Autumn Reads: Book Two {American Gods}

Saturday, December 29, 2012

{Note, I will be posting a few of these a day as the year winds up. I really want to get all my 2012 reviews up - because I was really lacking on these - before 2013 and all the challenges I am participating in kick into gear. Otherwise, the 2012 books won't get reviewed on the blog (the challenges require reviews), and really? I'd love to share my books with you all. So, bear with me and the multiple book posts a day. They won't interfere with regular posts either, there will be those as well. Promise}

This was my first experience with Neil Gaiman in book form. I've watched Stardust and Coraline, but never cracked open one of his books before. And I've been told many, many times that I would love him. And I do love him, don't get me wrong. I just think that maybe American Gods wasn't the best book to start my Neil Gaiman reading with.

American Gods is a book about a man called Shadow. After serving three years in prison Shadow is ready to return to a quiet life with his wife and with as little trouble as possible. However, two days before his release he is called into the Warden's office and he learns that his wife was killed in a car crash (under potentially adulterous circumstances that Shadow is unwilling to believe) and he's being released early to go home for her funeral. Stunned and confused, Shadow leaves the prison and begins his trek home to sort out what his life has become in the three years since he left it behind.

On the plane, however, his plans to return to a quiet normalcy are disrupted when he winds up with an upgrade to First Class in a seat next to a man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. Mr. Wednesday introduces himself as a refugee from a distant war, a former King of America, and an ancient God. And he has a job for Shadow. He wants Shadow to be his bodyguard of sorts, and after a little bit of persuasion (and an interesting appearance by his dead wife) and an impressive bar fight, Shadow agrees.

Together they embark on a strange journey across the United States to try and pull the old gang of Gods that were brought to American with their immigrating peoples back together to try and save their race. Along the way Shadow meets a number of interesting characters who both save his life and try to end it, robs a bank or two, pieces together a series of murders that occur every winter in a small town in the Mid-West he stays in for an extended period of time, and learns how to make peace with his past.

American Gods is an on-the-road sort of tale, with the cast of characters constantly moving from place to place. The problem for me was how slow it was to get into, how long it took to get to the interesting places, and how far between the interesting and active bits of story. I think if I hadn't been trapped on an airplane to Nashville from Maine, and American Gods wasn't the only book I brought with me, that I might have put this book down to read again later (if at all). Fortunately, it finally got good somewhere over West Virginia and I enjoyed finishing the book.

Gaiman really did his research with this one - all the allusions to old gods of different countries and time periods and how they made their way into the US? It was brilliantly crafted and the nerd in me appreciated it so much. But I think he did so much research that he wanted to make sure his book reflected the hours upon hours that he put into the preparation for it. I can't really blame him for it, but it did make it a bit tiresome at times. I've been told that it's a much loved book for Gaiman fans, and that perhaps it wasn't the best book to start reading Gaiman with by said fans. However, despite it's slow start, it hasn't deterred me from picking up another of his books.

Bottom line, I did like it, I just wanted it to move faster. Shadow was a sympathetic and lovable character and the progress he makes through the book is remarkable. It's always great to see a character have an actual growth and arc in a book these days (hello, Bella Swan?). And what a twist at the end! It's totally worth sticking with the book and spelunking through the first hundred or so pages just to get to those last 50 or so pages. It's that good of a twist.

Author: Neil Gaiman
Pages: 588, paperback
Date Finished: 23 October 2012
Opening Line: Shadow had dome three years in prison.
Favorite Line: What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul.
Last Line: He walked away and kept on walking. [whited out, for spoiler's sake]
Recommended: If you're a fan of Gaiman, it's a certain have to read. If you like history and mythology, also a have to read. Like I said, it's slow to get into, but once you get past that it's a gripping and excellent read.
Recommended For: High School +, Mythology Enthusiasts, Gaiman Fanatics, Sci-Fi Lovers

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