Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
The TL;DR: This book takes quite a bit to get into (especially if you haven’t read any Neil Gaiman before) but it is incredibly worth it. I read the first 300 pages over the span of a few months and then read the last 200 pages nonstop in a couple hours.
“I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.”
Let me first start by emphasizing, if you haven’t read any Neil Gaiman before, this is not best starting point for becoming acquainted with his novels. I personally, LOVE, Neil Gaiman, having read Coraline, Stardust, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and Good Omens. I read Coraline waaaaaay back when I was in seventh or eighth grade, so my love for Gaiman’s unique character/plot/world concepts and rich, dark writing style has been ongoing for several years at this point.
However, if you love Neil Gaiman (as I so very much do), this book is truly Neil Gaiman at his most Neil Gaiman-esque. Foremost, this book is massive compared to his other books. American Gods tips right around 500 pages while the rest of his books range between 120 (Coraline/Ocean…) and 300 (Stardust). I read the 10th anniversary author’s preferred text, which of course is slightly longer.
I love the foreword included in this by Neil Gaiman because it gives such insight to the novel, namely in its length and settings. The first, is that it is in his words “big and odd and meandering.” Some perspective on this, is that I started this book a few months ago, as early as sometime in March. I would pick it up, read 50-80 pages or so and put it down for a couple weeks. My first thoughts were that the plot was just incredibly slow, but I didn’t mind because I loved the language and I actually became kind of content with stretching the book over a long period of time. So much so that I just thought I’d eventually finish the entire book like this.
I was completely wrong. I was given the impression from Gaiman’s own words that the whole thing would be this sluggish, quiet-paced ordeal from start to finish, but as Neil Gaiman is won’t to do I was in for a shock. I picked up the book a couple days ago (again after it had been several weeks since I last touched it) and then the plot twisted on me like a knife. I read the last 200 pages in the rest of the night, not putting the book down until I finished.
Everything, every little tiny thing, from the beginning to the little details that you chuckle at and remark fondly as Neil Gaiman just being Neil Gaiman, has significance in the ending. The book starts as the definition of a slow burner, to such a degree that so many people I know who also started it and despite loving it and Neil Gaiman, haven’t finished it yet.
I’m giving it 4.5 stars because it took so long to pick up but the end of the book absolutely destroyed me, it was so good. If you’re in for a long haul and you love Neil Gaiman, you have to read this. It’s a commitment but the ending is so incredible and it’s one of Gaiman’s finer masterpieces (I didn’t even think that was possible but here I am).
“People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales.”
P.S. I started watching the TV series with my coworkers and we’re about 4 episodes in and it’s SO GOOD. It’s beautiful and it’s following the book really well. Bryan Fuller developed it and I’m a huge fan of his (he also did Hannibal).