Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Format: trade paperback, owned by me
Secondary Format: audiobook, read by Neil Gaiman and a full cast
Start Date: March 30, 2017
End Date: April 10, 2017
Rating: 5 stars
None of this can actually be happening. If it makes you more comfortable, you could simply think of it as a metaphor. Religions are, by definition, metaphors, after all: God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chromometer in the desert, someone who loves you – even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers, and triumphs over all opposition.
Religions are places to stand and look and act, vantage points from which to view the world.
When someone asks me my favorite book, my go-to response is always, always, ALWAYS Neil Gamian’s American Gods.
Having a favorite book, at least with me, is often fraught with doubt. What if I were to reread it wasn’t as amazing as I remembered? What if I recommended it to someone and they hated it, or at least they didn’t like it as much as me?
So this re-read was, in essence, a reaffirmation to see if this book was everything I remembered it to be (since I haven’t read it since the summer of 2009). Though I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I also felt that a re-read was needed before the Starz series premiering at the end of April 2017 (finally!!).
Thankfully, this book did not disappoint. Instead, it was just as amazing as I remembered it to be.
American Gods is quite unlike any book I’ve ever read before. It has a little bit of everything: mythology, religion, immigration, romance, horror, mystery, suspense, plot twists, and magic, all of which are layered on top of each other to the point where you don’t know where one ends and the next begins. Instead, American Gods is that rare book which is perfectly comfortable being completely unique and not at all self-conscious within the confines its own bindings, thank you very much.
Ultimately, this is a book about immigration, America, and gods. This book tries to adequately describe the entirety of America within its 588 pages (of the trade paperback version). Is the story within the pages inclusive of every American citizen? Surely not, because America is a wide, expansive land full of people that are widely and extensively varied. Varied in race, religion, belief, ideology.
Underneath these varied exteriors, Americans are united. United by the land. United by the notion that our ancestors were all immigrants, once upon a time. And that’s what makes American Gods so relevant and relatable.
It’s a story about immigration vs. natives. It’s a story about old gods vs. new. It’s a story about manipulation and deviousness. It’s a story about a man trying to find himself. And it’s the story of all Americans.
Listening to the audiobook was amazing. Neil Gaiman’s voice could make just about anything sound intriguing. He is a natural-born storyteller, and listening to the “Coming to America” sections of American Gods was a real treat. If you’ve never actually heard him speak, like me before I listened to this audiobook, you’re missing out.
There really is something inherently magical about this book. Thank you, Neil Gaiman, for sharing it with the world.
The purpose of rereading American Gods, besides the fact that it is an old and dear friend, was to get reacquainted with the characters and plot before the pilot, which premiered on Sunday, April 30th. I would be remiss then, in this post, if I didn’t also talk about what I thought about the pilot episode, “The Bone Orchard”:
I will not lie and say I thought it was amazing. Instead, I must admit that I was a little unimpressed.
Hear me out though!
Look, the reason I love American Gods so much is because it is a quirky book that transcends genres and does, really, whatever the f*** it wants. However, I don’t know if that translated well to screen.
Maybe it was because there were little details that varied from the book, especially prominent since the plot is so fresh in my memory. Maybe it was because the music didn’t quite mesh with the action on the screen. Maybe it was because it seemed like it was trying just a little bit too hard. (That’s not to say it was not beautifully done, at least artistically, though.)
American Gods has high expectations that need to be met, not just for me, but for a whole lot of fans who also love this book.
The pilot was okay, but I think it was just getting its bearings, establishing its place in the fandom, even if it was a bit shakily. It will get better, I know it. And I will keep watching; because even if the opening episode was a little lackluster, it’s still American Gods and Neil Gaiman, and therefore it’s definitely going to be amazing.