Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of Disbelief: American Gods

Suspension of Disbelief is a weekly feature, in which we review movies, books, TV shows, and other popular culture for the skeptical teen.

Book: American Gods
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Mythology
Author: Neil Gaiman

Rating: 
5 out of 5 silver coins

Review: I admit, Neil Gaiman was one of those authors I’ve been told I need to read for years. After his Doctor Who episode, I was intrigued, and so borrowed by roommate’s copy of American Gods. 9 hours later, I turned the last page. This is definitely a book I’m glad I finally got do, although I was woefully overdue.

American Gods is one of the most complex books I’ve read, which after an epic 1000-page exposition to a 10-part series by Brandon Sanderson, is saying quite a lot. The story follows the adventures of a man named Shadow, who gets mixed up in a war between the gods. Old gods exist in America, as the people who worshipped them immigrated there. Those gods, however, get forgotten over time, and new gods, the gods of industry and the media and the other things modern Americans worship, appear, to quickly fall to the same fate. Wednesday, one of the old gods, gathers the rest of them together to wage war against the new gods, for their survival in a nearly godless country. A storm is coming… but of whose making?

This was one of those books I literally couldn’t put down. Every time I took I break, I kept churning the story over in my head, trying to make connections and, like Shadow, figure out what’s going on. Even knowing the resolution, I want to re-read this one, and pick up all the subtleties and foreshadowings I missed the first time around. It has a few parts that might make younger readers uncomfortable (there’s a couple rather explicit sexual scenes in the book), and it helps to have a good understanding of multiple mythologies, particularly Norse and Egyptian, before reading. However, even if you don’t have that background, I’d absolutely recommend this book. Not only is it just an engaging, well-written, nuanced, brilliant story, but it also explores themes like tragedy, death, love, self-discovery, and more, that are relevant to the real world as well.

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Ali Marie

Ali Marie

Ali Marie is a recent Master's of Education graduate, and is now venturing back into the world of non-traditional education, as an outreach program leader at a children's museum. Her interests vary widely, but include board games, music, dinosaurs, and science as a whole.

You can find Ali on Twitter, @ascientifica.

4 Comments

  1. July 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm —

    Neil Gaiman is awesome. The Sandman comics are probably my favorite. American Gods is a good book, but I have to say that Good Omens, the book Gaimen wrote with Terry Pratchett, is, if not better, more entertaining.

    • July 27, 2011 at 8:57 am —

      I started to read Good Omens, but then my friend returned it to the library before I’d finished it. I really enjoyed what I’d read so far, and I like most of what I’ve read by Terry Pratchett as well. I need to read more of Gaiman’s work, but I was really, really pleased with American Gods… it’s been a long time since I was that engrossed in a book.

  2. July 27, 2011 at 3:45 am —

    That book has one of the best exchanges I know:

    ‘[…] Back in my day, we had it all set up. You lined up when you died, and you answered for your evil deeds and for your good deeds, and if your evil deeds outweighed a feather, we’d feed your soul and your heart to Ammet, the Eater of Souls.’
    ‘He must have eaten a lot of people.’
    ‘Not as many as you’d think. It was a really heavy feather. We had it made special. You had to be pretty damn evil to tip the scales on that baby. […]’

    • July 27, 2011 at 8:58 am —

      Agreed. That scene was awesome. I liked any scene with the Egyptian gods or Mr. Nancy, really. But, yeah, that exchange was particularly good.

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