American Gods is a stand alone fantasy book by Neil Gaiman which pits the old gods against the new gods. The old gods are being forgotten and are no longer being worshiped while the new, young, and fresh gods of technology are flourishing.
The main character, Shadow, an ex convict, comes out of a three year prison term and meets Wednesday. Wednesday is a mysterious person who somehow knows all about Shadow. It is later revealed that Wednesday has some sort of magical powers. Shadow is hired by Wednesday to do odd jobs which mostly involve driving and conning.
The novel moves along with Shadow realizing that Wednesday is planning something big but has no idea what his role in all of it is. Is Shadow a god or isn’t he?
The whole story is a build up to a great war between the old gods and the new gods. The new gods have no idea why Shadow is so important but want to eliminate him anyways because Wednesday believes him to be important.
As Shadow drives across America, Gaiman takes the opportunity to introduce or reintroduce to his readers some of the long forgotten, once popular, land marks of America, though he does not spend enough time on any land mark to make it a worthwhile experience. He does, however, spend a great deal of time telling stories from the past which were great after I figured out what was going on and how they had absolutely no relation to what was going on in the present or in the story.
I must say, I did not like this book at all. Even as a stand alone novel I felt it to be too long. It would have been horrifically tragic had Gaiman tried to extend this into a series. There were elements of the story that just didn’t make sense, like Shadow’s is she dead or isn’t she dead wife. Also those stories in the past that were just randomly thrown in that needlessly extended the book.
I see American Gods creep up on a lot of people’s top fantasy books lists (which is one reason why I wanted to read it), but I suspect it is because of the historical elements and landmarks that Gaiman throws into the story. If we were to judge it purely on the fantastical elements of the story, American Gods being a fantasy novel and all, I would rank it very very low on the scale of good fantasy books. The book falls even flatter when reading it from a mythology point of view.
I would not recommend this book to anyone.