"Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the 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. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies... and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing- - - an epic war for the very soul of America- - - and that he is standing squarely in its path."
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The gods of the old world still exist in Neil Gaiman's 2001 novel "American Gods."
A science fiction/ fantasy story set in today's America, American Gods tries to answer the question of what happens when people stop believing in the past gods, and start worshiping new ones?
Shadow is our main character, who we meet while he's attempting to get released from prison after three years of incarceration - - - afterall, he has a job, wife and life waiting for him on the outside. And even though he's built up a strong exterior while in prison, everything comes crashing down after he receives news that his wife and best friend have died in a car accident.
Cue Wednesday, an old, odd man who gives Shadow a job after his release from prison - - - with strings attached: Shadow can't ask any questions, he must protect his employer at all costs, and if people need to be hurt, he must hurt them. Although Wednesday doesn't tell him exactly what is going on, Shadow agrees to his duties and begins a road trip with the eccentric old man, meeting an array of colorful characters along the way. But soon, Shadow begins to realize that his employer may be a mythical god in disguise, yet, oddly Shadow never really questions it or anything in the entire book for that matter.
The novel takes an odd turn early on when Shadow's dead wife, Laura, comes back to life in a zombified way. While Shadow is staying in a cheap hotel room, and Wednesday sharing a room with a young hotel employee in another, Shadow sees his wife in the clothing she was buried in, but he doesn't flinch - - - he carries a very calm conversation with dead Laura, he even goes down to the lobby to buy her a pack of cigarettes, and the next morning, he still doesn't seem bothered by it when he sees her muddy footprints on the floor. Wednesday tries to convince Shadow it was a dream, but makes snarky remarks that tells Shadow that even he knows it wasn't a dream. The two simply move on on their road trip, no questions asked.
But during this road trip, Shadow's suspicions are confirmed. He gets to see not only Wednesday, but two others in their true god-form, and afterwards, Wednesday confirms that he is indeed the Norse god, Odin.
Gaiman's take on mythological gods living in today's society is interesting, but disappointing. From recognizable gods to the forgotten ones, readers with a liking to history would probably enjoy this story most.
American Gods centers on the question of what happens to gods when they are no longer worshipped, and Gaiman merely focuses on male gods, while making all female characters (gods and humans) either prostitutes and/or sexual objects which is really off-putting for me as a female reader. And Gaiman's character development in the novel for gods and humans is nowhere to be seen thus lending very little plot development that is actually believable or enjoyable. I was unable to bring myself to care about our main character, Shadow, nor the plight with his zombie wife.And speaking of Laura, the disappointing character traits makes her not just unlikable, but also an unnecessary character overall.
I just can't recommend this book: the novel is good for the first 100 pages, but you could easily skip the next 450 pages that is just filler, and not miss much of the story. Gaiman also dehumanizes women, introduces characters in a way that would make them seem an important part of the story to only drop them out of it as quickly as they came in, and the ending is just a huge disappointment. All in all, Gaiman had a great idea, but the execution he used was poorly done - - - some parts even seem like Gaiman wrote them in a completely different state of mind, contradicting story lines and character traits altogether.
I did, however, have three favorite characters that weren't utilized enough for me to rate the story higher than I have: Mad Sweeney, Ibis and Jacquel. Mad Sweeney is a giant leprechaun that can pull gold coins out of the air; Ibis and Jacquel are Anubis and Jackel from Egyptian mythology, who run a funeral home in Cairo, Illinois today.
American Gods takes place only over a few months, which is surprising with how long the novel is. But the story is a buildup with no climax. Most characters come and go before readers can even decide if they like them or not,and that paired up with severe lack of character development leaves most of the main characters pretty forgettable. With this special edition containing 1200 more words, the story is still not worth it in the end. Gaiman is still a great writer, but this is not the book to recommend to anyone who wants to begin reading his work.