Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: William Morrow
Length: 635 pages
Date(s) Read: April 16-April 26, 2019
Date Published: July 2001
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.
My rating: ★★★☆☆
This is a tough book for me to discuss, because as I was reading it I was constantly comparing to the TV show, which I love. So I feel like I can’t write this review without talking about the show since my rating and overall opinion of the book is all jumbled up in my opinions about the TV show.
This is probably a blasphemous position, but I actually enjoy the show better than the book and I’m telling you this upfront so that you can stop reading now if you know you vehemently disagree with that position.
That said. I enjoyed this book. Before anyone throat punches me, in my personal rating system, a 3-star rating is not a bad rating. It means I liked a book, but I’m left feeling like it’s not going to have a lasting impact on me. For American Gods, that’s because I couldn’t stop thinking about what it wasn’t. That’s part of the problem with adaptations. This probably would have been at least a 4-star read for me if I hadn’t already finished season 1 of the show and just starting season 2.
Shadow Moon is an amazing main character. I love him with my whole entire heart and that the book solely focuses on his journey (with the few cuts to the ‘Somewhere in America’/’Coming to America’ vignettes) makes the book a lot more streamlined and tidy than the TV show— though the book does occasionally meander, which I normally don’t mind in a book, but even I was skimming through some of the stuff in this one— and it’s gritty and weird (which is only expected from Neil Gaiman, I think) and the all the while it makes you think.
The idea that each god exists in multiple places at once, that they die without worship, that America’s New Gods are the gods of technology. All that shit about the plot and message is amazing, and it’s the reason I loved the show so damn much.
I’m a fan of Gaiman’s writing style. I’ve known this since I read my first book by him back in 2015. I know he’s considered “low-brow” by some more pretentious members of the community, but I consider that a good thing. His writing doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It’s proof that intelligence isn’t about impressing people by using big words, it’s the depth and the meaning behind the words we use every day. I think this translates to how I feel in real life about intelligence and how I, personally, am very unimpressed by and disillusioned with the performative, condescending intelligence that’s so common in academia. (Thank GOD I’m done school.)
By everything I’ve said so far, this should have been a 5 star book for me. Right? Right.
Except I couldn’t stop thinking about the TV show. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wanted more Mad Sweeney and more Laura Moon. Part of that is how they’re portrayed in the show— Pablo Schreiber and Emily Browning both give amazing performances respectively— I couldn’t stop thinking about Ricky Whittle as Shadow, even though Book Shadow has a lot of differences from Show Shadow. Everything about the book just made me wish I was spending my time catching up on season 2 of the show instead of reading it, and I had to force myself to finish it because of that (because I kept telling myself I wouldn’t start the new season until I finished the book.)
I think the lesson we learned here is, if you’re thinking about reading this book and then watching the show? Do it in that order. Do NOT watch the show first. Heed my advice. Learn from my mistakes. This book would have been so much more enjoyable for me if I wasn’t so focused on what I liked better about the show. That said, I’d still highly recommend it.