Monday, November 26, 2012

REVIEW: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Even though it was not something that would usually call to me, I decided to read American Gods because it's one of those, 'I'm so amazing and well-known that the fact that you haven't read me should cause of a profound sense of shame' books. This year I have added a lot of big names and authors to my to read list out of a sense of obligation to the genre.

The style of storytelling in this one reminded me a lot of Maguire's Wicked series ... the plot itself it not (seemingly) noteworthy or dramatic, it just tells an honest story for the sake of telling the story. I find myself yawning throughout and not being terribly moved, and then by the time the last page has been turned I think to myself ... "that was the best damn thing I have ever read".

I'm still not sure what I actually read, or what actually happened. Gaiman is so mysterious, and even though some things are wrapped up, some things go without further explanation or reference. In a way it's satisfying because as a reader it is always nice to not have your intelligence insulted and in this case, to have a little bit that keeps you wondering.

For a protagonist (or in fact, any sentient being) Shadow is curiously passive in every sense of the term. He seems to just accept every unbelievable event (and there are a lot) that occurs, which is kind of refreshing compared to the usually OMG WTF response we expect from the other 99.8% of the population. Certainly makes the plot move on faster.

What I am still undecided on is how to feel about the gods. Much like Maguire's witches, Gaiman's portrayal of the gods shows them as much more impotent and eccentric than several years worth of religion and history would have us believe. Which is great; rather than following a fantastical trope which is designed to make a gripping fictional tale, he gives a much more plausible example of how gods would manifest if they actually existed in the world. Love it. But ... while Maguire's characters echoed beautifully and poetically with their mainstream representations, the American Gods felt a bit flat. Gaiman subtly alludes to their glorious pasts and quirky brand of magic, but I wanted more, at least from a few key gods. I wanted to know their stories and more about this theory of their existence.

I questioned the motivations of most of the characters, particularly Wednesday and Laura. Most of the time it feels like no one is in control of what they're doing or where they're going ... they just do it regardless of their lack of knowledge or motives. In a way this was strangely interesting and gave a really detached and mystical quality to the story, but when you analyse it, it's a little odd.

All in all I did really enjoy this book. It is masterfully written and is a testament to Gaiman's intelligence and skill. It didn't grip me like a Brent Weeks or Brandon Sanderson novel would, but then again I think that was purposefully done. I'll definitely be checking out some more Neil Gaiman!

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