American Gods (The Tenth Anniversary Edition)

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Overview

Since it was first published, American Gods became an instant classic. Now discover the mystery and magic of American Gods in this tenth anniversary edition. Newly updated and expanded with the author's preferred text, this commemorative volume is a true celebration of a modern masterpiece by the one, the only, Neil Gaiman.

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer ...

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Overview

Since it was first published, American Gods became an instant classic. Now discover the mystery and magic of American Gods in this tenth anniversary edition. Newly updated and expanded with the author's preferred text, this commemorative volume is a true celebration of a modern masterpiece by the one, the only, Neil Gaiman.

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow's best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday's bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined—it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own.

Winner of the 2002 Hugo Award for Best Novel; 2002 Nebula Award for Best Novel; and 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
In the introduction to his 1973 collection, Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison stated that "when belief in a god dies, the god dies," yielding, inevitably, to deities who reflect the character and obsessions of their respective eras. Twenty-eight years later, Neil Gaiman (Stardust, Neverwhere, the Sandman series) has co-opted this notion, using it as the basis for his ambitious, altogether brilliant new novel, American Gods.

Gaiman's hero is a troubled ex-convict named, appropriately, Shadow. When we first meet him, Shadow is serving a three-year sentence for aggravated assault. Just days before his parole takes effect, Shadow's wife, Laura, dies in a grotesque automobile accident. Alone and adrift, Shadow signs on as driver and bodyguard for an enigmatic grifter who calls himself, simply, Wednesday.

Wednesday, we learn, is a diminished, Americanized incarnation of the Norse god Odin. He is one of a vast pantheon of transplanted gods carried to the New World in the minds and hearts of the endless waves of immigrants. Like most of his fellow gods, Odin/Wednesday has been largely forgotten, replaced by the gods of television, technology, and other icons of a changing world. With Shadow's assistance, Wednesday takes steps to organize these displaced deities, to lead them in a war to the death with the gods of the new Millennium.

American Gods tells the story of that war, and of the hidden personal agendas that lie beneath it. It also tells the story of Shadow's discovery -- and gradual reclamation -- of his own divided soul. Part road novel, part bildungsroman, part revisionist mythology, the narrative ranges across the American landscape, from the magical roadside attraction called The House on the Rock to a Wisconsin town whose picture-perfect surface conceals an ancient, grisly secret. It also takes behind the scenes of the mundane, everyday world, and introduces a credible gallery of gods, demons, and ordinary humans, some of them living, some dead.

Like all such extravagant epics, American Gods is -- as Gaiman clearly acknowledges -- a vast, multi-colored metaphor that has much to say about our ongoing need for meaning and belief and about the astonishing creative power of the human imagination. The result is an elegant, important novel that illuminates our world -- and the various worlds that surround it -- with wit, style, and sympathetic intelligence, and stands as one of the benchmark achievements in a distinguished, constantly evolving career. (Bill Sheehan)

Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has been published by Subterranean Press.

of Penn & Teller Teller
American Gods is sexy, thrilling, dark, funny and poetic."
George R. R. Martin
“Original, engrossing, and endlessly inventive; a picaresque journey across America where the travelers are even stranger than the roadside attractions.”
Patrick Rothfuss
“Gaiman understands the shape of stories.”
of Penn & Teller - Teller
American Gods is sexy, thrilling, dark, funny and poetic."
George R.R. Martin
"Original, engrossing, and endlessly inventive; a picaresque journey across America where the travelers are even stranger than the roadside attractions."
Jane Lindskold
"American Gods is like a fast run downhill through a maze — both exhilarating and twisted."
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Saying Neil Gaiman is a writer is like saying Da Vinci dabbled in the arts.
Michael Dirda
Mystery, satire, sex, horror, poetic prose — American Gods uses all these to keep the reader turning the pages.
The Washington Post
New York Post
Neil Gaiman enters Stephen King territory . . . with American Gods.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
. . . By turns thoughtful, hilarious, disturbing, uplifting, horrifying and enjoyable — and sometimes all at once.
Science Fiction Weekly
Nothing short of an odyssey . . . Gaiman shows readers that wisdom can be found in all kinds of tales.
Salon.com
A crackerjack suspense yarn . . . juicily original . . . Wagnerian noir.
From The Critics
With his latest novel, Gaiman has created an engrossing mythology already begging for new installments. In this fiercely imagined tale, gods from Norse and Native American folklore are fallen beings wandering the backwaters of America; made to exist by the faith of followers, they are quickly being replaced by modern idols. Shadow, the protagonist of this fantastical book, is a just-released convict who has been informed that his wife was killed in a car accident. On the way back to his hometown, he falls in with a mysterious man by the name of Wednesday, only to discover that Wednesday is not mortal. Distraught over his wife's death, Shadow feels he doesn't have much to lose when Wednesday offers to hire him, as a henchman of sorts, to help out in a fast-approaching war between the gods of ancient folklore and the gods of technology. With time running out, Shadow is sent bouncing across the Midwest through a series of confrontations during the inexorable buildup to the epic battle of the gods.
—Chris Barsanti

VOYA
Shadow Moon describes his dilemma as being like one of those hidden picture puzzles. "Can you find the hidden Indians? At first... you only see waterfalls and rocks, then you see that shadow is an Indian." This description also aptly summarizes the book. Like the puzzle picture, behind every rock is an Indian. Every word in this amazing book is loaded with double meaning, every line of the story has a purpose, and each character is more than he or she seems. Shadow, released early from prison after the death of his wife in a car crash, is recruited by Mr. Wednesday, really the god Odin now making a living as a con man. There are countless gods who came to America with immigrants but now have been forgotten. New American gods—TV, credit cards, and the Internet—have declared war on the old ones. Wednesday and Shadow crisscross the nation rounding up an army for the coming battle. They visit places of power, which in America turn out to be roadside attractions such as the House on the Rock, and they meet an eclectic pantheon of gods, leprechauns, deities, and spirits. Gaiman, author of many books including Neverwhere (Avon, 1997) and the Sandman graphic novels, creates a plot that twists and turns and tricks the reader into pursuing wrong paths. Filled with sly, dark humor and vivid personalities, the intricate story lines come together to reveal a fascinating portrait of America's soul. Recommend this book to mature teens because of complex plotting and sexual content. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2001, Morrow, 480p, $26. Ages 15 to Adult.Reviewer: Lynne Rutan SOURCE: VOYA, February 2002 (Vol. 24, No.6)
Library Journal
Shadow Moon, recently released from prison and dealing with his wife's death, accepts a job offer from the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. Together they travel across America gathering up Mr. Wednesday's creepy friends. Soon Shadow discovers this road trip involves the upcoming epic battle between the old gods of the immigrants and today's new gods credit cards, TV, and the Internet. He also experiences repeat visits from the reanimated corpse of his dead wife, Laura. Shadow's personal tale and the details of American small-town life are well developed compared with the not-well-defined plot. The focus shifts from the gods' Armageddon to Shadow's life, to subplots about secondary characters. The book has wit but is too busy and not very engaging and includes some graphic language, sex, and disturbing events. George Guidall's clear, well-articulated narration contributes to a positive listening experience. Fans will no doubt enjoy the subject matter and the mythic scope. Denise A. Garofalo, Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An ex-convict is the wandering knight-errant who traverses the wasteland of Middle America, in this ambitious, gloriously funny, and oddly heartwarming latest from the popular fantasist (Stardust, 1999, etc.). Released from prison after serving a three-year term, Shadow is immediately rocked by the news that his beloved wife Laura has been killed in an automobile accident. While en route to Indiana for her funeral, Shadow meets an eccentric businessman who calls himself Wednesday (a dead giveaway if you're up to speed on your Norse mythology), and passively accepts the latter's offer of an imprecisely defined job. The story skillfully glides onto and off the plane of reality, as a series of mysterious encounters suggest to Shadow that he may not be in Indiana anymore—or indeed anywhere on Earth he recognizes. In dreams, he's visited by a grotesque figure with the head of a buffalo and the voice of a prophet—as well as by Laura's rather alarmingly corporeal ghost. Gaiman layers in a horde of other stories whose relationships to Shadow's adventures are only gradually made clear, while putting his sturdy protagonist through a succession of tests that echo those of Arthurian hero Sir Gawain bound by honor to surrender his life to the malevolent Green Knight, Orpheus braving the terrors of Hades to find and rescue the woman he loves, and numerous other archetypal figures out of folklore and legend. Only an ogre would reveal much more about this big novel's agreeably intricate plot. Suffice it to say that this is the book that answers the question: When people emigrate to America, what happens to the gods they leave behind? A magical mystery tour through the mythologies of allcultures, a unique and moving love story—and another winner for the phenomenally gifted, consummately reader-friendly Gaiman. Author tour
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“A fascinating tale . . . by turns thoughtful, hilarious, disturbing, uplifting, horrifying and enjoyable -- and sometimes all at once, in a curious sort of way. Those who are familiar with Gaiman’s earlier work will find a satisfying yarn by a familiar master storyteller. Those who are meeting him for the first time may be surprised at just how good he is.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062080233
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/5/2013
  • Edition number: 10
  • Pages: 541
  • Sales rank: 32,520
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 7.84 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books for readers of all ages, and the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Shirley Jackson Award and the Locus Award for Best Novelette for his story "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains." Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Biography

Neil Gaiman thought he wrote comic books. But a newspaper editor, of course, set him straight.

Back when he was riding the diabolical headwinds of his popular series of graphic novels, The Sandman, the author attended a party where he introduced himself as a comic-book writer to a newspaper's literary editor. But when the editor quickly realized who this actually was -- and the glaze melted from his eyes -- he offered Gaiman a correction tinged with astonishment: "My God, man, you don't write comics, you write graphic novels." Relating the story to theLos Angeles Times in 1995, Gaiman said, "I suddenly felt like someone who had been informed that she wasn't a hooker, that in fact she was a lady of the evening."

Gaiman's done much more, of course, than simply write graphic novels, having coauthored, with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, a comic novel about the Apocalypse; adapted into hardcover the BBC miniseries Neverwhere about the dark underworld beneath the streets of London; and, inspired by his young daughter, put a horrifying spin on C.S. Lewis' wardrobe doors for Coraline, a children's book about a passageway into a magical, yet malevolent, land.

But it is The Sandman that is Gaiman's magnum opus.

Though he had told a career counselor in high school that he wanted to pen comic books, he had a career as a freelance journalist before his first graphic novel, Violent Cases, was published in England in 1987. DC Comics discovered him and The Sandman was born. Or reborn, actually. The comic debuted back in 1939 with a regular-Joe crime fighter in the lead. But in Gaiman's hands the tale had a more otherworldly spin, slowing introducing readers to the seven siblings Endless: Dream, Death, Desire, Destiny, Destruction, Despair and Delirium (once Delight). They all have their roles in shaping the fates of man. In fact, when Death was imprisoned for decades, the results were devastating. Richard Nixon reached The White House and Michael Jackson the Billboard charts.

Direction from newspaper editors notwithstanding, to Gaiman, these stories are still comic books. The man who shuttled back and forth between comics and classics in his formative years and can pepper his writing with references to Norse mythology as well as the vaudevillian rock group Queen, never cottoned to such highbrow/lowbrow distinctions. Comparing notes on a yachting excursion with members of the Irish rock band U2, the writer who looks like a rock star and Delirium and the rock stars who gave themselves comic-worthy names such as Bono and The Edge came to a realization: Whether the medium is pop music or comic books, not being taken seriously can be a plus. "It's safer to be in the gutter," he told The Washington Post in 1995.

In 1995, Gaiman brought The Sandman to a close and began spending more time on his nongraphic fiction, including a couple of short-story collections. A few years later he released Stardust, an adult fairy tale that has young Tristan Thorn searching for a fallen star to woo the lovely but cold Victoria Forester. In 2001, he placed an ex-con named Shadow in the middle of a war between the ancient and modern dieties in American Gods. Coming in October 2002 is another departure: an audio recording of Two Plays for Voices, which stars Bebe Neuwirth as a wise queen doing battle with a bloodthirsty child and Brian Dennehy as the Angel of Vengeance investigating the first crime in history in heaven's City of Angels.

Gaiman need not worry about defining his artistic relevance, since so many other seem to do it for him. Stephen King, Roger Zelazny and Harlan Ellison are among those who have contributed introductions to his works. William Gibson, the man who coined the term "cyberspace," called him a "a writer of rare perception and endless imagination" as well as "an American treasure." (Even though he's, technically, a British treasure transplanted to the American Midwest.) Even Norman Mailer has weighed in: "Along with all else, Sandman is a comic strip for intellectuals, and I say it's about time."

The gushiest praise, however, may come from Frank McConnell, who barely contained himself in the pages of the political and artistic journal Commonweal. Saying Gaiman "may just be the most gifted and important storyteller in English," McConnell crowned Sandman as the most important act of fiction of the day. "And that, not just because of the brilliance and intricacy of its storytelling -- and I know few stories, outside the best of Joyce, Faulkner, and Pynchon, that are more intricate," he wrote in October 1995, " but also because it tells its wonderful and humanizing tale in a medium, comic books, still largely considered demimonde by the tenured zombies of the academic establishment."

"If Sandman is a 'comic,'" he concluded, "then The Magic Flute is a 'musical' and A Midsummer Night's Dream is a skit. Read the damn thing: it's important."

Good To Know

Some fascinating factoids from our interview with Gaiman:

"One of the most enjoyable bits of writing Sandman was getting authors whose work I love to write the introductions for the collected graphic novels -- people like Steve Erickson, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Mikal Gilmore, and Samuel R. Delany."

"I have a big old Addams Family house, with -- in the summertime -- a vegetable garden, and I love growing exotic pumpkins. As a boy in England I used to dream about Ray Bradbury Hallowe'ens, and am thrilled that I get them these days. Unless I'm on the road signing people's books, of course."

"According to my daughters, my most irritating habit is asking for cups of tea."

"I love radio -- and love the availability of things like the Jack Benny radio shows in MP3 format. I'm addicted to BBC radio 7, and keep buying boxed CD sets of old UK radio programs, things like Round the Horne and Hancock's Half Hour. Every now and again I'll write a radio play."

"I love thunderstorms, old houses, and dreams."

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    1. Hometown:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 10, 1960
    2. Place of Birth:
      Portchester, England
    1. Education:
      Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The boundaries of our country, sir? Why sir, on the north we arebounded by the Aurora Borealis, on the east we are bounded by therising sun, on the south we are bounded by the procession of theEquinoxes, and on the west by the Day of Judgment.
-- The American Joe Miller's Jest Book

Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don't-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.

The best thing – in Shadow's opinion, perhaps the only good thing – about being in prison was a feeling of relief. The feeling that he'd plunged as low as he could plunge and he'd hit bottom. He didn't worry that the man was going to get hurt, because the man had got him. He was no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, because yesterday had brought it.

It did not matter, Shadow decided, if you had done what you had been convicted of or not. In his experience everyone he met in prison was aggrieved about something: there was always something the authorities had got wrong, something they said you did when you didn't – or you didn't do quite like they said you did. What was important was that they had gotten you.

He had noticed it in the first few days, when everything, from the slang to the bad food, was new. Despite the misery and the titter skin-crawling horror of incarceration, he was breathing relief.

Shadow tried not to talk too much. Somewhere around the middle of year two he mentioned his theory to Low Key Lyesmith, hiscellmate.

Low Key, who was a grifter from Minnesota, smiled his scarred smile. "Yeah," he said. "That's true. It's even better when you've been sentenced to death. That's when you remember the jokes about the guys who kicked their boots off as the noose flipped around their necks, because their friends always told them they'd die with their boots on."

"Is that a joke?" asked Shadow.

"Damn right. Gallows humor. Best kind there is."

"When did they last hang a man in this state?" asked Shadow.

"How the hell should I know?" Lyesmith kept his orange-blond hair pretty much shaved. You could see the lines of his skull. "Tell you what, though. This country started going to bell when they stopped hanging folks. No gallows dirt. No gallows deals."

Shadow shrugged. He could see nothing romantic in a death sentence.

If you didn't have a death sentence, he decided, then prison was, at best, only a temporary reprieve from life, for two reasons. First, life creeps back into prison. There are always places to go further down. Life goes on. And second, if you just hang in there, someday they're going to have to let you out.

In the beginning it was too far away for Shadow to focus on. Then it became a distant beam of hope, and he learned how to tell himself "this too shall pass" when the prison shit went down, as prison shit always did. One day the magic door would open and he'd walk through it. So he marked off the days on his Songbirds of North America calendar, which was the only calendar they sold in the prison commissary, and the sun went down and he didn't see it and the sun came up and he didn't see it. He practiced coin tricks from a book lie found in the wasteland of the prison library; and lie worked out; and he made lists in his head of what he'd do when he got out of prison.

Shadow's lists got shorter and shorter. After two years he had it down to three things.

First, he was going to take a bath. A real, long, serious soak, in a tub with bubbles. Maybe read the paper, maybe not. Some days he thought one way, some days the other.

Second he was going to towel himself off, put on a robe. Maybe slippers. He liked the idea of slippers. If he smoked he would be smoking a pipe about now, but he didn't smoke. He would pick up his wife in his arms ("Puppy," she would squeal in mock horror and real delight, "what are you doing?"). He would carry her into the bedroom, and close the door. They'd call out for pizzas if they got hungry.

Third, after he and Laura had come out of the bedroom, maybe a couple of days later, he was going to keep his head down and stay out of trouble for the rest of his life.

"And then you'll be happy?" asked Low Key Lyesmith. That day they were working in the prison shop, assembling bird feeders, which was barely more interesting than stamping out license plates.

"Call no man happy," said Shadow, "until he is dead."

"Herodotus," said Low Key. "Hey. You're learning."

"Who the fuck's Herodotus?" asked the Iceman, slotting together the sides of a bird feeder and passing it to Shadow, who bolted and screwed it tight.

"Dead Greek," said Shadow.

"My last girlfriend was Greek," said the Iceman. "The shit her family ate. You would not believe. Like rice wrapped in leaves. Shit like that."

The Iceman was the same size and shape as a Coke machine, with blue eyes and hair so blond it was almost white. He had beaten the crap out of some guy who had made the mistake of copping a feel off his girlfriend in the bar where she danced and the Iceman bounced. The guy's friends had called the police, who arrested the Iceman and ran a check on him which revealed that the Iceman had walked from a work-release program...

American Gods. Copyright © by Neil Gaiman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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First Chapter

American Gods
A Novel

Chapter One

The boundaries of our country, sir? Why sir, on the north we arebounded by the Aurora Borealis, on the east we are bounded by therising sun, on the south we are bounded by the procession of theEquinoxes, and on the west by the Day of Judgment.
-- The American Joe Miller's Jest Book

Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don't-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.

The best thing – in Shadow's opinion, perhaps the only good thing – about being in prison was a feeling of relief. The feeling that he'd plunged as low as he could plunge and he'd hit bottom. He didn't worry that the man was going to get hurt, because the man had got him. He was no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, because yesterday had brought it.

It did not matter, Shadow decided, if you had done what you had been convicted of or not. In his experience everyone he met in prison was aggrieved about something: there was always something the authorities had got wrong, something they said you did when you didn't – or you didn't do quite like they said you did. What was important was that they had gotten you.

He had noticed it in the first few days, when everything, from the slang to the bad food, was new. Despite the misery and the titter skin-crawling horror of incarceration, he was breathing relief.

Shadow tried not to talk too much. Somewhere around the middle of year two he mentioned his theory to Low Key Lyesmith, his cellmate.

Low Key, who was a grifter from Minnesota, smiled his scarred smile. "Yeah," he said. "That's true. It's even better when you've been sentenced to death. That's when you remember the jokes about the guys who kicked their boots off as the noose flipped around their necks, because their friends always told them they'd die with their boots on."

"Is that a joke?" asked Shadow.

"Damn right. Gallows humor. Best kind there is."

"When did they last hang a man in this state?" asked Shadow.

"How the hell should I know?" Lyesmith kept his orange-blond hair pretty much shaved. You could see the lines of his skull. "Tell you what, though. This country started going to bell when they stopped hanging folks. No gallows dirt. No gallows deals."

Shadow shrugged. He could see nothing romantic in a death sentence.

If you didn't have a death sentence, he decided, then prison was, at best, only a temporary reprieve from life, for two reasons. First, life creeps back into prison. There are always places to go further down. Life goes on. And second, if you just hang in there, someday they're going to have to let you out.

In the beginning it was too far away for Shadow to focus on. Then it became a distant beam of hope, and he learned how to tell himself "this too shall pass" when the prison shit went down, as prison shit always did. One day the magic door would open and he'd walk through it. So he marked off the days on his Songbirds of North America calendar, which was the only calendar they sold in the prison commissary, and the sun went down and he didn't see it and the sun came up and he didn't see it. He practiced coin tricks from a book lie found in the wasteland of the prison library; and lie worked out; and he made lists in his head of what he'd do when he got out of prison.

Shadow's lists got shorter and shorter. After two years he had it down to three things.

First, he was going to take a bath. A real, long, serious soak, in a tub with bubbles. Maybe read the paper, maybe not. Some days he thought one way, some days the other.

Second he was going to towel himself off, put on a robe. Maybe slippers. He liked the idea of slippers. If he smoked he would be smoking a pipe about now, but he didn't smoke. He would pick up his wife in his arms ("Puppy," she would squeal in mock horror and real delight, "what are you doing?"). He would carry her into the bedroom, and close the door. They'd call out for pizzas if they got hungry.

Third, after he and Laura had come out of the bedroom, maybe a couple of days later, he was going to keep his head down and stay out of trouble for the rest of his life.

"And then you'll be happy?" asked Low Key Lyesmith. That day they were working in the prison shop, assembling bird feeders, which was barely more interesting than stamping out license plates.

"Call no man happy," said Shadow, "until he is dead."

"Herodotus," said Low Key. "Hey. You're learning."

"Who the fuck's Herodotus?" asked the Iceman, slotting together the sides of a bird feeder and passing it to Shadow, who bolted and screwed it tight.

"Dead Greek," said Shadow.

"My last girlfriend was Greek," said the Iceman. "The shit her family ate. You would not believe. Like rice wrapped in leaves. Shit like that."

The Iceman was the same size and shape as a Coke machine, with blue eyes and hair so blond it was almost white. He had beaten the crap out of some guy who had made the mistake of copping a feel off his girlfriend in the bar where she danced and the Iceman bounced. The guy's friends had called the police, who arrested the Iceman and ran a check on him which revealed that the Iceman had walked from a work-release program...

American Gods
A Novel
. Copyright © by Neil Gaiman . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Neil Gaiman

Barnes & Noble.com: American Gods is far and away the most ambitious and wide-ranging of your novel-length narratives. Was this sense of near epic scope implicit in your original conception of the book, or did your story, like Tolkien's, grow in the telling?

Neil Gaiman: I always knew it was going to be a big book -- I don't think I really knew just how big until it became apparent that I was already 100,000 words into the book and I was only half way through the story. It took me twice as long to write as I had expected and planned.

It certainly grew in the telling; and to be honest, I suspect that if someone had said "Here, take another year on it," it would have been half as long again. America's such a big country that trying to squeeze even a small bit of it into a book demands a big book.

B&N.com: One of the most obvious literary influences present in American Gods is, it seems to me, Harlan Ellison's Deathbird Stories. How important was this influence? Has Ellison's work in general played a significant role in your own artistic development?

NG: I think that's true, although it's not something I saw until I had finished the first draft of American Gods. Harlan was certainly an influence, although just as important were James Branch Cabell's gods in Something About Eve, who existed because they were believed in and, when they were no longer believed in, walked down the road to yesteryear, and Roger Zelazny's people-as-gods in Lord of Light and gods-as-people in Creatures of Light and Darkness. All of the books and authors I read as a boy.

Harlan was certainly the first time, as a reader, I became aware of a writer as a person through the work. There's a white-hot fierceness to the best of Ellison that I would love to have in my own work. I was thrilled when he broke his rule about not giving blurbs to give American Gods an (unsolicited) blurb...

Another influence, of course, in many ways, was The Sandman.

B&N.com: American Gods is, in part, a road novel in the classic tradition, a novel that takes a close, even intimate look at the American landscape. To what extent does the novel represent your attempt to assess and come to terms with your adopted country?

NG: Pretty much 100% -- I'd been writing about America for years before I came to live here, albeit an America constructed out of films and movies and other books. But living here made me reassess everything I had seen -- and every way I had seen the media portray America. I thought it would be a good thing to try and put the America I saw down on paper.

B&N.com: Much of your creative energy has, in recent years, gone into the creation of full-length novels. Has novel writing become your preferred form of expression, or are you equally interested in exploring a variety of forms?

NG: In many ways right now, writing novels is the next form I'm trying to master. I felt like I got pretty good at comics, and I'm fairly comfortable with my ability to write short stories. American Gods is the first novel I've written that I felt I was beginninng to show any sign of talent at the medium.

It's also, of course, the first original solo novel I've done. Neverwhere and Good Omens and Stardust were either collaborative or began life in other media.

I'm no less intersted or active in other forms though.

B&N.com: You developed an enormous, even fanatical following with the Sandman series of graphic novels. Do you have the sense that this audience has followed you into your recent forays into prose fiction (Neverwhere, Stardust, Smoke and Mirrors, etc.)?

NG: It's hard to tell -- Sandman sold in astounding quantities, and while the novels also sell astonishingly well, it seems to me like half of the readers were Sandman readers, while half of them had no idea who or what I was and just picked up the books because they liked the look of the covers or read a good review.

I suspect that also Neverwhere and Stardust (while popular, award-winning, and bestselling) wouldn't have given Sandman readers the same buzz they got from Sandman -- they were an adventure novel and a fairy tale respectively. American Gods has the same kind of meat that Sandman did, I think.

B&N.com: Are you still interested in staying involved in the comics industry, either through future Sandman stories or through something altogether new?

NG: Yes.

B&N.com: Good Omens, your comic collaboration with Terry Pratchett, remains one of your most popular creations. Do you have anything to report either on the rumored sequel or on the possibility of a film adaptation?

NG: Terry Gilliam is signed to direct it and has just written the first draft of a script. I'm excited.

B&N.com: Speaking of film adaptations, is it true that you'll be writing and directing an original screenplay in the near future? Can you tell us anything about this project?

NG: I'm working on adapting Death: The High Cost of Living into film form for Warner Brothers. Let's see what happens.

B&N.com: With American Gods, which must have been an enormous effort, now behind you, do you have any immediate plans for a new, novel-length project, or are you planning to let the tank fill back up for a while?

NG: I think it's going to be short projects for a little while. And then I'll want to take refuge in a longer project.

B&N.com: You once remarked that you were lucky in that you had stories to tell that a good many people clearly wanted to hear. Would you care to single out some good writers who have been slightly less fortunate, writers who deserve -- but have not yet received -- a larger share of the public's attention?

NG: Authors whose work I've read an enjoyed in the last few weeks who are in that camp would be Jonathan Carroll; Martin Millar; M. John Harrison; John M. Ford... and too many others to list.

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Reading Group Guide

Introduction

Shadow Moon spent three years in prison, keeping his head down, doing his time. All he wanted was to get back to the loving arms of his wife, Laura, and to stay out of trouble for the rest of his life. But just a few days before his release, he learns that Laura has been fatally injured in a car accident.

On the plane ride home to the funeral, a grizzled man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday makes Shadow an offer he can't refuse. But Shadow soon learns that his role in Wednesday's schemes will be far more dangerous than he ever could have imagined. Entangled in a world of secrets, he embarks on a wild road odyssey and encounters, among others, the murderous Czernobog, the impish Mr. Nancy, and the beautiful Easter -- all of whom seem to know a great deal about Shadow's private life.

Shadow will discover that everyone in Mr. Wednesday's world harbors secrets, that the living and the dead are all around him, and that nothing is what it appears. As a storm of epic proportions threatens to break all around them, Shadow and Wednesday get swept up in a conflict as old as humanity itself; for beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a pitched battle is being fought over America's soul.

As unsettling as it is exhilarating, American Gods is a dark and kaleidoscopic journey into an America at once eerily familiar and utterly alien. Magnificently told, this work of literary magic will haunt the reader far beyond the final page.

Discussion Questions

  1. Where is Shadow at the beginning of American Gods? Where is he at the end? Of the many characters he encounters along the way, which did you find mostmemorable? What did you make of Shadow's obsession with coin tricks? How did you interpret his determination to participate in the vigil for Wednesday?

  2. How does Laura die? Were you surprised by what happens at her funeral? How does she come to Shadow's aid? What explains the phenomenon of her persistence in the world of the living? How does Shadow release her from her state of limbo?

  3. How would you describe Wednesday? How does he interact with Shadow at the start of the book? Did you find any of his grifter schemes especially entertaining? What is his connection to Odin? By the end of American Gods, what relationship between Wednesday and Shadow is revealed?

  4. Who is Czernobog? How would you describe him? What is his relationship with the three Zoryas? What did you make of this group? What role did they play in Shadow's experiences?

  5. "There are new gods growing in America ... gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon." How do you interpret this remark? Do you think there's any element of truth to it?

  6. How would you describe Shadow's sojourn in Lakeside, Wisconsin? How do Hinzelmann, Chad Mulligan, Marge Olsen, and Missy Gunther treat their mysterious new neighbor?

  7. Who is Alison McGovern and how does Shadow come to know her? What clue enables Shadow to determine her killer? What did you think of the outcome of this mystery?

  8. "Would you believe that all of the gods that people have ever imagined are still with us today?" Shadow asks this question of Samantha Black Crow. Do you find this premise compelling? Did any elements of the plot of American Gods push this idea in interesting directions?

About the author

Neil Gaiman is the critically acclaimed author of the novels American Gods (winner of the 2002 Hugo Award for Best Novel), Stardust (winner of the American Library Association's Alex Award), and the award-winning Sandman series of graphic novels, as well as Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of short fiction, and Coraline (winner of the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novella), a tale for readers of all ages. His first book for children, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, illustrated by Dave McKean, was one of Newsweek's Best Children's Books of 1997. In 2003, Gaiman and McKean teamed up again to produce another illustrated children's book, The Wolves in the Walls. His small press story collection, Angels & Visitations, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award and won the International Horror Critics Guild Award for Best Collection. Originally from England, Gaiman now lives in America.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 449 )
Rating Distribution

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(66)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 450 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Highly recommended, and definitely one of my favorite novels of all time!

    This book turned me over completely to Neil Gaiman and made me drooly and ga-ga for his writing like a Twilight fangirl on too much fairy dust. I've read a few of Gaiman's works before ( The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, and Stardust), but none have blown me so completely out of the boiling seas like American Gods.

    American Gods is one of the quirkiest books on American culture and belief that I've read. Told from the perspective of a particularly insightful non-American, American Gods takes a long, hard look at how cultures and religions mesh, change, and fade in the states. How do Americans define and create faith? What gods does a godless nation--or maybe an excessively god-full nation--have with not even 300 years of national existence under its belt? With ghosts, murders, gods (both forgotten and barely worshipped), Naiman weaves a tale that suspends previous conceptions of the American psyche, turns it up on its head, and makes you question, Who really is that homeless crazy in the subway station calling himself Mr. Wednesday?

    Like the questions it poses, the story is not straightforward. Rather, it's a meandering road trip that takes numerous pit stops at creepy carnivals and random road-side attractions. Only, you have old worn-out gods and cranky demons for company.

    26 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 11, 2012

    Wonderful book with thought provoking ideas!

    I was unsure if this was my kind of book, but was intrigued by the title and therefore decided to give it a shot. After finishing the book, it wasn't at all what I expected before starting the book--it was better. I'll admit that when I first read reviews of American Gods, I didn't exactly understand what the book was about, or what I'd be getting myself into. I now understand that the reason that the synopsis were so vague, was because there is no way to describe the plot without it sounding slightly absurd. The only way to know and understand what it is about is to read it.

    The tone of this book reflected the mood and feelings of the protagonist. Therefore, the language was a little crude at times. This is only natural and quite realistic in this modern day. This might bother some people, but if they get even a few chapters through the book, they will immediately see how amazing this book is.

    *To get a better idea of whether or not you will like this book, the story and type of journey somewhat reminded me of Windupbird Chronicle by Murakamai. If you liked that book, you will definitely enjoy this book.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2011

    An instant classic

    This is one of my favorite books, and it was great to see it available as an e-book. If you like a sophisticated fantasy set in the modern world, American Gods is for you.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2012

    All I hoped for...and more.

    Really great read. Engaging story and characters. I had no idea where this story was going to end up. Loved it.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 9, 2011

    You won't want to put it down!

    A great read and hugely engrossing although impossible to describe. Read this. You'll be glad you did.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    Wonderfull

    Throughout my 45years of life, whenever I was asked what my favorite book was, I would ponder and think. Without fail, I would never be able to come up with a favorite, although I had read many, many wonderful books. I can now say without a doubt that I have finally found my favorite book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2011

    not my favorite of his

    Not sure why. Something very self-conscious about this book. And hard to follow..as though skimming on the surface of a much better deeper less-clever but more soulful story. I like gaiman a lot but like pratchett he sometimes just wants to be clever rather than smart.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2011

    Language

    Unfortunate use of foul language beginning on the very first page, once you finally get past the rather long winded introductions. Yes. Plural.

    3 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2012

    Very interesting.

    A new look at the idea of Gods. Do you believe in one God or more Gods? Have you wondered about past civilizations and their Gods? What happens to the Gods of old, when they become irrelevant? This book was an interesting read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2012

    Bizarre and interesting, typical Neil Gaiman

    I loved this book. The basic premise of gods brought to America and then abandoned is a neat one and lends itself to many interesting plot lines. I also found a new place to add to my wish list to visit; the House on the Rock. Weird place, but actually real.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 4, 2012

    I've spent 30 minutes trying to find something to say about this

    I've spent 30 minutes trying to find something to say about this book, and the best i can come up with is it's creative. The writing didn't grab me. The story didn't hold me. Based on the reviews i forced myself to finish it, and i turned the last page, thinking to myself ... "so what??"

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 2, 2011

    Good

    This book is really good. Fun to read!

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2011

    Awsome sauce

    Awsome. Just awsome.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 10, 2011

    Another fantasic book

    It was hard to put this book down. Then again its hard to put any of his books down.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 2, 2011

    An amazing book

    This is one of the best books I've ever read. Neil gaimen is my faviorite author and he will be for a very long time. Everyone should read his books,expessially this one. I assure you, you won't be disapointed.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2011

    COOOOOL!

    Wow. Just wow. The book of the century!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Fun enjoyable entertainment

    This is a fun book, very entertaining and is worth the time. Neil Gaiman is an exceptuional writer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    A bit long but worth the time investment...

    This book took me a little longer than most to get through; i found it a bit stale in the middle. Turns out the middle is important though and I'm glad i read the whole book. Fascinating idea for book! A tale of survival, mystery, sacrifice, love, and wonder. I recommend everyone read it.
    P.s. what is with all the fake reviews... very annoying!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2012

    buy it

    Buy it and read it. Hands-down one of the greatest books of the past few decades.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2013

    TYGA (not foreal)

    BREAK DIS MUTHAFU**A UP!

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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