Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough, and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.
Sometimes when you read a book a magical thing happens. You turn the pages, and as you read on you become overwhelmed by the feeling that, man, this book just gets you. Or at least I do. On occasion. And this is exactly what happened when I read American Gods for the first time two years ago. American Gods is the third Neil Gaiman novel I ever read (after Good Omens, and Neverwhere) and when I started reading, I had no idea what to expect, but I was home alone for the weekend, and needing something to fill my evenings.
If you haven’t read it, the story goes something like this: The main character is a guy called Shadow, who, at the beginning of the novel is finishing up his time in prison for being the getaway driver in a robbery. When he gets out, quite literally for lack of anything better to do, he reluctantly agrees to be a sort of body guard to a strange and somewhat cryptic man who calls himself Mr Wednesday. Together they embark on a road trip across America as Wednesday tries to recruit some of his old friends to his supposedly doomed cause. For a long time it’s all very mysterious, made even more so by the fact that Shadow’s story is constantly interrupted by seemingly random snippets of other characters, but once Shadow (and through him, you as the reader) pieces together what is going on, it is then that the story becomes something really special.
The story weaves around a bit, and the journey to the (in my opinion, awesome and fascinating) climax is not a short one, but it’s so enjoyable! What makes this story for me is the characters; from Czernobog and Mr Nancy at the beginning, to Samantha Blackcrow and my personal favourites, Mr Jackel and Mr Ibis later on, they all have the most amazing backstories and unique personalities. Shadow, though, is one of my very favourite fictional characters. I can’t quite decide what it is about him that makes me like him so much, but I do love that he simply accepts everything that happens to him, where others would ask one thousand questions, and it is refreshing to have a character keep their mouth shut for once.
In my experience, American Gods is a difficult book to describe and I’m not sure that I have done it justice. I can tell you that it is a book that I often catch myself thinking about, and that isn’t something that happens to me very often. Hell, I want to read it again even as I turn the last page. It’s hard to explain what makes this book so great without giving anything away, so unfortunately, I can only recommend you to read it and let me know what you think.
Have you read American Gods? How would you best describe it to someone and how do you feel it compares to Neil Gaiman’s other work?