American Gods

Monday, February 24, 2020

American Gods
Neil Gaiman, 2001, revised 2011

Hugo Winner - 2002

Premise: Shadow is out of prison, but the life he thought he was returning to is gone. In its place, he is swept up into a shadowy world of arcane plots and gods living among mortals.

So I re-read American Gods, and it was... fine? I guess?

I first read this book either in college or shortly thereafter, and I remember liking it, but nothing else about it. I remember at the time I was reading quickly without thinking about it, so some of the character identities may have come as a surprise. But I don't know that there are many people in 2020 who can see a mention of "Low Key Lyesmith" in the first chapter and not know what they're in for.

This was the tenth-anniversary edition, which is apparently a bit longer than the original. I'm not sure that's a good thing, it definitely dragged at points. Shadow floats along, witnessing but only occasionally being affected by the bizarre things happening around him.

The world is intriguing, and a lot of the side characters are interesting, but the plot just falls flat for me. I like the little side stories about how various gods came to America. I mostly like the dream-like style, it works for the subject matter. But sometimes the whole thing just got too pretentious, Shadow is boring, and the story and world would probably be more interesting in a visual medium.

That transfer to visual and more exploration of the new gods (which the book is sorely missing) are apparently what worked so well about the television adaptation, but I haven't seen any of that.

This joins Green Mars, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, The Diamond Age, and others on a list of Hugo winners where I would guess the award was given primarily for the inventive setting rather than the story set there.

2 Stars - Fantastic Premise, But Just an Okay Book

Index of Hugo Award Winners

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