Book review: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman (Tenth Anniversary Edition; Author’s Preferred Text)

There are a lot of good things about this book, but I didn’t like it. It has a fascinating premise, but I didn’t like the way it was pulled off.

Every god ever invented has come to America, and are residing there in obscurity, often in menial jobs. They have lost their power because people have stopped sacrificing to them, and are ignoring them. Also, they’ve been replaced by the gods of technology and mass consumption.

The Norse god Odin has decided that there should be a war between the old gods and the new, and most of the story consists of Odin going around the country with an ex-con he has chosen (for reasons not clear through most of the novel, but explained, finally) trying to enlist the other gods for this war.

Great. I’m with you, premise-wise. Let’s rock. What could be more fun than a war between gods? But there is no rock. We are told time and time again that there’s a storm coming. It doesn’t. 350 pages in and I’ve got no storm. 

I’m not saying the book is garbage, it’s not. I can see why a lot of people like, I suppose. The central idea was good, and one of the subplots that is finally resolved in the Epilogue is cool. There are glimmers of good writing or, should I say, interesting writing. (For what is good writing?)

Generally, though, it left me flat. It was wordy, and the writing uninteresting. The book comes in at 624 pages. I found myself wanting to rewrite it to about 350 pages. (Maybe that’s a new branch of fiction. Instead of fan fiction, it’s rewrite fiction.) Any novel over around 350 pages is too long. Not because I don’t have the attention span, but because in my experience they are made too long by over-writing and dragging the story out to make a long book. I read somewhere that people prefer a thick book, for some reason. Maybe that’s why. But so far I have not seen a story that could not have been better told in 350 pages.

I don’t know why it didn’t work for me. I know it’s an acclaimed book by an acclaimed author. But I had a lot of trouble getting some of the imagery. Probably because it could have been done in many fewer words, and the punch was lost in verbiage.

If you know a lot about Greek and Roman gods, and like obscure references and a bit of word play, you might like this better than I did. In the end, though, I wish I had read two other novels in the time it took to read this one.