Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I’ve read about this book in this forum and the plot piqued my interest. I”m not an avid fan of Neil Gaiman but I have known the author due to his mainstream popularity. I actually bought this book out of the mere thought that I was destined to have this book. Don’t start with the “LOL you’re crazy” statement with me yet. I actually saw this book amongst a pile of unwanted books. It wasn’t on sale or anything but it was unbelievably priced low. It was the only book left as I skimmed through the whole bookstore and since I’ve read good reviews about this I figured it was destiny that brought me and this book together.
Anyway, as for the review, I won’t give out spoilers from the book. If anything, I’ll merely put in a good quote or two so don’t worry about it. But if you’re looking to see whether you have to buy this book or not then I’m telling you to go do it. It’s a must read for voracious readers.
The plot is quite simple: It’s simply about a war that is soon to breakout between the old and forgotten gods vs the gods America has made. The old gods are those whom the settlers brought with them and the new gods are those America has created such as the god of the internet or the god of media. A war is set to break and only one side will prevail. The main protagonist, Shadow, is stuck in the middle and he doesn’t even know why he’s chosen by the old gods or why the new gods want him on their side instead.
But that’s where the simplicity ends and Neil’s magic begins. To tell the truth, the story goes on like that for the most part. I’m not diving in deeper but I assure you that Neil is a very good writer even if it looks like he’s suddenly taken a detour away from the plot. Trust me when I tell you that everything makes sense in the end. And by the “END” I mean like the very last few chapters. You’re literally filled with questions and you end up thinking you’ll find out in the next page or the page after that and soon you end up finishing a chapter and eager to start with the new. It’s very intriguing in a very interesting sort of way. You don’t end up lacking in facts but at the same time the book doesn’t tell you everything. You want to think for yourself and even do your own research on some characters or why this god behaves this way and such. It keeps you motivated to read the book and curiosity in books is what keeps the story alive.
To describe Neil’s style of writing is like describing a popular painting. You can have your own set of definitions and interpretations and other people will still have their own but it’s still the same painting and it’s still a work of art by a genius. That’s how Neil is: he simply weaves words into magical combinations and makes the reader think more seriously on the story itself than how one character is too funny or how one place lacks or has too much page time. I myself didn’t think that Neil has written too much. If anything, I think Neil simply has too many stories in his head going on while writing a book and he must get so excited that most of his stories must have alternate plots or endings but only the best one gets published. I’m guessing Neil filters his thoughts about a story on a daily basis. This is why I can say that although the book is relatively unpopular, the author’s writing style and the ability to write a story-within-a-story makes this book a good literary weapon against more modern and ordinary books.
And as with every book lies a hidden meaning. My own interpretation would be that we shouldn’t let our ideas and beliefs consume our humanity. We should remain human at all times even when we come face to face with another person’s dogma. We should not attempt to live off someone else’s dreams or opinions. We should make our own. I’m drawing this from how the new gods always fear being replaced due to America’s ever changing opinion on what should govern the land or, to put it simply, which idea should be dominant amongst others.
Take the idea of modern transportation: More than a hundred years ago trains were the kings of travel but now cars rule every road there is. Let’s say a train was represented by a god. That god was much modern than the gods of thousands of years ago and yet this god was considered obsolete, practically forgotten, by those who brought it into existence and is now left to fend for itself because no one worshipped it any longer. The people simply saw the car as a better way to travel and people unconsciously worshipped this mode of transportation and has since made a god out of it. This cycle will go on; people will give birth to gods and people will kill gods. New ideas will replace the old and the old would have nothing left but faint memories of how they ruled before they were discarded.
This simple thought of discarding the old for the new is a dangerous aspect of the modern human. Almost no one sticks with their own way of life and is always willing to copy the way the other lives even if that way is either out of reach or the total opposite of how they were brought up as. Ideas no longer linger and those that do barely remain relevant or known by many. It is such that Neil must’ve wanted to prove how people, taking Americans as an example, need to live their own lives once again.
One more thing: He suffered much losses and Neil depicted his sadness without actually writing in much detail. Neil’s genius simply put us, the reader, into the perspective of Shadow and by simply describing how or what happened in front of him, we would know how Shadow would’ve felt. Neil also made the main character become aware of what is truly right from wrong despite the number of things pulling him to either side. He finally realized that there is no absolute right or absolute wrong. He knew there can only be gray areas and grays are subject to the interpretation of the believer. He was able to set himself free from the constraints of having to choose a side, of being toyed around with. Most of all, he was able to fully understand what freedom was and that’s the freedom to choose to live his own life without anyone telling him how.
To go back with the review, I’m giving this book a 10/10. It’s a definitely good read and quite an eccentric take on how new human beliefs and opinions can affect those who don’t believe the same or would rather stick with the traditions imparted by their own personal culture.
Here’s a set of my favorite quotes:
“Hey,” said Shadow. “Huginn or Muninn, or whoever you are.”
The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.
“Say ‘Nevermore,'” said Shadow.
“Fuck you,” said the raven.”
“Liberty is a bitch who must be bedded on a mattress of corpses.”
That’s the miracle of America. Freedom to believe means the freedom to believe the wrong thing, after all. Just as freedom of speech gives you the right to remain silent.