My husband and I decided to check out the TV show “American Gods,” starring one of my favorite actors Ian McShane. While watching I recalled I purchased the novel from which the show is sourced in a Kindle deal of the day binge last year. Throwing my normal rules out the window, I decided to read the book AS we were also making our way through the short season. I know Neil Gaiman is revered around these parts; this is my first foray into his work. I loved the movie Coraline, and I had high hopes for this novel. I won’t say that it disappointed really, I just was not prepared for how incredibly weird this book would be. I don’t think weird is really the correct word in any case. Trippy? It might have been that my impressions are colored by the television version as well. The Starz series is graphic, visually stunning, and out of this world. The source material is as well, but I wonder if my having watched some of the content brought to life affected me more than I would have thought. Anyhoo, down to business.
American Gods tells the story of Shadow Moon, a young man paroled after serving three years of a six-year sentence for (I think) assault and battery. On the day he is released he is also notified by the warden that his wife Laura was killed in a car crash early that very morning. Shadow travels home for a funeral instead of a reunion, and on the way meets a strange old man calling himself Mr. Wednesday. He knows way more about Shadow than a stranger should, and offers him a job as a right-hand-man. Once he discovers that his wife died with his best friend Robbie, with whom she was having an affair, he is less inclined to stick around and agrees to take the job. The new position with Wednesday will take Shadow to places he never even dreamed of, meeting a large cast of interesting characters and encountering many dangerous, shadowy figures.
I liked this book, but I admittedly skimmed through some of the more hallucinogenic-feeling pages. This story is about gods (duh), and how they fight to remain relevant in an ever-changing atmosphere in our crazy part fo the world. So, of course there is some fantasy to this book. I am not familiar with 98% of the gods who appear in the novel. The two with which I am familiar I can’t really discuss because of spoilers. You’ve heard of them though, trust me. I think though with some of the dream sequences and more surreal interactions, I just couldn’t keep up and ended up skimming. I guess that means I don’t have a good imagination, or perhaps it means that Gaiman’s words didn’t help me out enough there in that way. It probably would have been even hard had I not been watching the show which does take quite a few scenes directly from the book to the screen. It’s easier to imagine someone having sex with a djinn (genie) when it’s been so artfully realized on TV. The main characters are well-written and generally likeable. I loved Mr. Nancy, which I expect I was supposed to. You get to know Shadow the best of course, but there are a handful of fun and quirky characters to meet as well. I found the book a little hard to get into at first, probably because of the fantastical elements, but once the plot really gets going it does get hard to put down.
This is Cannonball Read, so I know that you’re not here for tv show reviews, but so far the Starz series is worth watching. Ian McShane is his Ian McShaniest, the actor playing Shadow is delightfully hot, and the side characters are played by some actors I love (Gillian Anderson, Peter Stormaire, Cloris Leachman, Scott Thompson). We’re six episodes in to an eight episode season, so I have a feeling the novel will cover more than one season.