“American Gods” Worth the Read

Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” is 635 pages of mythology, philosophy, nonsense wars and plot tangents: it’s a fantastical ride.
The plot revolves around an ex-convict, Shadow Moon, who is released a week early after the death of his wife, Laura. On his way to the funeral, he meets a strange man calling himself Wednesday. Wednesday offers Shadow a job as a glorified errand boy and he reluctantly takes it. Wednesday drags him into a world unseen by most, a world on the brink of war. Shadow is dragged into the plots of the old and new gods of America.
This story is just the main thread of the book. It often to delves into side stories from all over America and time, but usually focuses on the arrival or survival of gods in America. However, the show sometimes focuses on the believers keeping the gods alive, such as a Cornish immigrant in 1721 who believes in “piskies” and gives small offerings to them.
This is an example of the many plot tangents the book takes. It will stop the main plot line to tell stories about the fate of the Queen of Sheba or how a taxi driver, who is really an Ifrit, affects the life of a salesman. These really have nothing to do with the plot at all. In fact they aren’t even mentioned in the main plot.
This could easily be a shortcoming for the book, especially at its length, but the sections do get a good bit of world building done, not only in how the rules of the gods work, but also on the general state of the lives of gods. They do interrupt the flow of the story some, but there are many of these side stories.
The plot does have problems with pacing. Sometimes it crawls, as in several chapters of Shadow just living in Wisconsin. Sometimes it flies, as in the first conflict with the Black Hats, a bunch of lackeys for the new gods born of an obsession with government conspiracies.
However, this does fit the meandering nature of the story being told. Shadow is told to go somewhere, so he does, and then things happen. Sometimes right away, and sometimes he is waiting awhile for something to happen. The odd pacing works, but some people may be put off by it.
The writing is solid with Gaiman being very good at descriptions and the characters all being strong and well developed. It was enough to keep me reading even as the plot wandered off.
An adaptation is around the corner with Starz premiering a TV series based on the book on April 30.

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