Having been a fan of Gaiman's graphic novels, I had admittedly high expectations for this, and was a little surprised to struggle with this book.
When I started reading and realised the premise of the book - neglected ancient gods living clandestine lives in the contemporary US - I found myself really excited and intrigued, and it's pretty evident that Gaiman's thoroughly researched and loves his subject matter. I'm also a fan of that theme of the hidden supernatural that lies beneath Americana (that instantly brought to mind Stephen King), and liked the dream sequences and almost Lynchian sense of ruptured reality.
However, where Stephen King succeeds and Gaiman fails here is in the depth of his characters, his engrossing voice and ability to create atmosphere using description and detail. There's a lot of detail in American Gods but it just feels like it's solidly packed with scenes and information and conversation all flatly delivered without any of the suspense and gravitas that should be there.
My biggest gripe with the book was it's main character, Shadow. Gaiman purposefully aimed to create a character that is alive yet not really living (or as his wife states "you're not dead, but I'm not sure that you're alive, either"), and he resultingly created a lead man that is a bit, well....boring. Even though you're with this character through his entire journey, Gaiman just doesn't give you enough voice or dimension to the character to make you emotionally invested in what happens to him. There's not even any convincing motivation here: Shadow is strongly resistant in the outset, then willingly throws himself into continual peril, and why? For loyalty to his boss, for his wife, for something to do, for some mysterious reason you have to read to the end to discover? Too late, by then I'm already bored. An unconvincing character.
The second major problem with this book is that the 'quest' the whole book pivots on is kinda vague, you're not really clued in on why it's so important. The 'threat' didn't feel threatening. And as a result I stopped caring pretty quickly, I just hung on because I figured there would be an interesting climax or twist at the end.
The best aspect of the book were the chapters interspersed throughout the book giving brief stories of various gods and their relationships with humans. Made for a relieving break-up of the road trip format, and shows that Gaiman's strength lies in story-telling, rather than prose.
Anyway, on the whole it wasn't particularly engrossing and the characters weren't terribly engaging, but the premise is interesting enough, and there are some interesting scenes. People rave about Gaiman's work so I'll look into his other novels and hope that he gives greater justice to the weighty and interesting themes he's choosing.show more