Review: American Gods

TITLE: American Gods
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
PUBLICATION: 2001 by HarperCollins
FORMAT: Hardcover


After three years in prison, Shadow has done his time. But as the days, then the hours, then the minutes, then the seconds until his release tick away, he can feel a storm building. Two days before he gets out, his wife Laura dies in a mysterious car crash, in apparently adulterous circumstances. Dazed, Shadow travels home, only to encounter the bizarre Mr. Wednesday claiming to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a very strange journey across the States, along the way solving the murders which have occurred every winter in one small American town. But they are being pursued by someone with whom Shadow must make his peace…


I think I have a love-hate relationship with Gaiman’s works. Or perhaps hit-and-miss would be a more accurate term for it. I don’t think that I will allow myself to be discouraged from reading more of his books. I have authors I read where I like just as many of their books as I dislike.

American Gods started out with an interesting enough premise. I actually really enjoyed what the story was essentially about regarding the gods of mythology immigrating to America as their believers come to the new shores. It was interesting to see the different pantheons meshed together. I wondered if it would be easy to guess the gods as I read the book. Although I only recognized Wednesday right away as really being Odin because a day or two before starting the novel I had read something about the origins of the days of the week and I knew that Wednesday was Odin’s day.

However, throughout most of the novel I wasn’t even sure whether or not I liked the story or not. This opinion pretty much remained a constant until I got closer to page 300. There were times where Gaiman had some pretty good writing or philosophy going on and then I found myself experiencing moments of “Huh?” It was often at times where it felt like there was no point to the narrative, or the characters discussing something that seemed trivial. I had hoped there would have been more time spent with the Egyptian gods in the house of the dead. I really enjoyed those segments. My initial interest in the book was for the Norse gods yet I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I gravitate toward the gods of Egypt since they were my original mythological obsession. Actually I contemplated abandoning the book halfway through it, but then I figured that since I’d read that much of it I should finish it. And I was a little bit interested to see if the gods of legend or the gods of technology prevailed in the war.

As far as the characters go I wasn’t really too taken with any of them. I confess that I wasn’t expecting Shadow’s dead wife to come back as a zombie… and I wonder if that was really necessary. I don’t know. It just seemed kind of out of place with the rest of what was going on, but then again considering what the book is about…

Overall I would say that I was intrigued by the premise of the novel, but was disappointed with its execution.



5 thoughts on “Review: American Gods

  1. I’m a bit love-hate with Gaiman too. Usually I love his ideas but am not so thrilled about the execution. Except for Stardust – that book is just perfect. It’s a shame you didn’t like this one as much as you hoped you would.

  2. this is my first time to hear of this book. the only gaiman book i read is the graveyard book. i have good omens but i really never felt like reading it. the idea of this book sounds interesting but i’m not keen on picking it up since you were not totally sold yourself.

  3. I’ve read Coraline, Stardust, and The Graveyard Book, and only liked the latter enough to maybe own (if I got it used). So I think I’m more miss than hit when it comes to him. I had picked up a used copy of American Gods for free a while back, but I never read it and just recently got rid of it. Your review makes me feel a lot better about that 🙂

    • I really wanted to like this more because the idea of all those pantheons together was very enticing. I have another book by Gaiman coming in for audio called Odd and the Frost Giants. I will not be discouraged!I really enjoyed The Graveyard Book and liked the short stories from M is for Magic pretty well so I am thinking that maybe I just like Gaiman’s stories that are aimed at a younger audience.

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