I am the kind of person who should be a Neil Gaiman fan by this point. I’m not entirely sure why but there are a few authors that I feel like the Internet loves and as a child of the Internet I should love them in turn. However, I am cautious about trying these certain Big authors. For example, everyone seems to love The Hitchhikers Guide the the Galaxy. By all laws of the known universe I should love it and think it’s the best thing I’ve ever read. I have tried to read it three times and just cannot seem to get into it.
This brings us to Mr Gaiman. There is also the added pressure that there are quite a few titles to choose from, all of which come highly recommended. So I decided, why not jump into the deep end? We started, my dear friends, with the beast that is American Gods.
I have to say straight away I had such a beautiful copy to read from, with gorgeous designs by Daniel Egneus which if nothing else makes it a lovely copy to have around to thrust in people’s faces to appreciate the art. He’s done a few other covers and I would love to get a collection going.
As for the book itself, to my great relief I really enjoyed it! The story follows Shadow, an ex-convict who is drawn into the high-stakes, surreal, and violent world of the Gods of America, both old world such as Mr Wednesday (Odin, who also happens to be Shadow’s new employer) or new ones like The Media, shiny and perfect and creepy. The main draw is the characters, who are wonderfully complex and complicated and messy. Their untrustworthiness, not always born from malice but also from apathy to the situation, makes the narrative interesting, especially in the small interludes at the beginning of chapters which allowed for a glimpse into another Gods world and origins. As for the Gods aspect, I was really glad I had some knowledge of Norse mythology but felt my knowledge in other areas would have helped a little as I could have been missing certain references. However, I wouldn’t say you needed an encyclopedic knowledge to enjoy the book as Gaiman creates such wonderful characters and its clear a lot of love has gone into their crafting.
It did take me a while to get through this novel, mainly due to the sheer size of it, but looking back, it also had something to do with the character-driven nature. As much as the world building was amazing and intricate, the underlying plot moved slowly and mysteriously in places which meant that if I missed a day of reading it could quickly turn into a week before I remembered to pick it up again. On the other hand, this did mean that I could remember very easily what had just happened and didn’t have to go back and re-read any bits (although I could have just forgotten bits…). This character- base also means that I felt there were some gaps which I realise were probably purposefully left but in a novel over 600 pages was a bit annoying. Also I think I really should have seen that ending coming but the fact that I was surprised speaks highly to the writing and way tricks and twists were pulled together.
I’m definitely going to check out the TV series that has just started as I’m really interested in seeing how some of the more surreal, dream-like sequences are going to be portrayed! As a fan of Pushing Daises I have total faith in Bryan Fuller to create weird and surreal and the cast looks absolutely Amazing.
Overall, I’m certainly going to dive into more Gaiman soon (any recommendations?)! I don’t know whether I would recommend this as a first Gaiman novel as I don’t have anything to compare it to but if you don’t mind a challenge and love a bit of mythology, this is the book for you.