American Gods

Posted by : atcampbell | On : March 4, 2003

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Sixteen people attended this discussion at Willie and Charles’s house. Our topic was American Gods by Neil Gaiman, a contemporary fantasy novel that had recently won the Hugo Award. The book follows Shadow, an ex-con hired by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday to accompany him on a long road trip during which they encounter ghosts, landmarks, serial killers, and mythical beings. Everyone at the meeting had started the book, and all but one had finished it.

We found a lot to like about this book. One person said, “This is my kind of fantasy!” We enjoyed the strange and intricate details of the places Shadow visited, many of which really exist. We liked the god of the Internet, whose style of speaking resembles that of a well-known Austin writer. We liked this book’s exploration of mythology, and we appreciated Gaiman’s acknowledgement of writers like Fritz Leiber who’d explored this topic earlier. The notion of how gods came to America is clever. The story had enough mysteries and plot twists to keep us guessing, but the author gave us plenty of clues. Surprisingly, only one of us figured out the identity of the serial killer.

Five people at the meeting liked this book less than the rest. This group felt that the book contained several long, boring sequences that should have been cut. One person complained that all the characters were archetypes, so they had no depth and were uninteresting. A couple of people said that the Hugo award had led them to expect a different type of book, and they were disappointed that it was not what they anticipated.

Overall we liked American Gods, and we would recommend it to fans of urban fantasy. After the meeting, we had dinner at Fuddrucker’s.

–A. T. Campbell, III