American Gods: The Author's Preferred Text

American Gods: The Author's Preferred Text

by Neil Gaiman



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780755322817
Publisher: Headline Book Publishing, Limited
Publication date: 02/28/2010
Pages: 640

About the Author

Originally from England, Neil Gaiman now calls the United States home. He is the author of numerous New York Times bestselling novels—including Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods and Coraline—as well as the Sandman series of graphic novels. His work has been honored with many awards internationally, including the Newbery and Carnegie Medals as well as the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards.

See our definitive ranking of Neil Gaiman's best fiction books on the B&N Reads blog.


Minneapolis, Minnesota

Date of Birth:

November 10, 1960

Place of Birth:

Portchester, England


Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77

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American Gods: The Author's Preferred Text 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
georgematt on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Good fantasy fiction combines the highly imaginative (misunderstood by non-fantasy readers and literary snobs as escapism) with the geography or concerns of our everyday world. Anything else is mere escapism or wish fulfilment; the desire to run away to cloud cuckoo land. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Star Wars create detailed secondary universes (especially Tolkien¿s Lord of the Rings trilogy) but at the end of the day all they offer is bland good vs evil narratives. Neil Gaiman¿s `American Gods¿ is an example of the former type of fantasy. The novel imagines the old gods of myth and legend as actually existing in Modern America, as immigrants, like nearly all the inhabitants of the USA. But as they are reliant on the worship of people, their status and position in society are usurped by the new gods-the gods of technology, the media and big business-and they are reduced to a forgotten underclass, eking out an existence through low-paid work or petty criminality. The story is centred on Shadow, a man released from prison only to find his wife has died in a car crash. He meets a mysterious stranger, Wednesday, on the plane back to his home town, who seems to know everything about him. Soon Shadow finds himself on a dangerous road trip through the heart of America as Wednesday¿s accomplice, meeting gods, demons and the undead on the way, leading inevitable to the final showdown. The novel moves at a fast pace and can be read as a noirish thriller or horror story with a twist in the tail. But it is also soaked in mythological symbolism as it tries to get to grip with the American soul-the real meaning of the American dream. If Neil Gaiman succeeds I don¿t know as like the author I¿m British, but maybe it takes an outsider to really understand a country¿s psyche.
neiljohnford on LibraryThing 20 days ago
I really enjoyed this. The only other Neil Gaiman I've read was Good Omens (written with Terry Pratchett). This one's a bit less on the humorous side, a bit more melancholic which is good. The basic premise is that people carry their Gods with them when they migrate, but that as times change the Gods are forgotten and become weak. The people worship new idols (like technology or money) and there is a conflict between the old Gods and the new. This conflict (with the protagonist Shadow stuck in the middle) is the bulk of the plot but, the twist at the end reveals the battle between the Gods to actually be a subplot to what was really going on... Great characters drawn from mythology and religion and well drawn scenery - the setting is America (as the great melting pot it's the perfect setting for a host of old Gods that have immigrated with their worshipers and also the new Gods).The book goes at it's own pace but is never dull. There's a section towards the end that sums up the experience of reading the book for me:"'You learn anythin' from all this?'Shadow shrugged. 'I don't know. Most of what I learned on the tree I've already forgotten,' he said. 'I think I met some people. But I'm not certain of anything any more. It's like one of those dreams that change you. You keep some of the dream forever, and you know things down deep inside yourself, because it happened to you, but when you go looking for the details they kind of slip out of your head.'"
Rynooo on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Fun book - enjoyable and a very easy read but much of the prose is amateurish and all the way through the book feels trashy and predictable. There's certainly nothing profound about it. Gaiman should stick to comic books.
andy475uk on LibraryThing 20 days ago
I found this a hard slog to get through but worth it in the end. Lots of interesting and thought provoking ideas and great absorbing writing but could only manage it in small chunks therefore it took me ages to finish!
MarcusAverius on LibraryThing 20 days ago
A thoroughly enjoyable novel. Gaiman has blended horror, fantasy and social parody in a bleak setting with superb wit. The concepts were entertaining and the characters delightful. The only real criticism for this book is that the sub-plots sometimes made the overall story drag a little, though the ending ensures that the threads are all accounted for.
Books4Bon on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Neil Gaiman is always a good read for me and this book was no different. Some great ideas and characters.
edgeworth on LibraryThing 20 days ago
I've followed Neil Gaiman's blog for a long time, finding it interesting to peer into the life of a fairly well-known author, despite the fact that until now I'd never read anything of his except for a handful of Sandman comics (illegally downloaded, no less). I bought American Gods sometime last year, but it kept getting pushed further down my to-be-read pile for various reasons.And the problem with having a book staring down at you from the shelf for so long is that you develop certain expectations, which are invariably wrong. American Gods wasn't precisely the kind of book I thought it would be, nor was it quite as good as I thought it would be. I thought it would be a little more... epic, but instead it had quite a casual feel to it, like a run-of-the-mill Stephen King novel from the 90's.A few days before his three-year prison sentence is up, Shadow's wife is killed in a car accident, and he is released early. On the plane on the way home he meets the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job. It soon becomes clear that Wednesday is an old and ancient god, trying to assemble the many other ancient gods, the immigrant gods, against the homegrown American deities representing television, the internet, the media, drugs, cars, shady government agents and every other element of modern American mythology. A battle is coming, and Wednesday wants to win.The fundamental idea is that gods run on belief - that they need us, not the other way around. If people stop believing in them, they'll grow weak and eventually cease to exist. It's a common theme in Terry Pratchett's work, an author Gaiman has worked with closely in the past, but I don't know which (if either) of them came up with it. It's also clearly about immigration - that America is a land of immigrants, from the Muslims and Asians of the 20th century, back through the Eastern Europeans in the 19th, and the African slaves in the 18th, right down to the prehistoric nomads who crossed the Bering Strait, all of them bringing their gods with them. America is a melting pot, and thus we have Norse gods mixing with Hindu gods, Anansi hanging out with Czernobog, Eostre working with Horus.On the flipside of the coin we have the idea of modern America as a legendary, fantastic place. Neil Gaiman is British, not American, and as such he grew up in a world bombarded with American media and culture, and his ideas about America being a wholly unreal, mythical place struck a chord with my own. There's a certain power to names like "California" and "Las Vegas" and "New York." To somebody like myself, they're powerful icons, symbols of something huge and vast and powerful. And that, too, is what American Gods is about: symbols and metaphors and imagery. Because that's all that religion is, as Shadow says at one point, and if the book wasn't more than 600 pages long I'd flip through it trying to find the verbatim quote. But this idea felt under-developed; Shadow spends most of the book around Minnesota and Illinois and Wisconsin, that blurry part of the Midwest that is actually the least legendary part of America, the most unknown, the most humdrum and ordinary.Or maybe that's just my unfair expectations again.This is a pretty rambling review; it's two in the morning and I'm out of practice. Is it a good book? Yes, it is, although not a great book. It wasn't as good as it could have been, given the very interesting ideas it was forged on, but the majority of it was entertaining, albeit it slowly-paced, and the conclusion was wholly unexpected and very satisfying. I also feel like there were a lot of things that weren't hidden away, not quite obvious, as one would expect from a book about symbols and allegories; my opinion may very well improve after another read. But it's a thick book, and that to-be-read pile is awfully tall...
klarusu on LibraryThing 20 days ago
This was a slow-burner of a book for me. Neil Gaiman has been on my 'must read' list for quite a while. From what I'd heard, I guessed I was going to love his work so it was one of those treats you save for later. I was initially disappointed - OK, but not a revelation. Then, about 100 pages in I started to 'get' it. By the end, I had been drawn in completely to the rich, full reading experience that is Neil Gaiman. I couldn't put it down.Essentially set on the cusp of a new age, this novel deals with the beliefs of the past and the objects of devotion in the often spiritually bereft society we live in now. The rich description of the 'American Gods' brings them alive and they become a living, credible part of the world we live in today. Without giving too much away, the brilliant and novel idea behind the source of their existence on the new continent is a stroke of imaginative genius. As you become accustomed to the diversions from the main plot that introduce the plethora of deities to you, the tale becomes denser and fuller by merit of their presence.Shadow is a likeable protagonist. He is complex and lives in the grey areas between the monochromatic morality that society purports to adhere to. What makes him believeable and endears him to us is that deep down we too exist in the grey. The old Gods are fantastic characters. Gaiman brings them alive, not falling back on the safety cushion of how the literary canon has portrayed them before but making them real - with humour, personality quirks and emotions. If this is what Gods were really like, I might recant my agnostic stance. What is truly wonderful about this novel is that rather than just existing as a setting for the protagonists to navigate through, America lives, breathes and chokes its way through the alternative existence Gaiman has created for it - but a parallel America, not quite the one we know. The description is vibrant enough to cause the reader to look on America with fresh eyes. Gaiman's America will always lurk beneath the surface. Coming from a multinational family, I found the subtextual treatment of immigration an interesting aside. I loved the idea of the traditions, superstitions and beliefs of an old world carrying something more than purely memories to a new home. The fact that no matter how much we'd like to believe that we travel unencumbered, rags and threads of our past and our homeland still cling.I wished Gaiman had made more of the modern Gods. While the ancient Gods were rich and full, I felt that their modern equivalents were a missed opportunity. It's not that they were young upstarts with less history - even conveying that still left room for the chance to afford them greater impact on the reader. The weak spot in the book for me was the ending - I loved the build up but the denoument was anticlimactic, it was over too fast. That said, these are minor gripes. I'd strongly recommend this book to those of you who enjoy an unusual perspective on the familiar. Thematically and stylistically, it owes more to 'The Master and Margarita' than to modern fantasy novels. Dare I suggest that, based on this, Neil Gaiman has created a class of his own - Fiction: Gaiman - which sits somewhere between cult Eastern European allegory and western Fantasy/Cyberpunk writing. Don't prejudge whether Gaiman's writing is for you, dive in and you may be surprised.
rthomas_8192 on LibraryThing 20 days ago
I read the extended version and found it a little long.
riverwillow on LibraryThing 20 days ago
So much has been written about this book that I'll keep this short. I loved this book, perhaps not quite as much as 'Neverwhere' but that my be just because being British 'Neverwhere' has a little more resonance for me. Having said that this is a wonderful book, in his introduction Neil Gaiman says that he 'wanted to write a book that was big and odd and meandering' and 'American Gods' is all that and so much more, the text is also dense, multilayered and fascinating and, as always with Gaiman's writing expertly weaves the ordinary and the extraordinary into a compelling read.
SimonW11 on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Imagine a contemporary urban fantasy written by Bill Bryson.Shadow, fresh out of prison is recruited by Mr Wednesday to help him recruit a bunch of half forgotten gods from various religions scattered throughout America for a final showdown. Its a satisfying read I seem to remember Neil Gaimen calling it ihis first real novel. certainly it is the book we all knew he was capable of producing if he could just stop mixing his media.
francescadefreitas on LibraryThing 20 days ago
This is why I love to read. Every once in a while, I find a story that fills me with wonder at every turn. This was an absolute joy to read.Oddly, the US security agents were not as fond of the book as I am, it went through more through scanning than my husband's laptop. One person even read five pages. Making sure it was a real book? Making sure there were no plots against actual American Gods? Or maybe she's managing to read her way through the whole book, one stop and search at a time.
MyopicBookworm on LibraryThing 20 days ago
I'm not put off by big books, and this one had me turning pages for a couple of days. It won awards in both fantasy and horror (and, weirdly, in SF), and my personal preference is definitely for the fantasy element over the horror (though the latter was not too overdone). It is certainly as "big and odd and meandering" as the author intended. Several chapters seem to be almost free-standing short stories, thematically linked to the novel but not pertinent to the plot, or at least very marginal. Gaiman's mention (in the acknowledgements) of James Branch Cabell, producer of similarly bewildering novels exploring myth and belief, is certainly a pertinent reference. (He name-checks Terry Pratchett, Roger Zelazny, and Harlan Ellison too, though not Lord Dunsany, who trod these paths over a century ago in Time and the Gods. I also guess that he may have read John James's Votan and Not for All the Gold in Ireland.) His geography, though, is not Cabell's vague Europe or Dunsany's not-quite-anywhere, but the American Midwest (Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, and environs). I can't exactly vouch for the accuracy of all of his depiction, not because I haven't been there, but because I can't really remember much about it: outside major towns such as La Crosse, WI, most of it is just as unmemorable as he makes it sound. His picture of American back-of-beyond tourist attractions is definitely spot-on: vast toy collections or fields full of gently decaying plaster dinosaurs, advertised by roadside billboards which may stretch a hundred miles or more into the next state. And reading his description of the cold, I'm grateful never to have been up that way in winter.As for the story: well, imagine that Stephen King and Garrison Keillor had tried to collaborate on a Tom Holt plot, then throw in a chunk of Frazer's Golden Bough and a nod to cyberpunk. No? Well, it plays on the fantasy trope of pagan gods surviving into the modern world, sustained by a dwindling pool of belief. This has been well served in lighter mode by both Holt and Pratchett, but Gaiman brings fresh imagination to it, along with walking corpses, coin tricks, and more sex, torture, and death than I really go for in my reading matter. There is much graphic illustration of the sheer horridness of much ancient religion (so far as we know it). The gods in this tale are not effete classical deities or picturesque robed figures of post-Wagnerian romance: they are steeped in blood and human sacrifice. There are some hard sections highlighting the utter inhumanity underlying so much of the European/African settlement of America, with its slavery and indentured servitude, and its callous disregard for the local people.I'm glad I read this book - even some of the bits that I really didn't enjoy - but it helped to have glimpsed the America it describes.MB 8-ii-2012
GeePee29 on LibraryThing 20 days ago
I rarely fail to finish reading any book I pick up. I failed to finish this one. On the rare occasions I do fail, it is usually 20-25% of the way in. This one I read about 90% before I realised that I just did not care enough about anyone in the book to wade through what, for me, was a final section that was becoming rapidly incomprehensible.
Carrieokay on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Different, intriguing and involving. Hard to put down and leaves you wanting more.
sirfurboy on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Neil Gaiman has become one of those rare breed of writers for whom many people will buy his books as soon as they see his name on the cover. And this is with good reason. He can write superbly well. His characterisations are interesting, his narrative is entertaining and his dialogue is frequently downright hilarious. This book is as good an example of that as almost any (I preferred the Anansi Boys though, which I read before this. There are shared themes between these two books). In American Gods, we are introduced to Shadow - a convict who is released early on compassionate grounds following the death of his wife. Almost immediately he is met by a man who calls himself Wednesday - and is clearly much more than just an ordinary man. Wednesday wants Shadow's help, but he is not specific as to what he wants - only mentioning that it is very dangerous. Indeed, early in the book there are all kinds of things that we are not told. Why exactly was Shadow in prison? Who is Wednesday (actually I guessed that one straight away), what does he want? What happened to Shadow's wife? And much more. The answers to these questions mostly do not come early. But they do come. There is a road trip across America that put me strongly in mind of Stephen King's "The Talisman". The protagonists are quite different, but I was reminded of the other book because of the natural/supernatural duality and the journey across America, experiencing different places - some more special than others. The whole story, it seemed to me, could as easily have been penned by Stephen King. There are two reasons I do not think, in good consience, that I can give this five stars (even though Neil Gaiman fans will therefore start voting down my review! But please don't without leaving me a comment as to why!) These are: 1) This was a very earthy novel. There is plenty of sex - especially oral sex - mentioned. Many people will like that in a book, but I did not think that for the most part it added anything to the story. The language likewise was earthier than was strictly necessary, and moreso than in the Anansi Boys, which I preferred to this book. (I also thought the Anansi Boys was funnier). 2) This book was almost ponderously long. Ultimately there were two plot themes, but the middle of the book spent so long setting them up that the resolution was very brief. One plot was resolved in a couple of pages and was something of a non event. The other was resolved in a longer epilogue. But did the book need to be 670 pages long? Neil Gaiman admits the book is long but excuses it by saying that America is a big country, which is true. The narrative is wonderfully descriptive of America - but whether that was all necessary for this story is an open question. So in summary - a very good book. I can recommend it, although I preferred the Anansi Boys, and that would be the book of Gaiman's I handed adult readers first. (The Graveyard Book would be my pick for young adults or those who enjoy young adult books).
Safia on LibraryThing 20 days ago
It's very well written and an enjoyable read although it wasn't really what I'd usually go for.
ElectricRay on LibraryThing 20 days ago
The premise is brilliant: America, the immigrant nation, where old Gods had to be imported by the poor huddled masses because there were none already here, finds it has grown new Gods after all - styled after the new Americans' "worship" of their gadgets, media and consumerist lifestyle. The people now *consume* their idols: in the old days, the idols demanded it was the other way around - that was the sustenance of the Gods, and consequently we find the old Gods now worn out, power weakening, in the face of the new materialistic age. In a last ditch attempt to fight off destruction by distraction, Odin tries to rally the troops and co-opts, sneakily, Shadow, an ex con, to help him do it.It's a great premise: as soon as I heard it I had to get a hold of the book, but when you reflect more deeply it's simply a great idea that doesn't really work, because, well, *then* what? A götterdammerung-style clash of the titans doesn't really work - what would be the point? How would you judge the result? Since that's the route that Gaiman takes his plot it's a dilemma he has, ultimately, to resolve, and how he does do it is a bit of a cop out.The original edition of the work was something of a runaway success, and a bit like a now-famous film director, Gaiman's literary standing is such that he can go back and overturn editorial excisions to release a "Director's Cut". That's the version that I read - something like 100 pages longer than the originally published version, and with some modifications is largely reinstating material that some officious subeditor took out.The problem is, I suspect the original subeditor was probably right: American Gods as reinstated feels flabby, over-populated with characters and events which aren't entirely mission critical to the plot or message, and - well - about a hundred pages too long. The resolution unfolds itself gently and carefully, and is deftly handled when it finally arrives. It just takes a little bit longer than it should to get there.It's a striking book, make no mistake, and displays a depth of erudition on Gaiman's part which is never allowed to get in the way of a good yarn. But, at least in the version I read, this feels like a pretty good novel still uncut and in the rough, and in need of a editor's careful attention. Attention, that once upon a time, it apparently had!
Reysbro on LibraryThing 20 days ago
A captivating road-trip story with the usual Gaiman elements of imagery and fantasy; set in a thrilling yet somehow realistic backdrop.
Aula on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Couldn't finish it - I made it about half way when I realised I was bored. I thought I'd try this as I really enjoyed his 'Coraline' and 'Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch'.
iamthenewno2 on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Gaiman again provides a novel in which you have to think, characters have depth and leaves you wanting more.
miketroll on LibraryThing 20 days ago
American Gods is a rambling, crazy, chaotic, bad dream of a book, a wild mix of Elmore Leonard, The Magus, Lemony Snicket, Carl Jung, Hieronymus Bosch and Uncle Nobby¿s Steamboat. The story line, if it can be called that, is of conflict between the gods of the Old World and the New, all holding down jobs or holding up banks in America. The narrative staggers drunkenly towards a limp anticlimax. Well, when half the main characters die and are reborn 3 times, it was never going to be easy to end it. The book has moments of humour and some fine passages of straight historical narrative, but I didn¿t enjoy it. The omniscient narrator is a sound and familiar literary device, but here the narrator is omnipotent too. "Anything can happen, and it probably will!" This is not a virtue, it¿s a turn-off. To engage a reader¿s imagination, the writer must offer a frame of reference. But when the author frivolously revises the laws of nature every three pages, you can have more fun watching Mr Ed.
pratchettfan on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Is America a place for Gods? Neil Gaiman tries to answer this question in this profound novel. A thrilling view of American Society and how it affects the believe in old and new Gods.
krypto on LibraryThing 20 days ago
Hmmm. Hmmm. I found none of the characters likeable, I never felt particularly engaged and I suspect many allegories went over my head. But there's undeniably something about it. Neil Gaiman's world has an atmosphere both creepy and wondrous that I can still feel months after reading. The man has a way with the words. I have a feeling I'll be coming back to this one.
felius on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I think a great book is one that grabs hold of some part of your mind and won't let go. This is a great book.I'd encountered many of the themes before, but the manner in which they've been intertwined into a cohesive whole is new. This was thoroughly engaging, and I'm now very much looking forward to reading the rest of this author's work (after having previously only read Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett).