Wednesday, July 17, 2013

American Gods review

As a writer, reader, and consumer of media, there are certain things I've come to expect from a story. Starts, stops, turning points in specific places, character decisions, final showdowns. Many stories are, to some extent, predictable. That's okay -- these are the things that orient us in the story's world, and within that framework there is room for surprise and intrigue.

And then there are books where I don't have any idea when any of that is coming, but it's seamless and stimulating anyway. Maybe I just need to read more Neil Gaiman and I'll get used to it.

American Gods was gripping, original, and fascinating. To give a basic premise, imagine that all the gods of all the people who ever came to America followed them over. And further imagine that they stayed here, fading, when people stopped believing.

It's not that simple, though. We follow a man named Shadow who travels across the country working for the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. We meet the new American gods, beings of information and efficiency, who know that they're just as temporary as the gods who came before them. We feel the tension rising in a country that is undoubtedly America -- but an America in which the dark imaginings of our forebears still live.

Like I said, I could never say what was coming next, even when some of the mysteries began to be revealed. There are even a few mysteries left unanswered, which I liked. However, this book is not for all readers. There's plenty of disturbing, sexual, and violent content. For the most part I think it made sense in context, but it's strong.

I was glad to read a story that didn't play to my expectations. I have previously read Gaiman's Stardust and Coraline, and those are fascinating reads as well. If you're looking for a storyteller who can take you places, Gaiman's your man. But watch out for the gods.

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