Review of Neil Gaiman's "American Gods"

Updated June 19, 2001

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Cover of American Gods

I was very fortunate to receive an advance copy of Neil Gaiman's new novel, American Gods, and I have decided to post a small review of it on the Dent. This is more a collection of my thoughts after reading the book than a formal review. There are no spoilers below, and I will not give away any critical elements of the plot. Therefore my comments will be general in nature. Since many Toriphiles also appreciate Neil Gaiman, I felt this would be appropriate for the Dent. However, I want to urge people to get interested in Neil not because he is a friend of Tori's, but because he is an excellent writer. The book contained 465 pages and the cover you see to the right.

Think for a moment of all the gods and goddesses that societies have worshipped over the years. Many of these gods are forgotten over time. New gods are constantly replacing the older ones. Even in the modern world, people may find themselves revering the gods of technology and computers. What would happen if these gods really existed, if they were somehow created through the beliefs of various people? What would they be like? What would happen to these gods when they are forgotten? Could there be conflicts between the older gods and the newer ones? America is unique, because it is a land of immigrants who brought their gods with them, resulting in a country with many different myths. But is America a good place for gods? American Gods deals with all this, and it is an amazing ride, filled with interesting and rich characters that range from awe-inspiring to frightening. There are no cardboard characters in this novel. They are some of the most complex and imaginative characters I have encountered. The main character of the story is named Shadow, and his development in the novel is striking.

American Gods is very creative and full of surprises. Neil has a way of taking the regular modern world that we all know, and infusing it with elements of fantasy and wonder, and sometimes horror. I think this really sets him apart from many writers. He is also really good at describing his settings in such a way you can almost picture yourself being there. This not only applies to some of the more exotic settings, but to the commonplace ones as well. For example. parts of the book take place in a small town in the north called Lakeside during the freezing winter, and Neil describes the place so well you feel the bitter cold, or taste the hometown cooking. There are also some dark parts to the story, and Neil handles those in a way that makes you feel the horror or despair of the situation.

The book takes place mainly in the present day, but there are some flashbacks to various times and places in the past. At first, I was confused by some of this, but by the end of the book it made perfect sense. The ending of the book really blew me away. It is stunningly original, and the way Neil ties up all the loose ends is very satisfying. There are tiny details that in some novels would be inconsequential, but in American Gods they often have a meaning that is revealed later in the narrative. At the conclusion of the story you are amazed at both how surprised you are, and how well all the elements and events of the book fit together. It shows how skillful Neil can be at telling a tale. It also gives you a reason to read the book a second time, so you can catch some of the details you may have missed the first time.

I really don't want to say anything else, because the plot is best enjoyed if you experience the novel yourself. I strongly recommend that you read American Gods. It is a fascinating tale, and one that you will find original and riveting.

American Gods was released on Tuesday, June 19, 2001 and is NOW AVAILABLE. You can find out more about the novel on the Dent's Neil Gaiman page and at

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