Richo and Luke need a break from Dust Jacket to recover from their awesome Hugo Award nominees roundup so this edition will be a collaboration between Miztres and myself on one of our favourite books – American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
In a land that is the melting pot of the world, where people have come with the customs, stories and Gods from the old countries, a god has got to make a living the best way they know how. The characters from mythology, folk legends and the divinities of nations across time have come to America, a land that does not know or need them, and they find themselves forgotten, and un-worshipped.
Shadow, our hero, stumbles into this underworld of gods and mythological characters when he takes the job as Mr Wednesday’s right hand man. Mr Wednesday is a con man who’s working towards the biggest con ever perpetrated, a war to end all wars, between the old Gods and the modern Gods of America. He lives a half-life, befitting his name, doing what Mr Wednesday tells him to do, regardless of how stupid or dangerous it seems.
WHAT WE THOUGHT
MIZTRES: To be fair, Shadow is not a powerless pawn in all of this. Early on as part of a con to get money, Mr Wednesday uses Shadows previous unknown skills to create a snow storm. When Shadow finally takes responsibility for his own life he actively uses these powers for good, at least as he sees it. Directionless he is weak and able to be used, once he has a reason to live he is easily the most powerful character in the book.
DAVID: I have to disagree there. Shadow is an interesting character to be sure, but it is actually Mr Wednesday who holds my attention the most. He’s utter disregard for anyone but himself and unbelievable egotism make him a compelling character. I am also a fan of Mr Nancy, Laura and Czernobog.
MIZTRES: Character is dominate. Shadow’s compliance may annoy you but his growth throughout the story is impressive. He’s a gentle character ,which belies his size and reputation, and I grew to be concerned for him. When Shadow finally takes responsibility for his own life he actively uses these powers for good, at least as he sees it. Directionless he is weak and able to be used, once he has a reason to live he is easily the most powerful character in the book. Wednesday is charming, mysterious and ruthless. It’s hard to work out what his plans will achieve until Shadow reveals it all. The other characters are also well realised as once powerful and revered but now broken and flawed.
DAVID: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Shadow annoyed me. He is clearly a very well realised character, with an excellent story arc, and I liked him a lot, just not as much as some of the others.
MIZTRES: In trying to find the words to describe this book I looked to Good Reads reviews and found this book really seems to polarize people. Some get the detailed simplicity and gentle grandeur and some think it’s boring or has no point. There doesn’t appear to be a middle ground. It is a quiet book for the most part, and I believe it has many points to make about truly living, the power of being human, and a big message about American culture and how they are always trying to redefine themselves into something new and better – 4 Lukes
DAVID: You’re right, American Gods does seem to divide people, but they lean more to the ‘like’ than ‘dislike’, which is great because this is one of my favourite books. Coming from a Theology/Mythology educational background, this novel seemed tailor made to my interests. A fantasy noir drama using Mythological characters in an epic battle of wills – sold! It also helps that it well written, with a slow pace that lets you really delve into the characters and their actions, and requires you to think about what is going on and not just skim through it. It is quite similar to Gaiman’s comic opus The Sandman, which was also set in a mythological world (well, it was actually the DC Universe, but used mythological beings), and apparently had errant plotpoints that all made sense at the end (and is genius, read it!). It’s isn’t perfect, Shadow is a hard character to feel for in the beginning and takes awhile to warm to, which may have been intentional, but only makes it harder when you really need to be on his side later in the story. But despite this, I truly believe this to be Gaiman’s best novel and cannot recommend it enough – 5 Lukes
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Have you read American Gods? Do you Agree or Disagree with our assessment? Was the plethora of mythological references enough to satisfy you, or was it too much of a slow burn? Please leave a comment below, we would really love hear from you.