Reviews for American Gods
Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 May 2001
Shadow, a strong, silent, Steven Seagal type, has kept his head down while doing time for creaming the guys who ran off with his share of a heist. He is about to be released, ticket home in hand, thanks to his lovely wife; then his departure is pushed up a few days--unhappily, so that he can attend her funeral. Weather forces his flight down in St. Louis, and he winds up on a short hop seated next to a mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who informs him that his once and, he had hoped, future boss is also dead. Would he like to work for Wednesday, instead? The guy is too creepy by half but, as it happens, hard to refuse. And after Shadow meets some of Wednesday's equally creepy friends, becomes an accomplice to a clever bank robbery, and gets coldcocked and kidnapped by black-clad heavies, he acquires a certain job loyalty, if only to find out what he has signed on for--an upcoming battle between the old gods of America's many immigrants' original cultures and the new gods of global, homogenizing consumerism. The old gods are trying to live peaceably enough in retirement, which is the predicament Wednesday (i.e., Wotan, or Odin) must overcome to rally them. After two sterling fantasies, the dark Neverwhere (1997) and the lighter, utterly charming Stardust (1999), Gaiman comes a cropper in a tale that is just too busy and, oddly for him, unengaging. His large fandom may make it a success, but many of them, even, will find it a chore to get through. ((Reviewed May 15, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews
BookPage Reviews 2001 July
It's appropriate that a writer who came to this country as an adult should attempt to forge a new mythology for his adopted homeland. One of the dominant myths of the U.S. is that of eternal newness, and Neil Gaiman's new novel insists that, in time, the past will catch up with us - and we should be ready for it.
Gaiman, an Englishman by birth, has obviously been closely observing his new home. American Gods is a big book, filled with vivid imagery, wacky locations, vigorous writing and intriguing, if sometimes scary, ideas and characters.
From the start we realize something odd is going on. People don't usually watch a passenger leave on a plane, then run into the same person at a bar in the next small town. Young men with eyes the color of old computer monitors, smoking something that smells like burning electrical parts, don't usually get driven around in large limos by large men who are more than willing to do their bidding. From the shocking beginning - which we won't spoil for you - onward, Gaiman takes us across the country, stopping off at some famous roadside attractions as well as some lesser known spots: the House on the Rock in Wisconsin figures prominently, as does Lebanon, Kansas, the exact center of America. But, as Gaiman notes in a Caveat, and Warning for Travelers, "This is a work of fiction, not a guidebook."
In American Gods there are pre-Columbus visits to these shores by Norwegians, Polynesians, Irish, Chinese and more. When these visitors died out, left or were killed, Gaiman explains, their gods stayed behind. Sometimes they changed form, grew or shrank, but they were always present.
The old gods' existence is threatened by the new gods, such as Media and Cancer. One of the old harsh gods has a plan to survive, and he will do whatever it takes to claw his way back to power.
American Gods will draw you in, make you want to drive or take the train across the country to experience the vastness that is the USA. Following the journeys taken in the book would make a heck of a road trip, but you'll be praying the events of the novel don't happen to you.
Gavin Grant lives in Brooklyn, where he reviews, writes and publishes speculative fiction. Copyright 2001 BookPage Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2001 May #2
cassette 0-694-52549-9An ex-convict is the wandering knight-errant who traverses the wasteland of Middle America, in this ambitious, gloriously funny, and oddly heartwarming latest from the popular fantasist (Stardust, 1999, etc.).Released from prison after serving a three-year term, Shadow is immediately rocked by the news that his beloved wife Laura has been killed in an automobile accident. While en route to Indiana for her funeral, Shadow meets an eccentric businessman who calls himself Wednesday (a dead giveaway if you're up to speed on your Norse mythology), and passively accepts the latter's offer of an imprecisely defined job. The story skillfully glides onto and off the plane of reality, as a series of mysterious encounters suggest to Shadow that he may not be in Indiana anymore--or indeed anywhere on Earth he recognizes. In dreams, he's visited by a grotesque figure with the head of a buffalo and the voice of a prophet--as well as by Laura's rather alarmingly corporeal ghost. Gaiman layers in a horde of other stories whose relationships to Shadow's adventures are only gradually made clear, while putting his sturdy protagonist through a succession of tests that echo those of Arthurian hero Sir Gawain bound by honor to surrender his life to the malevolent Green Knight, Orpheus braving the terrors of Hades to find and rescue the woman he loves, and numerous other archetypal figures out of folklore and legend. Only an ogre would reveal much more about this big novel's agreeably intricate plot. Suffice it to say that this is the book that answers the question: When people emigrate to America, what happens to the gods they leave behind?A magical mystery tour through the mythologies of all cultures, a unique and moving love story--and another winner for the phenomenally gifted, consummately reader-friendly Gaiman.Author tour Copyright Kirkus 2001 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved
Library Journal Reviews 2011 February #1
More than a million copies of this novel have been sold in three formats in this country alone, and upon publication it won the Hugo, Locus, Bram Stoker, and SFX awards. So why a new edition? There's a new introduction, the author's "preferred" text--that is, the text before it got edited, with Gaiman's original language sprinkled throughout--and a bonus scene. This would seem like a natural for many collections, especially where the original is worn out, so I find the 50,000-copy first printing a little low. [Page 44]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal Reviews 2001 June #2
In his latest novel, Gaiman (Neverwhere) explores the vast and bloody landscape of myths and legends where the gods of yore and the neoteric gods of now conflict in modern-day America. The antihero, a man of unusually acute intellect through whose eyes we witness the behind-the-scenes dynamics of human religion and faith, is a convict called Shadow. He is flung into the midst of a supernatural fray of gods such as Odin, Anansi, Loki One-Eye, Thor, and a multitude of other ancient divinities as they struggle for survival in an America beset by trends, fads, and constant upheaval an environment not good for gods. They are joined in this struggle by such contemporary deities as the geek-boy god Internet and the goddess Media. There's a nice plot twist in the end, and the fascinating subject matter and impressive mythic scope are handled creatively and expertly. Gaiman is an exemplary short story writer, but his ventures into novels are also compellingly imaginative. Highly recommended for all libraries. Ann Kim, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 May #4
Titans clash, but with more fuss than fury in this fantasy demi-epic from the author of Neverwhere. The intriguing premise of Gaiman's tale is that the gods of European yore, who came to North America with their immigrant believers, are squaring off for a rumble with new indigenous deities: "gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon." They all walk around in mufti, disguised as ordinary people, which causes no end of trouble for 32-year-old protagonist Shadow Moon, who can't turn around without bumping into a minor divinity. Released from prison the day after his beloved wife dies in a car accident, Shadow takes a job as emissary for Mr. Wednesday, avatar of the Norse god Grimnir, unaware that his boss's recruiting trip across the American heartland will subject him to repeat visits from the reanimated corpse of his dead wife and brutal roughing up by the goons of Wednesday's adversary, Mr. World. At last Shadow must reevaluate his own deeply held beliefs in order to determine his crucial role in the final showdown. Gaiman tries to keep the magical and the mundane evenly balanced, but he is clearly more interested in the activities of his human protagonists: Shadow's poignant personal moments and the tale's affectionate slices of smalltown life are much better developed than the aimless plot, which bounces Shadow from one episodic encounter to another in a design only the gods seem to know. Mere mortal readers will enjoy the tale's wit, but puzzle over its strained mythopoeia. (One-day laydown, June 19) Forecast: Even when he isn't in top form, Gaiman, creator of the acclaimed Sandman comics series, trumps many storytellers. Momentously titled, and allotted a dramatic one-day laydown with a 12-city author tour, his latest will appeal to fans and attract mainstream review coverage for better or for worse because of the rich possibilities of its premise. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2002 February
Shadow Moon describes his dilemma as being like one of those hidden picture puzzles. "Can you find the hidden Indians? At first . . . you only see waterfalls and rocks, then you see that shadow is an Indian." This description also aptly summarizes the book. Like the puzzle picture, behind every rock is an Indian. Every word in this amazing book is loaded with double meaning, every line of the story has a purpose, and each character is more than he or she seems. Shadow, released early from prison after the death of his wife in a car crash, is recruited by Mr. Wednesday, really the god Odin now making a living as a con man. There are countless gods who came to America with immigrants but now have been forgotten. New American gods-TV, credit cards, and the Internet-have declared war on the old ones. Wednesday and Shadow crisscross the nation rounding up an army for the coming battle. They visit places of power, which in America turn out to be roadside attractions such as the House on the Rock, and they meet an eclectic pantheon of gods, leprechauns, deities, and spirits. Gaiman, author of many books including Neverwhere (Avon, 1997) and the Sandman graphic novels, creates a plot that twists and turns and tricks the reader into pursuing wrong paths. Filled with sly, dark humor and vivid personalities, the intricate story lines come together to reveal a fascinating portrait of America's soul. Recommend this book to mature teens because of complex plotting and sexual content.-Lynne Rutan. 4Q 3P S A/YA Copyright 2002 Voya Reviews