Warning: If you have not read “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman, do not read this review unless you don’t mind spoilers or already read the book!
I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman! I’ve been wanting to read this book AND watch the TV show of the same name. Also, I’ve read “Neverwhere” by this same author before, and I loved his writing, so I wanted to see how this one did!
I mentioned in my “Looking Forward to 2018” post that I wanted to read and watch “American Gods” so I could write up a book/show comparison. Well…
Good news: I’m getting Season 1 on DVD for my birthday, so once I’m finished watching it, I’ll write up a book and show comparison! Yayyyyyy!!!!
Bad News: Since I don’t know at the time of writing this post when Season 2 is for sure coming out, I can only compare Season 1 to the book unless Season 2 suddenly comes out before and/or shortly after I’m done watching Season 1, which in that case I’ll watch both seasons before writing up the analysis. I understand this isn’t completely fair due to Season 1 not being the whole book. Due to this, when I write up my analysis, I’ll just compare the elements in the book that were actually implemented in Season 1, and not the entirety of the book (unless there are major changes from book in the TV version overall, which I’m pretty sure happened as far as I’ve seen from gifsets of the show on tumblr).
Here’s the summary of the book so we know what it’s about:
“Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.
Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.”
Just a quick note right before I dive straight into the review: I read and therefore I am reviewing the Author’s Preferred Text version of the book. Yes, there are different versions of this book. This one just happened to be the version I picked up and read when I finally got my hands on “American Gods.”
Plotwise, it’s actually quite simple at its basic core. Shadow gets out of prison, gets hired by Wednesday after it’s revealed that Shadow’s wife Laura died alongside his best friend, and shenanigans ensue, leading to a final battle that gets…cut short before it even starts. Despite how incredibly simple the plot is, the whole roadtrip scenario gives many opportunities for character interactions, not just between Shadow and Wednesday (though this makes up about half the book, arguably), but also between Shadow and other characters, as well as those other characters interacting with each other.
Going to the characters themselves, Shadow was definitely interesting to read. Is he strangely calmer than I thought he’d be at a lot of what happened? Probably, maybe even a bit too much. However, I did like his interactions with Wednesday, Easter, and Media. Laura and Shadow’s interactions were also interesting, but also really weird, in the sense that you’re spinning around after you went on a rough rollercoaster ride. To be fair, Laura is quite literally dead, and Shadow also just found out right after leaving prison that she died AND that she was cheating on him the whole time he was in prison.
We also get intertwined ministories/short chapters of the gods interacting with mortals inbetween chapters of the main plot, as well, and my most favourite was definitely involving Salim and the Jinn/Ifrit, hands-down. I also heard that this is a particular plotline that gets expanded on in the TV version, so I’m excited to see how that goes. These mini chapters also help to expand the worldbuilding of the book regarding how gods can function and how they affect the mortal realm, and vice versa.
Regarding the worldbuilding itself, it’s very complex, but understandable should you read carefully enough. Granted, there are probably at least one or two gods that have you head-scratching a bit because you’ve probably never heard of them, especially the Old Gods like Bilquis, but a quick Wikipedia or Google search should probably help. I especially liked how the Gods are conceived in this book—they survive on the belief of others, and if they run out of people believing in them, they die. Yes, it’s much like the fairies in Peter Pan, but I think it’s that also rings true in real life to an extent. If we stop believing in something, it’s like it never existed to us in the first place.
The ending of the book left me with a couple of questions, mainly as of what the heck Shadow has become now. Is he literally a dead man walking like Laura is, just in better condition? Or has he transcended the living and the dead and is like another god of sorts? It was a little hard for me to understand, but I do get the sense that he has a happy ending, and that’s a good thing.
Overall, I’m giving this 4.5 out of 5 stars! I definitely look forwards to watching the series once I get my hands on that Season 1 DVD, and later on write a book/show comparison!