After three years in prison, Shadow has done his time. But as the days, then the hours, then the seconds until his release tick away, he can feel a storm building. Two days before he gets out, his wife Laura dies in a mysterious car crash, in apparently adulterous circumstances. Dazed, Shadow travels home, only to encounter the bizarre Mr. Wednesday, claiming to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god, and the king of America.
Together they embark on a very strange journey across the States, along the way solving the murders which have occurred every winter in one small American town. But they are being pursued by someone with whom Shadow must make his peace…. Disturbing, gripping, and profoundly strange, Neil Gaiman’s epic new novel sees him on the road to finding the soul of America.
Author: Neil Gaiman
Narrator: Neil Gaiman, Dennis Boutskiaris, Daniel Oreskes, Ron McLarty, Sarah Jones
Running Time: 19 hours 40 minutes
Publisher: Headline Digital
Audio Release Date: 04/05/2012
My Rating of ‘American Gods’: 3 out of 5
As far as the cover art and publisher’s summary go for American Gods, I am not particularly blown away by either. The artwork is poignant for a certain part of the book, I suppose, but so many other parts could have been used instead. It also changed from the artwork that came with the copy I originally downloaded (formerly a motel in the middle of nowhere). The publisher’s summary just felt as if it was trying to cram too much in to attract a reader. Something the book is a tad guilty of as well. But more of that in the main part of the review:
American Gods is one of those novels that has a huge fan-following and is very well thought of amongst Neil Gaiman fans. I had long been curious of it and, when I saw the tenth anniversary edition, with a full cast of narrators, I had to give it a go.
There’s a part of me that is happy I did and an equally-sized part of me that wishes I hadn’t. As enjoyable as parts of the book were, I feel they weren’t enjoyable due to the story, more so because they happened away from it. In fact, most of the enjoyable moments came outside of the main story arc. When Shadow spends time with each of the Gods he meets along his journey through America, his getting to know them and those around them, are thoroughly enjoyable and very interesting. Sadly, I feel the overall story lacks excitement or interest.
I say that purely because it doesn’t feel like American Gods is a complete story that knows what it wants to be. It feels more like a jumble of stories that all seem to happen to, or around, the same character (Shadow). Neil Gaiman does tie up all of these various threads near the end of book but, if truth be told, some of them didn’t feel like major plot points to me. They just felt like something that was happening in the backdrop of Shadow’s America.
Gaiman does a good job of writing interesting and loveable (some detestable, but that’s the point in cases) characters. As I eluded to earlier, if the characters weren’t so good, so well fleshed-out, I honestly think the whole thing would be sub-par.
My major complaint, and I will try to do this in as gentle and spoiler-free a way as possible, is the end. The entire book makes the reader/listener think he/she will be treated to a huge, cataclysmic event of epic proportions. As it stands, the book sort of ends on a confused whimper instead. I found the epilogue more entertaining than the final chapter.
Reading back over my review, I feel that I am perhaps being a bit too harsh. I think some of my annoyance was due to the slow, ponderous pace of either the book or the narration, I can’t be sure which. The character narrations were wonderful (some of the women seemed to have the same voice, which was a tad annoying, but that is only a minor gripe), it’s simply the main narrative that had a bit of a lacklustre feel. I thought the narrator’s voice was wonderful, it was just the pacing was slower than I would have liked.
As a whole, I think it’s one of those books that quite simply has to be experienced so that you can get your own feel for it. I read numerous rave reviews and an equal number of negative reviews. I can honestly say that neither was it as good as the reviews suggested, or as bad as some of the others claimed it to be. It was simply ‘enjoyable’. Although, I will say that it took me a lot longer than most audiobooks to get through of a similar length.