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22 May 2017

Book Review: American Gods

American Gods (American Gods, #1)American Gods by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Eh.

That one word review will either get me lynched or make me a hero of the anti-alternative-not-so-indie intellectuals.

I have this thing that if characters in books don't ask enough questions and instead wander through set-pieces as overly-malleable creatures who function to further the action rather than being personalities that mold or reroute the action I soon tire of the book and want it all to stop.

I like characters who take control, even of uncontrollable situations.

None of these characters really do that. They are all passive results of other people's actions and thoughts.

Which makes this a very difficult book for me to enjoy.

Add to that the fact that I am a simpleton who enjoys modern takes on mythology more in the realm of Rick Riordan, then you understand my three-star rating and dismiss it as the ravings of a cretinous know-nothing.

HOWEVER...

There were still moments that resonated. Not enough for four stars, but enough that I kept reading even when I wanted to put it down and move on. These moments, interspersed with a few of Gaiman's impish slaps at humor, made the book worth the two days I spent on it.

But I wouldn't spend more than two days, frankly.

"The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.
"Say 'Nevermore,'" said Shadow.
"Fuck you," said the raven."

"Back in my day, we had it all set up. You lined up when you died, and you'd answer for your evil deeds and for yoru good deeds, and if your evil deeds outweighed a feather, we'd feed your soul and your heart to Ammet, the Eater of Souls."
"He must have eaten a lot of people."
"Not as many as you'd think. It was a really heavy feather."

Then there is the moment when one of the gods short-changes a waitress. Shadow, the main character, rectifies it, telling the god the waitress hadn't done anything wrong.

"No? When she was seven years old she shut a kitten in a closet. She listened to it mew for several days. When it ceased to mew, she took it out of the closet, put it into a shoebox, and buried it in the backyard. She wanted to bury something. She consistently steals from everywhere she works. Small amounts, usually. Last year she visited her grandmother in the nursing home to which the old woman is confined. She took an antique gold watch from her grandmother's bedside table, and then went prowling through several other rooms, stealing small quantities of money and personal effects from the twilight fold in their golden years. When she got home she did not know what to do with her spoils, scared someone would come after her, so she threw everything away except the cash. She also has asymptomatic gonorrhea. She suspects she might be infected but does nothing about it. When her last boyfriend accused her of having given him a disease she was hurt, offended, and refused to see him again. They all do the same things. They may think their sins are original, but for the most part they are petty and repetitive."

Then there's Sam's off-the-cuff creed, which is amazing and several pages long, but includes;
"I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies."

But I suppose the book was made completely worthwhile with this little nugget.

"There was a girl, and her uncle sold her, wrote Mr. Ibis in his perfect copperplate handwriting. . That is the tale. The rest is detail."

Detail is the tale. Telling the story.


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