American Gods written by Neil Gaiman and read by a full cast Publisher: Harper Audio, 2011 Length: 19 hours and 39 minutes Genre: Fiction, Fantasy/Paranormal Where I Got It: Downloaded it from Audible Why I Read It: Wanted to finally hear what the big fuss was about Neil Gaiman My Rating: 3.5 stars
In Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, every immigrant to America brings with them the gods of their homeland. As the country has grown, however, these gods have been forgotten. New gods—the gods of railroads, cars, media and computers—have arisen and taken their place and their power. But the old gods—stuck in this land that isn’t made for gods—won’t go down without a fight. Mr. Wednesday is attempting to organize the old gods for the coming battle with the new gods. To help him, he’s recruited Shadow—a man whose release from prison coincides with the death of his beloved wife Laura. With nothing left to lose, Shadow agrees to work for Wednesday and finds himself embarking on a long strange trip to some of the holy places of America—all the while catching glimpses into the “backstage” world of the gods.
I’ve been hearing about Neil Gaiman ever since I started blogging and made a mental note to try one of his books. So when Audible had a special on The Tenth Anniversary Edition of American Gods with a full-cast recording, I decided to take the leap into Gaiman land. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this long rambling book wasn’t it. Perhaps it was the fact that the book was too many things at once: a long road trip, a fantasy book with every mythological creature you’ve ever heard of, a murder mystery, a love story, a commentary on America, a history lesson.
The most interesting aspect of the book was the incarnations of the various gods in their “Americanized” form. If nothing else, the book made me want to run out and purchase a book of myths to learn more about the various incarnations of the gods that immigrants brought with them to America. I’m sure that a really good background on various myths from a variety of countries would greatly enhance the reading experience. (Note: After typing the previous sentence, I found this web site which provides basic information on the gods referenced in the book. Reading through it, I realize that having this information would have made a real difference in my appreciation and enjoyment of the book! In fact, just reading through the web site and seeing what Gaiman has done, is now retroactively making me change my opinion about the book.)
I know that Gaiman first came to prominence with the Sandman graphic novels, and if ever a book cried out for illustrations, American Gods is it. In fact, I think this book would have totally rocked as a graphic novel. The visuals were easy to conjure up in my mind, and as I listened, I was almost picturing such a book in my head.
In the end, I think a really good grounding in mythology would make this a much richer and deeper read/listen. You cannot just go into this book without any knowledge or you’ll find that, on the surface, it is a long and meandering book that can begin to get frustrating. However, if you have a good grounding in mythology (or at least browse through the web site I linked to above before reading), the book might come alive for you in a way that it didn’t for me during my 19 hours of listening.
About the Narration
I love listening to books that have multiple narrators. It makes the book come alive in a very different way. Also, in a long listen like this one, having different voices added variety and interest. It also helped me keep track of who was talking as I got to know the voices of the main characters. Still, all things considered, I think I would have preferred an annotated and illustrated print version of the book (not that such a version exists—but what an awesome idea for the 20th anniversary of the book!!!)