A month or so back my sister posted a trailer for a new Starz series called “American Gods”. I asked about it and her response was, “Are you kidding me!?! You haven’t read the book!?!” Sorry, no. Well, she told me it was a must read, particularly since my main genre, at least for my books, is urban fantasy. So I read it….
First, a little administrative task: I need to tell you that the book I read was the “Author’s preferred text”, 10th anniversary edition. It has been edited from the original release and some material that was removed (like 15,000 words) was added back in.
The book American Gods begins with the main character, Shadow, waiting to be released from prison after serving for three years. With an introduction to some of his fellow prisoners you get the idea that it was memories of his wife that made his time in jail bearable. As he waits for his release, the tension in the air increases, like a storm brewing on the horizon. With just a couple of days to go he is called down to see the warden. He is told that he is being realized early. Why? Because his wife had died in an auto accident. The woman who made the wait worth it would not be there for him. On his way home to the funeral he bumps into a mysterious man. This is a meeting that will totally change his life, change his life and more, much, much more…
OK, that’s how it begins. I don’t want to get too deep into it because I don’t’ want to let the cat out of the bag about the premise of the book. “Premise” might be the wrong word. There is a truth behind the people Shadow meets both in his real life and in his strange dreams. As a piece of “speculative fiction”, there is one thing you have to believe to make it real. It isn’t the biggest secret of the book and most reviewers will tell you up front what it is. I mean, just look at the title. I don’t want to let it out because it is fun to discover it at the same pace Shadow does. No, it really wouldn’t be a spoiler if I told you, particularly since the whole book is about it and you’ll find out sooner than later, I just don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun.
So if I’m not going to tell you what’s in the book, I guess that leaves me telling you my impressions of the book. They were good impressions and big, deep impressions. Yes, I was very impressed with the book. I was quickly wrapped into the book’s universe and bound to the characters. I didn’t want to stop reading. The ideas and premises, even the most whacked ones, seemed plausible. It all fit in very consistently and it all worked.
I also enjoyed the detail. There was a lot of detail in the places that needed it most. Perhaps a bit of gritty reality to make the farther out bits seem more realistic. It worked well – sometimes detail detracts, but in American Gods the details enhanced.
Some of the detail was about back roads America and some of the (true/non fictional) roadside attractions that can still be found off of the major routes. So it is very much an American book with a lot of research by a non-American who was moving to this country.
I’ll get right to the point – This was the best book I’ve read in quite a few years. I really enjoyed it from beginning to end. In fact, this was one of the few books I’ve read that I didn’t see the main twist (all books have a main twist) coming until it was almost there. Hints were given, but I misread them. Very good and very clever. Sure, I knew a lot of what was going to happen, but… Anyway, the story was very gripping. There was mystery, surprise and plenty of dark humor.
If you enjoy pretty much any type of speculative fiction you should enjoy American Gods. It was a very enticing story, was very well researched and was, most importantly, very well written. And if you plan on watching the upcoming series, which Neil Gaiman actually has been helping with, you have to read the book first. The series does look great! Maybe I need to actually watch some TV for once…. But if I watch it or not, I’m glad I read the book!
– – – –
The image at the top is from the cover of American Gods and was taken from Amazon. The book can be found where ever you find books, but here is a link to Amazon.