By Jeffrey P. Martin
Neil Gaiman is a mythologist, a folklorist, and a genius. He is an author who is able to capture the magic and mystery of not only the supernatural and extraordinary, but also the mundane. There is beauty in this world—seen and unseen—and Gaiman is able to distill it into something tangible, while maintaining its mystery.
American Gods is the tale of a man who once released from prison finds himself in a variety of unexplainable and unexpected circumstances. This is, of course, the simplest explanation for this book, because to tell you much more would go into spoiler territory. The strength of this book comes in Gaiman’s clear understanding and love for history and mythology. Weaving elements together like a pop collagist from the 1960s, he creates a beautiful story filled with wonder and imagination. He moves deftly between stories of creation, gods, immigration, and finally swoops in and makes tales of American mundanity sound interesting.
This book is not without its faults, however. There are times when Gaiman’s attempts to keep his descriptions from getting over bloated, but goes too far and makes it hard to fully understand some of the settings and characters in the book. The main character, Shadow, mostly feels mushy and undefined, until the end. Maybe that’s intentional, maybe it’s not. Sometimes, his landscapes and descriptions are so visceral and real that when you get to those moments where it isn’t as clear, it feels disappointing.
Overall this book is wonderful, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves mythology, the mysterious, or just plain good old fashioned storytelling.