On the plane ride home to the funeral, Shadow meets a man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday, a self-declared grifter, who offers Shadow a job. Shadow, a man with nothing to lose, accepts. But he soon learns that his role in Wednesday's schemes will be far more dangerous than he could have ever imagined.
American Gods is a dark and kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth and across an America at once eerily familiar and utterly alien. Magnificently told, American Gods is a work of literary magic that will haunt the listener long after it has been heard.
©2001 Neil Gaiman; (P)Recorded Books, Inc.; ©2001 HarperCollinsPublishers Inc.
"Brilliant dialogue and profound insights into American consciousness show Gaiman to be a visionary and a master wordsmith." (AudioFile)
"Neil Gaiman enters Stephen King territory...with American Gods." (New York Post)
"A crackerjack suspense yarn...juicily original...Wagnerian noir." (Salon.com)
"By turns thoughtful, hilarious, disturbing, uplifting, horrifying and enjoyable, and sometimes all at once." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
First and foremost, Neil Gaiman can actually write, which puts him ahead of 90% of the people on the best sellers lists these days. That alone is worth a positive review.
But this book is stupendous. It starts small in a prison cell with an unremarkable hero, and ventures out across America, revealing this nation and its psyche more than any recent work I've read. The format is odd--it alternates between the modern story and vignettes into the gods of the different cultures that melted into America, from pre-discovery to modern immigrants. Each vignette is well-imagined and offers an insight into America that would leave even a student of culture and anthropology impressed. Each ties together to explain the whole picture of what's happening in the novel. Several criticisms here have claimed it is just a bunch of stories, but it is much more than that.
This is one of the best imagined books I've ever read. It isn't always about pretty romances or graphic slasher/horror killings--although they are in here--so it may be different than some readers are used to, but it tells a powerful story that goes beyond the simple actions of the story. You will see America in a different light--sometimes better, sometimes worse--after reading this book, and if you don't, you've missed the whole story.
It is a spectacular mystical, mythical adventure, and I have enjoyed few books this much, and have been this impressed with the overall scope of even fewer. I can't imagine not loving it.
Oh yeah, don't listen with your kids. There is explicit, though not gratuitous, sex and violence that might offend some readers. Not one of Gaiman's childrens books.
Not knowing who Neil Gaiman was, I immediatly suspected that the book would follow a sort of Noir theme with mythic references, but luckily it turned out to be something much, much better. The writing is this book is probably one of the best forms that I've heard or read in a very long time. Gaiman's writing has the amazing ability to be down-to-earth and yet spellbinding at the same time. His writing switches continuely from one side seeming as humourous and casual to suddenly becoming overtly graphic in an fluid transaction without destroying the pace or the imagery within the book. The real kicker though is George Guidall, and how he seems to literally bring out the personality in the multitude of characters. If you had to listen to something by either of Gaiman or Guidall, make it this book.
Not surprisingly, American gods are material goods, rather than spiritual heroes -- but we learn of this through our protagonist and epic hero Shadow, who, once out of prison, lands a job with Wednesday and experiences one weird thing after another, read aloud beautifully by the same guy who reads Steinbeck's East of Eden. I loved the way so many old and new myths intertwined, on earth and in more spiritual realms, current and historical -- and the more I listened, the more I wanted to hear. The sample Audible provides as a teaser doesn't do the story justice at all -- Shadow is far more interesting a character than his boyhood excerpt reveals. I liked this even better than The Anansi Boys -- darker, and also deeper.
I very much enjoyed the book; it captured me in the first few minutes, and I was sorry to finish it. Some books transport you; this is one of them; it takes you to a place that might be here and now; one hopes that it is. There is romance, mystery, and murder; the whodunit is quite good, and there are many twists and turns; a great book for a road trip.
If you love myth, you'll love American Gods.
I think that it's a story that you really can't love, though, unless you have some background in myth, how myth works, and the basic themes that surround the stories that are as old as human speech itself.
However, any student of Joseph Campbell will be entranced by some powerful storytelling and understanding of myth.
It is also interesting to see an Englishman's take on what it means to be an American.
The story's structure is fairly exact, but you don't catch on to what Gainman is doing or how he weaves the plot for quite a long way into the book. It seems like three or four rambling tales when it really is a single saga. And perhaps, given the fact that it draws heavily on the mythology of cultures that gave us the very WORD saga, that makes good sense.
As far as the audio performance, George Guidall's vocal characterizations are all very good, but his rendition of Mr. Wednesday is absolutely masterful. I always enjoy his narrations and this is no exception.
I'm an avid audiobook addict, the down side of this condition is that after a time all the gems have been heard and we move on to random choices hoping for the best, usually get mediocre. But this book is a gem, the narration is excellent. I was expecting little, an author famous for comics, i thought though talented beyond question, could not maintain the conhesion needed for a novel of this magnitude. But he pulls it off with grace and style, this book brings much to the table, a look at gods in a way that makes them characters, a look at the world through a slightly cracked glass. A beatiful book, i will look forward to more from "Mr. Sandman"
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
Reviewers have recommend that newcomers to Neil Gaiman not read American Gods first. I would agree. Not that this book might might be his best but it is definitely way out there truly defying classification or genre. The book is sacrilegious as all get out and that is fine with me but it has something to offend everyone somewhere in the book… and that's still fine with me. Just don't be turned off to the author with this as your first read of one of his books. The storytelling is just superb and again wonderfully executed by George Guidall.
I got turned off to the Wheel of Time series after about the fifth installment finding each volume pretty much followed the same formula and there was very little fresh. This is never the case with Neil Gaiman. Every book is a new surprise and it is hard to believe almost any of them are from the same author. One common denominator for sure, they are all excellent.
Unbelievaly good. I didn't think there were too many original story ideas left but the author found a new one. This is not just a rehashing of old stories as far as I can tell.
Not only is the story great, the author also has excellent style and technique. Character development and plot advancement are smooth and compelling.
The author manages to introduce dozens of characters at various points througout the story and neatly wrap them up by the end of the book. Some characters were introduced early on and not referenced again for hours and some were introduced 2/3 of the way through - yet they all managed to come to a satisfactory conclusion. Often in a book with many characters the resolution can be forced - this wasn't.
The narrator was quite good with just one thing bothering me. His dialects were not always consistent and the differentiation of characters was a little challenging for him. Sometimes it was difficult to tell which character was talking. This was the only reason I didn't rate this a five.
His overall reading was excellent though, very dramatic and hitting the right emotional buttons.
This is up there with the best of Stephen King. Not exactly like King but very broadly in the same genre. As one of the other reviewers pointed out, though - this is fantasy not Science Fiction.
If you've not read/listened to anything by Neil Gaiman I recommend you don't start with this one.
This book is much darker than his other work; though perhaps bleak is a more accurate word. The pacing is also much slower and it's not a strictly linear plot. Finally, there is a lot of swearing and some rather gruesome passages, but nothing I would call obscene.
So, why did I give it four stars?
The book is full of fascinating ideas. You can read it and re-read it and find interesting new things hidden around every corner.
The depth of the characters is very satisfying. You feel that they aren't just there to further the plot, but that the plot is there to explore their depths.
The main character is, of course, one of the most interesting. "Shadow" as he is aptly named, is not so much a reluctant hero as an apathetic one. After losing everything, he no longer cares what happens to him. So he plunges down the rabbit hole. As things get crazier, he must search within himself to find if can again care about himself or anyone around him.
This book is stellar, poetic, intense, magical, engrossing, perceptive, original, imaginative, bizzare, touching, and epic in scale.
Defies classification: Part thriller, part mystery, part fantasy, part road trip, part horror, part history, part comedy and just damn fine storytelling.
I'll admit to not having listened to the audio version yet (it's still downloading), but I INHALED the book. It immediately grabbed my attention and I was whisked away to a different world. The story is by turns funny, disturbing, poignant, uplifing, and always entertaining. Full of powerful imagery, months after finishing it I still find that certain scenes or vingettes come back to me out of the blue.
This is a book that will pleasantly haunt you long after you finish it ... lingering in the recesses of your mind to reappearwhen you least expect it.
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