Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date read: February 01 to 10, 2012
Read count: 1

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* * * * some spoilers below * * * *

This was my first full-length Gaiman novel, and it was OK. Well, it started out OK, then became interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying near the end. I think I was expecting a… better ending, something that’s more in line with Gaiman’s short stories but on a grander scale.

With all the hype surrounding this book, I originally thought there was something in it that’s widely appealing, other than Gaiman’s prose and fantastical yarns. I really thought I’d be blown away by this book because his short stories were so well done. Maybe I set the standards too high and became disappointed when the story turned out to be just OK overall. Maybe a little better than OK, maybe ‘s all right. I’m glad for the experience now that I know what a Gaiman novel is like, but still… I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

The hook is certainly interesting and reels you into the story, a mythological yarn set in contemporary times, but it suffers from having an aimless main character at the center of all this fantastical chaos. Shadow Moon (yes, you read that correctly) floats aimlessly along, unattached to various unsettling things happening around him. For a guy who just learned that mythical gods exist, he took it pretty well. Then again, he just finished a stint in prison. Then again, if only he’s a little bit sharper, a little more alert, he might have sensed something not quite right or worse that he’s a pawn in a cosmic con. If only. I fail to see the point of setting up a powerful story with a desensitized main character. He not only slowed the plot down, but made most of the resolution pointless in the end. But perhaps that’s the point of it all?

The prose is impressive though. Gaiman definitely knows how to keep the narration from becoming dull or slowing down. The thing is Gaiman can write great prose–there’s no denying that. But does he pull the story together at the end? I don’t think so, this time. I enjoyed the read all the way up until the tables were turned and the final confrontation was set on a carousel. It was as if Gaiman hacked off whatever original plans he had for the ending and replaced it with a family-friendly version suitable for readers of all ages. Everything in the story was fine until the end; a familiar theme in most Gaiman books, as I’ve come to learn.

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