Saturday, 1 April 2017

A Review of American Gods

American Gods is a book by Neil Gaiman, whose other books include Neverwhere and Coraline. The books follow Shadow, who is let out of prison a few days early to attend his wife’s funeral, and Mr. Wednesday, a stranger he meets on the plane. Astute reader with a knowledge of mythology may figure out twists early, but this can make it all the better. In fact, the more you know about mythology, the more you may get out of reading this book, but that’s not to say it isn’t a very enjoyable read if you don't. My knowledge of mythology is what I’ve barely gleaned from other fantasy stories, and I loved this book.

American Gods plays with a concept I’ve liked for some time. America, as the melting pot of the world, has had many diverse cultures make it their home. As people settled, (or were forcibly removed) they attempt bring their traditions with them and keep them alive, including their religions and their various Gods. These Gods must find a way to survive in a new world that seems to have forgotten them, while new Gods loom on the horizon.

Shadow is very much the everyman fill-in for the reader, an outsider to this world through whom we’re informed about it. Fittingly for a book that is as much about immigration as it is about fantasy, he is a person of colour. It is still rare for readers to be encouraged to step into the shoes of a PoC to learn about a fantasy world, but in this case I can’t see it working any other way.

There are also a few asides discussing immigrants from different countries and the different Gods they bought with them. I found myself wishing these were more frequent! I found them some of the most fascinating parts of the book and would love to have read more of them.

This book is long, almost feeling too long while reading it, certainly the edition I have, at least. It’s most definitely worth the length, but make sure you have a good few days quiet to read it, or else be prepared for a long commitment. There’s nothing worse than putting a long book down half-way through, not getting back to it for a few days, and then forgetting what has happened. I’ve read it once, and as much as I loved it, let’s just say it’s not on my reread pile for anytime soon – it’s just too long. But it’s a book that is certainly worth at least one read. Should you read it before or after watching the upcoming show based on it? That’s up to you. I feel like if you wanted to, you could read it alongside the TV show, even.

There are a few scenes of a sexual nature, and as usual, I didn’t enjoy them. I don’t ever tend to enjoy them in books, as a general rule. I don’t find them uncomfortable, I just find them pointless. They weren’t particularly well-written and didn’t add anything to the story, for me. But I can just skim over them and start reading again when the story starts back up, so it wasn’t enough to spoil my overall enjoyment.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy and anyone with an interest in myths and legends. I want to stress that my recommendations aren’t a case of ‘I only think these groups will like this book’ but ‘I think these groups especially may enjoy this book’ as I definitely think this is the sort of book everyone should enjoy.

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