:46pm
It's possible the CIA already has ... but if I found out, I'd have to kill myself.
We do have a copy of Anansi Boys, which I haven't gotten to yet--but I never thought of it as a novella! It's pretty thick.
Lady Sekhmetnakt Added Jul 12, 2017 - 10:46pm
Sounds interesting, like a good read. And I haven’t read any good fiction in a while. Definitely not going to watch the show, I have way too much viewing material as is especially since we just got HBO and I'm trying to get caught up on Game of Thrones (another one that would have been a wreck as a movie). 
Lady Sekhmetnakt Added Jul 12, 2017 - 10:47pm
Oh and P. S. thumbs up from me to make up for Patel being a tool (as usual). 
Mark Hunter Added Jul 13, 2017 - 12:12am
One thumb up, one down? I miss Siskel and Ebert, but Patel and Frost would work, too.
My wife and I have a rule that we never start watching a new show unless one we're already watching gets canceled; it's the only way we can handle the time crunch. We only make an exception if it's something we're both really excited about, and last season that was American Gods. We'd probably make an exception for Game of Thrones, too, but we don't get HBO; we only got Starz because it was a bargain with our cable hookup.
I guess the lesson to be learned from that is that you don't have to hook up a new cable channel to read a book.
Lady Sekhmetnakt Added Jul 13, 2017 - 12:20am
HBO is way overpriced at $14.99 a month. But at least we're getting it through Hulu not cable, and our total Hulu TV bill is just $37.50. That includes Showtime also. Starz isn't available through Hulu yet, so, with that and the time constraints I'll read the book. I have seen previews for American Gods (the show), and I'll admit it looks intriguing. So perhaps after reading the book someday I might be able to see the show. Never thought I would be watching Game of Thrones either, anything is possible! 
Mark Hunter Added Jul 13, 2017 - 12:35am
My wife wouldn't give up Starz now--in addition to American Gods, she's too heavily addicted to Outlander. (And I love time travel shows, myself.) Still, I remain of the opinion that given a choice, we're all better off reading the book.
I remember when cable first came to my hometown, wondering why anyone would ever need three dozen channels. Now the problem is deciding which service to sign up for. Starz, for the two shows you want to see? The new CBS channel, just to see Star Trek: Discovery? Hulu? Amazon? Being poor is an advantage, here--you have to pick and choose, and that gives you more time away from the screen.

Recent Articles by Writers Mark Hunter follows.