Read dozens of books about heroes and crooks, and I've learned much from both of their styles.
We started this blog in 2010 after a New Years' Resolution to read 60 books between the two of us. (40 for C, 20 for D.) After reaching our goal, we decided to keep going in 2011. This year, C has pledged to read 30 books, and D will read 12. By no means are we professional reviewers; we're not even professional bloggers. We're just two people who love to read and decided to share our thoughts and offer our limited insights. We hope you enjoy!
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Book #19: American Gods
Our book club's choice for June was American Gods by Neil Gaiman, a very well-known science fiction/fantasty author. His books Coraline and Stardust have both been turned into successful movies, and he recently wrote an episode of the hugely popular British television show Doctor Who. Even though his material isn't always exactly up my alley, I still have a lot of respect for his work. I think he's pretty brilliant, so I was very excited to read American Gods.
When we meet the main character, Shadow, he is in prison counting the days until he can go home to his beloved wife, Laura. Shadow learns that he will be getting out of prison a few days early... due to his wife being killed in a car accident. On his way home for the funeral, Shadow meets a mysterious man who calls himself Wednesday who seems to show up everywhere Shadow goes. Wednesday asks Shadow to work for him as a personal assistant of sorts, and, with essentially no other option for moving on with his life, Shadow reluctantly agrees. Wednesday turns out to be the powerful god, Odin, who is on a mission to gather his fellow gods from various regions and mythologies in order to face the "newer" gods of the modern lifestyle. What follows is a strange journey through America to enlist the aid of these gods in the battle against the new gods.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book, but I have to say that it lost me a little bit somewhere after the mid-way point. I felt like there was a lot of stuff going on for no reason. Looking back, I'm not sure what the point of half of the book was, as it seems like very little that happened along the way even made a difference. That's not to say I didn't enjoy reading about Shadow's journey around America and his interaction with some of the gods, because it was entertaining and well written, but... It was kind of pointless. I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, so let's just say that I thought the ending was pretty anti-climactic. It seems like the entire book moved you toward a specific event that didn't technically happen. My biggest beef with the book could be boiled down to the disconnection of it all.
In a similar vein, there were "Coming to America" vignettes throughout the book that detailed the older gods' (who obviously began as gods in other regions' mythologies) journeys to America. I appreciated what Gaiman was doing by peppering these throughout the novel, but they just didn't seem to fit. Almost none of the gods you read about in these short tales ever show up again in the book. I get that they were there as background information, but it almost seemed like filler... Which wasn't really needed in a book that weighs in at almost 600 pages.
That being said, I really didn't dislike the story itself. I thought the characters were well-developed and likable, even with their flaws. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that likable characters are a huge thing for me. I liked Shadow, and even Wednesday, although he was pretty crooked. In the book, Shadow spends some time living in an apartment in the small town of Lakeside in order to be "hidden" from some shady characters who are on Shadow and Wednesday's tails. I LOVED Lakeside and everyone in it. It was quirky and weird and frozen for most of the year, and the people there were hilarious. What's not to love about a town with a tradition of townspeople entering a contest to guess the day and time that a broken-down car will break the ice on the frozen lake? The town has its dark side, though, with missing teenagers and strange stories from the past, which just adds to the intrigue. I was sad to see Shadow leave Lakeside.
So... I don't know. I liked it, some parts more than others, but I didn't love it. I feel sort of empty about it. After a killer first half, it didn't deliver for me, and I was really hoping it would. It is far beyond my literary and intellectual boundaries to legitimately criticize him. Maybe his whole vision for this book just wasn't for me.