American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods

Rating: – – – – –
Date read: June 5 to July 15, 2017
Read count: 2

This one gets an honorary 3-star rating because I liked it enough the first time to finish it, but not enough the second time to finish it, not even on audio.

So… is it a DNF if I already read it once but couldn’t make it through a second time?

I still recall a lot from the main story arc, surprisingly. For a book that was just “all right,” it has stayed with me longer than other equally “all right” books. Maybe because the settings and roads traveled were familiar. Maybe it’s the way Neil Gaiman writes scenes, with lots of focus on visuals. It’s been years and I still recall with lots of clarity Shadow’s trip through Spring and that scene on the frozen lake.

But despite all of that, I couldn’t get through the reread. Well, not exactly “couldn’t.” More like wouldn’t, like “ain’t nobody got time for this” kind of thing.

I mean, I tried and there was effort, but there was a lot going on at the time–still going on–and I could have tried harder, sure. But. Lack of time. Summer. Dogs. Broiling heat. Deadlines. New projects. The destruction of the planet. Treason. Institutions dismantling right before our eyes. These things tend to get in the way, you know.

I did, however, finish the TV series which was pretty good–for summer entertainment, with some caveats–so there’s that at least. Just to sum it up, because this was the thing that surprised me the most, I liked Shadow and how he was portrayed. There’s a raw, simmering, subtly volatile quality to the character on screen that really drew me in, and I did not get a sense of that at all in the book. So good on the show for adding interesting dimensions to him.

I’ve been seeing people compare the book and the show a lot over the past few weeks, which they ought to, I suppose. But to me, doing the book-vs-show side-by-side is like comparing apples to those yellow spiky fruit things* at the farmers market. They’re both fruit, but distinctly different flavors and texture. I can’t really say whether people who like/dislike the book would like/dislike the show. Just something you gotta try.

The book is the apple and the show is the spiky fruit in this analogy. Both are fine it in their own ways. I, however, much prefer the weird fruit thing because it’s more interesting overall and not something you see every day unless you frequent the farmers market. The farmers market here is the combination of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and all those other streaming providers. They’re producing great work and I wish I had more time to enjoy them. If only there’s much less treason so we could all stream a whole series in peace… This month’s been a long year.

 

*called horned melons or desert pears, depending on the region your local supplier is from

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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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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.