Book: American Gods - Livre d'Or — LiveJournal

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Book: American Gods
Sunday, 14 August 2005 at 06:21 pm

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Author: Neil Gaiman

Details: (c) 2001 Neil Gaiman; Pub Harper Torch 2002; ISBN 0-380-78903-5

Verdict: American Gods is highly readable but somehow unsatisfying.

Reasons for reading it: I'd been meaning to read it for a while out of general Gaiman fannishness, and then darcydodo got really excited about it.

How it came into my hands: A fun second hand bookshop in Berkeley.

To a very great extent, American Gods is quintessential Gaiman. It displays a lot of Gaiman's strengths: dramatic storytelling, lots of amazing ideas and images, of course the way he works in all kinds of different mythologies and creates something new, but also a lot of Gaiman's weaknesses: it's rambly and convoluted, often exceedingly nasty, (though it's less bad without the pictures), and it has three successive endings which means all of them are weakened.

I certainly enjoyed reading it, the more so because I read it over two days of deeply dramatic electric storms which matched the mood of the book very well. And I could list all kinds of elements of it that delighted me, scenes, characters and so on. It's quite hard to put my finger on why it's not a completely successful book overall. The central conceit, that America is peopled by the gods of all the different immigrant cultures that have ever become part of the country, is absolutely gorgeous. And Shadow is truly exquisite as a protagonist.

I think my biggest specific criticism is that the novel presents a really amazing setup and then it rather fizzles out. The opening, with Shadow coming out of prison and gradually finding himself manoeuvred into working for Wednesday is really superlative. Such emotional intensity! And the moment when I realized Wednesday's real identity was absolutely spine-chilling.

After that, though, Shadow and some other people tenuously connected with him just have a bunch of fairly random adventures. The individual episodes are very well done, but they don't particularly hang together as a whole. In fact, it's reminiscent of Sandman in a way that doesn't really work for a novel.

The major plot twist seemed a bit of a cop-out, and the way Shadow resolves the situation is a little too smug. Especially since the book doesn't end at the obvious climax but rambles on to alternative endings. The tone tends to the preachy, slavery and racism bad, diversity and dialogue good. The one high point in part three is Shadow's vigil, which really does have mythological power.

That said, American Gods is far from being a bad book and I have no doubt that any Gaiman fans who haven't read it yet will adore it.

Moooood: contentcontent
Tuuuuune: Queensrÿche: The lady wore black
Discussion: 5 contributions | Contribute something

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rysmiel: words words words
Date:August 25th, 2005 05:54 pm (UTC)
32 minutes after journal entry, 01:54 pm (rysmiel's time)
I will agree with you about the weaknesses in it, with the additional flaw that for the-deity-of-whom-Wednesday-is-an-avatar to manifest as a cheap and shallow conman, is just gratingly wrong, even if one wishes to take the act of moving to America as having some sort of [ what's a good opposite for "deepening" ? ] effect on immigrant deities which I don't think is the intended point. I also think that the conceit has gaping holes, both by virtue of not interacting at all with any religion of the Peoples of the Book and in particular with the range of modern US concepts of Christianity and how that intertwines with modern US society, and because I think Gaiman's take on modern gods is insipid - though as I may have said to you already, to give them the weight that modern gods require in that context would almost certainly involve major copyright violations. [ The Golden Arches should be visibly in there, so should the Beatles, Disney, and arguably Microsoft. ] I thought American Gods was pretty, but a thing of rags and tatters.
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zdamiana: default
Date:August 25th, 2005 06:59 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry
I noticed in my friend laurenhat's friends list Neil Gaiman's LJ (which actually appears to be a feed to LJ from a blog elsewhere). I thought you might be interested.

I'm feeling a bit out-of-the-loop and culturally uninformed, as I had never heard of Neil Gaiman before seeing him in laurenhat's friends list, and seeing that you had reviewed his book here. Perhaps I should try to remedy my situation, and read some Neil Gaiman. It seems that you recommend some of his other work more highly than "American Gods." Which of his books do you recommend most strongly?
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livredor: ewe
Date:August 25th, 2005 10:45 pm (UTC)
5 hours after journal entry, 10:45 pm (livredor's time)
Please don't post links to illegally distributed copyright material from my journal.

I'm sorry that screening your comment is going to make life annoying for you, but since I can't ask you to edit it I'm afraid that's the best option I can come up with. You should still be able to see your comment so you're welcome to copy the text and repost it without the links.

Thanks for respecting this quirk of mine. It's partly my own obsessions and partly that I have a lot of admiration for Gaiman and I don't want to contribute to abuses of his work.
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Date:August 25th, 2005 10:59 pm (UTC)
5 hours after journal entry
My apologies. Post reposted without the offending paragraph below.

His best work is almost certainly the Sandman collection of graphic novels.

When it comes to novel style fiction, my favourites are Good Omens (cowritten with Terry Pratchett) and Neverwhere (although that might be too London-centric). He also wrote Babylon 5's Season 5 episode: Day of the Dead (if that's more your thing).
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Date:August 26th, 2005 12:26 pm (UTC)
19 hours after journal entry
Yes, that's very much what I thought of it. The imagery and characterisation are stunning and a joy to read, but the plot just goes on a bit, and sags under it's own weight.

Incidentally, have you ever read Diana Wynne Jones' "Eight Days of Luke"? If so, what did you think of it?
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