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American Gods

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American Gods

ratings:
4/5 (10,671 ratings)
Length:
782 pages
12 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Oct 13, 2009
ISBN:
9780061792663
Format:
Book

Editor's Note

Dark & Otherworldly...

Not just for the fantasy lover, realists will also relate to this dark & otherworldly criticism of American idolatry & deeply emotional tale of love lost.

Description

The storm was coming….Shadow spent three years in prison, keeping his head down, doing his time. All he wanted was to get back to the loving arms of his wife and to stay out of trouble for the rest of his life. But days before his scheduled release, he learns that his wife has been killed in an accident, and his world becomes a colder place.

On the plane ride home to the funeral, Shadow meets a grizzled man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A self-styled grifter and rogue, Wednesday offers Shadow a job. And Shadow, a man with nothing to lose accepts.

But working for the enigmatic Wednesday is not without its price, and Shadow soon learns that his role in Wednesday's schemes will be far more dangerous than he ever could have imagined. Entangled in a world of secrets, he embarks on a wild road trip and encounters, among others, the murderous Czernobog, the impish Mr. Nancy, and the beautiful Easter -- all of whom seem to know more about Shadow than he himself does.

Shadow will learn that the past does not die, that everyone, including his late wife, had secrets, and that the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined.

All around them a storm of epic proportions threatens to break. Soon Shadow and Wednesday will be swept up into a conflict as old as humanity itself. For beneath the placid surface of everyday life a war is being fought -- and the prize is the very soul of America.

As unsettling as it is exhilarating, American Gods is a dark and kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth and across an America at once eerily familiar and utterly alien. Magnificently told, this work of literary magic will haunt the reader far beyond the final page.

Publisher:
Released:
Oct 13, 2009
ISBN:
9780061792663
Format:
Book

About the author

NEIL GAIMAN was awarded the Newbery and Carnegie Medals for The Graveyard Book. His other books for younger readers include Coraline (which was made into an Academy-Award-nominated film) and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish (which wasn’t). Born in England, he has won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. You can learn more at www.mousecircus.com.

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Reviews

What people think about American Gods

4.0
10671 ratings / 532 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    I've been meaning to read this one for a long time, though various factors have intervened. It was indeed good. I particularly liked Wednesday, and Shadow was strangely winning for such a deliberately blank protagonist. I liked the Lakeview sections, but I found that they distracted quite a bit from the main thrust of the book. The cast of supporting characters and the historical interludes add a great deal to the book's charm and richness.Audiobook-specific note: I'm not sure I'd recommend listening to this one as an audiobook. I think the action would benefit from a faster reading than this form provides. Also, while Guidall's reading is generally excellent, his voice for Laura partakes of the annoying falsetto he sometimes uses for attractive or flirtatious female characters, which made her even less sympathetic as a character than she already was.
  • (3/5)
    There's a war coming, but it's not a war in the physical sense--it's a war between gods--gods brought over from foreign countries, now mainly forgotten as the original immigrants die off. They are stuck here, unable to return to their countries of origin. (why? if they are gods, and there surely must be stronger belief in their countries of origin, then what, exactly, is holding them here? I never figured out the answer to that question.)As memory of them fades, so does their supernatural abilities. Which raises another question--are gods really the product of the human imagination, whose power rests on the strength of their followers' beliefs? The answer the book seems to give is 'yes.' And that question is the book's biggest weakness, in my opinion. The gods come across as not really gods at all, but fatally flawed superheroes who are more mortal than not-at least the old ones.

    The old guard faces war with the new guard--the gods of Media, Celebrity, Technology etc.--of American making. These new gods aren't much, really. All looks and no substance, but quite capable of violence when it suits their purposes.

    There is one being that can save them--a savior, who is still trying to figure out his role in all of this. Once he figures it out, though, the ending is fairly simplistic. Gods can be easily swayed, it turns out-just like people.

    American Gods is a good read, albeit a long one. There is a ghost who wants to be alive again, since death is turning out to be one long slog. Shadow--the main protagonist--is caught up in a war he figures out as he goes along. He must also stop watching TV because the characters within the shows begin to talk to him, trying to convince him to switch his allegiance from the old guard to the new, which adds a touch of humor to the book. It is also a book that will make you think as you read.
  • (4/5)
    I thought this book was very interesting and had a unique voice. I loved that all the ancient gods are living among us, slowly fading away as they are forgotten. I liked the portrayal of the new gods media, technology, roads, etc.

    The book follows Shadow, and ex-con who finds himself right in the middle of a war between the old and the new gods. In order to really enjoy this book, you just have to give yourself over to it and go where it takes you. This is basically what Shadow does, and what the reader should do to.
  • (3/5)
    Not quite as great as I was expecting coming from Neil Gaiman, but still a decent read.
  • (4/5)
    The writing in this book was really enjoyable, writing that made me want to read it out loud. I did eventually notice that the vocabulary used in this book was less exciting than I expected, lacking in beautiful words despite the beautiful sentences. The plot of the book reminded me of a thriller, with lots of action and lots of sex. I was a bit disappointed by how much this book resembled the archetypal thriller, since I’ve not been in the mood for thrillers lately. However, the writing was far above average, as was the creativity of the plot. The integration of mythology into a book that otherwise would fit neatly into the thriller genre was an exciting twist. And the plot twists at the end caught me completely off guard in the best of ways. Overall, I think this was probably Gaiman’s version of a thriller; I think I liked it far better than I would have a more stereotypical book in that genre; and I think there are probably other books of Gaiman’s that I would be blown away by. I’ll definitely be looking to read more of his work.

    This review first published on Doing Dewey.
  • (1/5)
    I'm not much for fantasy, but the premise of this book sounded interesting - the gods of the old countries have been brought over to America years ago, but worship of them has declined, and there is about to be war with the "new" gods of the Internet, television, credit cards, etc. Unfortunately the execution was disappointing.I thought I knew a lot about mythology - and I do of Greek and Roman. The gods in this book are of all other origins (Norse, African, Egyptian, Hindu, etc.) and they are all in disguise. While I was able to figure out who a few of them were on my own (sometimes due to their aliases), it was frustrating to miss some of the subtleties of the novel due to my lack of knowledge. So, those of you with extensive knowledge or interest in other mythologies may really enjoy this book.The illustration of a highway at night on the cover is telling, as much of this story takes place on the road (albeit by air at times), criss-crossing America. One fan has mapped it out and it totals nearly 23,000 miles. At times, though, it seemed that travel was the only thing happening in the novel, and I found much of the other action to be confusing.If I hadn't been reading it for an online book discussion, I doubt I would have finished the book.[A variation of this review appears on my blog, Bookin' It.]
  • (5/5)
    This is an amazing book. It is both vivid and elusive at the same time. I am sure I missed a tremendous amount of symbolism. This is one of those rare (for me) books that I will com back to reread in a year or two, just to see if I can grasp what I missed the first time around.
  • (5/5)
    I came to this book with no knowledge of it's vast cult following. All I knew was that the author also wrote Coraline. I did not read the summary, and so I dove in blind. So glad I did that!! The reviews can't help but spoil the sense of discovery.

    The book begins with a man, Shadow, awaiting his release from prison, just trying to keep his head down and not do anything that could delay his freedom. He senses a "storm brewing" and there is a feeling of uneasiness. And then things unspool, and it is a story unlike any I have ever read! I was so glad I did not know what this book was about, I felt like Shadow as he tries to figure out what is going on and what his role is/will be.

    Midway thru the book I caved and read some other reviews on this site, and found a link to a website about the book ( only the gods are real) and it's cast of characters, as well as a blog by the author. Fun!

    This is a special 10th anniversary edition of the novel, and the author was allowed to re-jig the text to his liking, adding portions that had been edited out from earlier printings. There is also an introduction and several additional notes at the end.

    There seems to been consensus that this is a book that warrants rereading, as those who have done so say they find more and deeper meaning. I can see revisiting this book in a few years!
  • (4/5)
    Neil Gaiman, master of all fantasy media! No need to say more.
  • (3/5)
    I'm not usually an audio book person, the one person reading with just changing voice doesn't distance characters enough for me, so when I saw this was an ensemble cast, I jumped all over it.

    I watched the show on Starz before listening to this and was pleasantly surprised at how closely the show follows the book, for the first 1/3 or so. I thought the beginning was endlessly fascinating but as the story goes on, my gods do the tangents get plentiful and looong. I started off listening really closely to the stories being told by the townsfolk Shadow encounters, thinking there was hidden meanings, clues, or foreshadowing but after more stories about moose, I just couldn't do it.

    Listening to an ensemble cast was ear catching but listening to this "author's preferred" text, which I'm taking to mean little to no editing, gave it a very plodding pace. I think the show did a fantastic job cutting out what dragged for me and instead of having Shadow's wife kind of disappear for a good amount of time like she does in the book, having her travel with Mad Sweeney So, mad sweeney dies in the book and I wanted to freaking riot, love that character. Am madly hoping the show deviates hard from this to keep the audience's relationship growing with her.

    Again, I'm not an audio book person, so the feeling of the story dragging along and having pointless stories told by secondary characters, could have been amplified by the format. I thought the voice actors did a great job verbalizing their parts and thought it added a lot of fun to the story. I think I have to give the nod the tv series, though. Here's to hoping for a second season.
  • (4/5)
    In many ways, I don't think this is a book one likes. It can be important, and meaningful, and beautiful, and sad, and real. But one doesn't just like it.I also felt like the book was depressed. It didn't make me sad, but it made me feel like it was sad. I've never got the impression that a book had emotions before, but I did with this one.This is an odd book. It is incredibly well written. There are so many layers to the story, the characters, the world. I found it fascinating, but I also found it occasionally boring. The writing got so lovely, so intense, that it became mundane. You know how Mr. Ibis said that life and death are two sides of the same coin? In a sense this book was like that. I liked it; I didn't like it. It interested me; it bored me. Two sides of the same coin.
  • (1/5)
    another highly recommended one I could not get into...
  • (5/5)
    I'm not sure if there's anything more that can be said about American Gods that hasn't already been said. It's a great book; probably, in my opinion, the best Neil Gaiman's written.Although I really like Stardust...and Neverwhere...maybe I should just stop there.Anyway, I read this the first time on a trip to Italy. I had a layover in Heathrow on my way and had bought a bunch of Terry Pratchett books at the bookseller, one of which was Small Gods. Point being that I read them almost back to back...and they deal with a similar theme--that gods are given power by the belief of humans.I think it's an interesting discussion of which came first: do gods exist because we believe in them or do we believe in them because they exist?
  • (5/5)
    I do not even know how to begin this review. A story about Gods and Humans and what it means to be both. The main character is a man, Shadow, who is released from prison a few days early because his wife is dead (killed in a car accident). But on the way home Shadow meets this mysterious man, Wednesday, who offers him a job. All Shadow has to do is drive Wednesday where he needs to go, protect him, and if Wednesday dies Shadow has to hold the vigil. Doesn't seem too difficult. However, Shadow does not realize he is pulled into a world where Gods walk among us. And Neil Gaiman does not skimp on the Gods as he brings him religious figures and deities from countries in Africa to the Middle-East to Russia and everyone in between. With the modern world changing as it does though the old gods are not being remembered as they used to be and they are preparing for battle with the new gods -- Media, Tech, Cars etc.

    I surprisingly enjoy Gaiman's writing style. The way he breaks the fourth wall (which I am NOT a fan of) is well done, effective, engaging, but still, has the story flow and it doesn't make it awkward. Basically, the novel is a long-con story. Two Gods (who shall remain nameless) are wanting more power and they decide to achieve this by having the old and new gods fight each other, and the ensuing deaths and chaos will fuel their rise back to power. Ultimately, the one who saves the day is Shadow and his dead wife Laura. None of my words will fully explain how amazing this book is but I think Shadow's (Gaiman's) will, "I think I would rather be a man than a god. We don’t need anyone to believe in us. We just keep going anyhow. It’s what we do."

    Gods, humans, myths, legends. Maybe all are true or maybe none are true. I think the idea here is that eventually, all things die. All things will crumble and turn to dust and we will be left with nothing. Even Gods are not immune to it and the only thing we can do is keep on keeping on.
  • (5/5)
    My first book read on my brand new Kindle reader - and I wasn't disappointed! I couldn't put it down (literally) and carried it around in a pocket / handbag for three days reading a page at a time when time permitted. And this edition apparently has 1000 words extra!
    I have already read Anansi boys so I came into this with some background. I love mythology (Norse, Greek, Roman, Celtic etc) so I was able to identify a lot of the characters. I loved the plot twists, and how all the interludes tied up to the main narrative at the end.
    I love Gaiman's style of writing and it always inspires me to get back to whatever story I myself am working on at the time.
    I'm reading this for a book club and can't wait to use the discussion questions appended at the end!
    Oh, and the extra interviews etc at the end was unexpected and fantastic
  • (5/5)
    First, a confession. I confess that I am shamelessly in love with Neil Gaiman. If you are worried that this will sully my unbiased review of this book, worry not. In fact, this was my second read through of American Gods and, truth be told, I wasn't all that in love with it the first time I read it. Maybe it was where I was at in my life, or the current reading mood I had, but despite my love for Gaiman this book and I just didn't click. So, when I was offered the Author's Preferred Text version for review, I was eager to give it another chance. Oh, I am so glad I did. So, so very glad. This book is an experience. Brutal at times, beautiful at others, and full of things that will have you questioning reality. In other words, it's Gaiman. At his finest. I don't know why I ever thought otherwise.Shadow's journey is a strange, and fascinating one. Whether you're familiar with the Norse Gods or not, Shadow will always be there to stumble right along with you. Here's the thing though, Shadow is infinitely more steady than I expected him to be. He's a character who, despite having done things in the past that he regrets, still believes in the inherent good in people. He walks around partially blinded to the world that he's found himself wrapped up in, and yet he never seems inept. I loved Shadow. Every single messy part of him. The book is long, this is true, but with Shadow as my guide I didn't mind one bit.Then there are the Gods themselves that slither, flap and saunter through this book as if they own every page. Gaiman's broken world pits the Gods of old against the Gods of new. Odin and Bast against the manifested Gods of technology and progress. It's an intriguing premise. If a God is birthed and sustained through worship, why wouldn't we have birthed new ones that relate to cell phones, internet and music? Simply fascinating. What's more interesting than that though, is all of the underlying lore that is penned into these pages. Stories of Thunderbirds, coins that bring back the dead, and areas that shouldn't exist but do. It's so easy to lose your footing in reality and go crashing, right along with Shadow, into this world.In an effort not to endlessly ramble on, let me assure you that this book easily made my favorites shelf this time around. As I mentioned, this is the Author's Preferred Text version, and actually contains quite a bit of content that was originally cut out. I think it's perfect. The story, the extras, the whole package is perfect. Pick this up! You won't believe how easily you can get lost in Gaiman's world. American Gods is well worth your time.
  • (4/5)
    “Gods don’t grow well in America.” Shadow was learning this first hand. Being Mr. Wednesday’s hired minion wasn’t as cut and dried as he had thought, but where else would he go? He was just released from prison because his wife had died in a car accident with her lover. His new life was full of mythical Gods and magic and the story keeps getting stranger and stranger until Neil Gaiman throws in a shocker at the end.This book was recommended by a friend and a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s books. I agreed to listen to it because I really enjoyed Gaiman’s, The Graveyard Book. However, the 10th anniversary edition of American Gods was much darker and definitely for adults only. I can honestly say that if I had not listened to the audiobook, I wouldn’t have lasted for the 50-page minimum I give to books when I decide to stop reading them. I really liked the voices of the characters and, to me, it moved the story along even in the really odd dream sequences. Neil Gaiman definitely has a unique imagination which can grab your attention when you least expect it.Thank you to my friend Chris who suggested the book and thank you to Mr. Gaiman for giving me something out of the ordinary to add to my book palate.
  • (1/5)
    another highly recommended one I could not get into...
  • (5/5)
    ‘’Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed in the end.’’Why do gods have to fight and die? Isn’t there enough space in people’s hearts to accommodate everyone, as in the old days? New gods and old gods, but it seems that they aren’t all powerful as such. They need the mortals to believe in them, otherwise they simply cease to exist.I initially thought I wouldn’t write a review about Neil Gaiman’s gloriously dark, strange and haunting classic. I mean, what can I say that hasn’t been said? And then, I thought ‘’come on, it’s an honour that you have the chance to write a review that will occupy a teeny tiny corner in this endless space that is Internet. (...too much Tech-boy influence…) So these are my two cents for a book that my review cannot do justice to.It has been on my lists for years, right after I read ‘’Coraline’’ and ‘’Stardust’’, but the marvellous TV series made me started it sooner than I thought. I couldn't possibly wait to witness the conclusion in 3-4 years on the telly, when the book was on my shelf. And this gives me the opportunity to say that the spirit of the book was perfectly captured and transferred to the small screen (unlike other examples…) and the expanded parts made the essence of the book even more significant, at least to me. As Wednesday and Shadow start a road trip in preparation for the war that is coming- a fight between the old gods, the values that created the country and the new gods that bring corruption and progress built in sand (yes, that is my personal conclusion….) - we, the readers, find ourselves on a journey that gives us much to think of. Is the old world a better place? Are the values that bring hope and comfort to the people to be destroyed by media, technology and the new World? I believe that each one of us can draw their personal conclusions.‘’We like to be big. Now, in these shabby days, we are small. The new gds rise and fall and rise again. But this is not a country that tolerates gods for long.’’ Gaiman’s writing is exceptional, obviously. There are so many beautiful quotes, so many dark moments of terrifying awe that clearly show why he’s considered a master of his Art. The themes he relates to the people who shaped America -by force or by their own free will- the cultures and the gods that crossed the ocean to protect those who believed in them and ended up almost destitute, couldn’t be more relevant to our current times. Gaiman doesn’t take sides, in my opinion. He presents gods and goddesses from all pantheons with respect and a hint of bittersweet remembrance, perhaps, for the lost pedestals and the wasted sacrifices through the ages. The parts that I consider the jewel of the book are all the ‘’Coming to America’’ chapters that show how the real heroes of the story are the people,not the gods. My favourites are the story of Essie Tregowan, a young woman from Cornwall who tries to make her fortune by shady ways, the story of Wututu, a slave girl during the late 1700s and the story of Atsula, a prehistoric priestess. They are among the most moving literary pieces you’ll ever read.Not much can be said about the characters, they are gods and they crave love and devotion. Are they really that different to humans?I don't think so. Shadow I loved, I don’t understand why many refer to him as being ‘’simple’’ or even devoid of personality. Yes, of course, he is simple. A simple human being thrust in the middle of a fight between all mighty deities. He is loyal, clever and kind, a character at a loss and at a crossroads, one who the reader can understand and identify with, if that is possible.The edition of my copy contains a short interview with Neil Gaiman and a novella, ‘’The Monarch of the Glen’’, along with an essay by Gaiman called ‘’How Dare You?’’ (I love that name!) All of the above are great reads. It is a book that shows much and hides even more. It wants us to contemplate on a number of themes that are larger than life,impossible to be answered, and yet they will be sought after by generations as long as mankind exists.Those who claim the opposite are simply lying to themselves. And thank the goddess of Literature for Neil Gaiman.‘’ ‘’Gods are great’’, said Atsula, slowly, as if she were comprehending a great secret. ‘’But the heart is greater. For it is from our hearts they come, and to our hearts they shall return.’’ ...and perhaps, sometimes, we should listen to our hearts…*Disclaimer- I will not engage in any religious discussion of any form. If you belong to the clan of the very few ones that go around looking for a fight, turn around and go elsewhere. You will find no response here. It is my conviction that religious beliefs is the most personal of issues and I do not discuss anything religious or anything that has to do with politics. My religious beliefs are my own and concern noone. And I will not tolerate any aggressive comments towards specific religions or religion in general, towards atheism,atheists, non-believers and the like. You get the drill. Comments regarding religion of any kind will be deleted and flagged. Thankfully, there is space for everyone in this awful (?) world and respect is the thing.Thank you:)*
  • (4/5)
    It took me a bit to get into it, but it ended being a really great mix of fantasy/fiction/foreign art house film narrative/social commentary.
  • (3/5)
    This is among the darkest of Neil Gaiman's books (and most of them are somewhat dark). I never got bored reading this, although with the Author's Preferred Text, there were some meandering sections that I felt were better left out.
  • (5/5)
    Stephen King with a college degree: AG is a provocative look at dispossessed gods in search of a final reckoning. A prison parolee, Shadow, when released finds his previous life is gone so is befriended by a mysterious man "Mr. Wednesday." Cross-country journeys and strange beings (i.e., gods) make for strange happenings but it all ends up on a satisfactory elliptical note. Don't worry too much about the logic and the details, just enjoy the ride.
  • (5/5)
    Rich, dark, interesting, frightening, beautiful to read. An instant favourite.
  • (5/5)
    Fantastic!
  • (3/5)
    I truly wanted to like this book. But the novel never achieved that magical moment where I was 'in' the story and the plot became compelling. The premise was good, the characterizations were interesting (I liked Shadow) but the appearance of his wife Laura threw me off and I didn't like the intrusion of this dead woman. The story became so convoluted, I was constantly derailed trying to work out what was going on. I never really felt that Mr. Wednesday was an Odin-based character, either. Maybe I've been influenced by many other Norse God tales, which I liked better.
  • (5/5)
    An outstanding book, beautifully read. The edition I listened to included an interview with Mr. Gaiman, which was delightful.
  • (4/5)
    Gaiman is great at creating worlds, but his characters are one-dimensional.
  • (2/5)
    This book was unusual, to say the least. I liked it OK, but I'm not sure that I will read anything else by Gaiman. There was so much in here and so many things that were just all over the place. One thing that wasn't here was a lot of closure.

    Sorry Neil, but I will not be recommending this to anyone.
  • (4/5)
    I read this a number of years ago, and remember feeling fairly "meh" about it. Nevertheless, I was excited to hear it was being adapted into a TV series. I watched most of the first season with a friend who loved this book, who had read/listened to it multiple times, and who would nitpick the changes with me (hardly any of which I remembered) after each episode.The whole thing got me curious for a reread, but I'd offloaded my copy years and years ago, I thought the new copies were ugly (what is with this terrible new cover aspect ratio I'm seeing all over sf shelves?), and no used copies seemed to exist in stores, because of the TV show.I was shocked when I saw a reasonably priced copy (that looked just like my old copy -- bonus!) at Curious Books, so I snatched it up immediately.I definitely got a lot more out of it this time around, due to premade emotional connections to the characters via the TV show, but I suspect more importantly, that this time around I know approximately 1600% more about Norse mythology. Of course, it's not only the Norse pantheon that is important in this book, but it's pretty front and center.Speaking of which, surrounding the final conflict and its resolution are a series of reveals of various characters and mysteries in the story. Before my reread, I only remembered ones of these reveals, and that was probably what I would have told you the book was about, had you asked. This time around that part of the storyline felt much less central, as I got more about of the Norse-related portions.Lesson learned: while a familiarity with Norse myths is not absolutely essential, I'd say it definitely would increase your engagement with this book. Fortunately, Norse mythology is now kind of everywhere in our culture, thanks partly to the MCU and also to Neil Gaiman himself.
  • (5/5)
    One of the best books I've ever read. I have now become a huge Neil Gaiman fan!