American Gods goes into my mental list of “it’s not you, it’s me” books. (I feel I’m loosing some imaginary “coolness factor” by not having loving it, like there’s social pressure involved. Some books have that aura.)
After all, it seemed to have all the ingredients necessary to win me over, including the epic scope and the appealing plot – old and new Gods fighting for the hearts and minds of Americans without them knowing? Sign me up! Also, I loved my two previous Gaimans (The Graveyard Book and Good Omens), always a good sign.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what didn’t do it for me, because the writing is clearly brilliant and none of the narrators in my audiobook was particularly annoying.
Although the plot sounded great, throughout the 20 hours of audiobook I had to tell myself to suspend my disbelief (unusual for me in fantasy novels) and stop over-analyzing, like:
- Why should I be on the side of Shadow and Odin and not with the new Gods of Television, Internet and Money? Didn’t Odin instigate wars, rape and murder? Why are we safer with the Old Gods? If I had a choice, I’d probably go with the new ones.
- Are we really more obsessed with money today than, say, 200 years ago?
- Isn’t there be a better way for Odin and his buddies to gain power? Maybe try to gather more human followers by doing a few tricks. Show off a bit. There are birds of thunder flying around and Shadow can control the weather, for crying out loud.
- Where are the current, strong Gods like Jesus Christ and Allah? Wasn’t it a cop-out not to include them?
There are a lot of contradictions in the plot line and in the end (because of it?) the story becomes very secular: Man has the power and (I ask myself) if Man has the power, why do we need Gods at all?
“Jesus does pretty good over here,” (…) “But I met a guy who said he saw him hitchhiking by the side of the road in Afghanistan and nobody was stopping to give him a ride. You know? It all depends on where you are.
Maybe Gaiman’s whole point is to make the reader think about this. Either way, all this questioning made me disconnected from the characters and it’s always more difficult to love a book with characters you don’t care about and whose deaths you’d be indifferent to.
I did enjoy it in general, especially the resolution of the missing girls’ mystery in the sleepy small town. The road-trip was a great opportunity for Gaiman to display his humor, clever writing and even cleverer observations of people and culture.
I just wish that Shadow felt more like someone with an actual will and opinion, that I cared 2-Euro-cents about his zombie wife, that all the build-up and premonitions had an explosive finale, that the Gods we get to know in the “interludes” (probably my favorite parts) made an appearance somewhere in the main story. Lots of things felt too… loose.
Technically, American Gods is grand but unfortunately I can’t really say that it won me over.
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