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Reviews Comments: A Road Trip on Four Flat Tyres American Gods film/book review by maninahat

Because delayed gratification is apparently a thing I canít live with, and I canít be bothered to wait for the next season of shiny new tv show American Gods TV series to come out, Iíve gone and read the book to find out how it all ends.

A combination of thriller, murder mystery, road trip, and urban fantasy, American Gods tells the story about how an ex-convict called Shadow Moon gets recruited as a driver for Mr Wednesday, a mysterious figure who is at the very least a con artist, but also (according to him) an ancient God. Shadow is required to tolerate a great deal during his contract with Wednesday, but he takes it all in his stride, no matter how dangerous or weird it becomes. Itís just as well as Wednesday is recruiting for an all-out war between the old Gods and the new, and heís going to need Shadowís help.

Road trips traditionally have a sense of forward progression Ė you know what the end goal is, you know you are getting closer to it, and you know that a diversion or rest stop is literally just that, and you will be back on your way soon. American Gods does not have a very good sense of this at all. Shadow drives Wednesday all across the states to meet all manner of peculiar people, and these are the highlights of the book, but Shadow also spends as much time in one place, not doing anything in particular. At one point, Shadow is told to lay low in a sleepy, snowy town Ė and so he does, for what feels like most of the novel. The story stops dead here and we are stuck with Shadow, passing the time by listening to some creaky old guy tell anecdotes or reading up on town history. I knew the tv series was drawing itself out, but it never occurred to me that the book had done the same. It\'s only slightly less boring then it sounds, and whilst it has an eventual pay off, it comes after a long test of patience.

A much weaker pay off is used for the novelís finale, during a climactic confrontation between the many powerful gods. We\'ve spent the whole novel waiting for this moment, but the story fails to follow through. Likewise, a bunch of characters get squandered resolving a let-down of a plot twist that only serves to undercut the exciting scenes we should be getting.

American Gods is a book that introduces many interesting characters and cool urban fantasy elements, but it doesn\'t use any of them particularly well. Perhaps Neil Gaiman wanted to tell a more personal, smaller scale story but he\'s spoiled it through using such larger-than-life figures to do it. I didnít like American Gods enough to recommend it, but there is enough good things in it that I canít unrecommend it either. Read it, but expect to find the experience frustrating.

Comments

  • SpectralTime
  • 12th Jul 17
Yeah, guess we're on the same page for once. And, actually, since you seem to be on kind of an urban fantasy kick... I'll repost a few recommendations from my own review.

Did you like the modern-fantasy storytelling? In short, just read Anansi Boys. It's a shorter, better, more-focused version of the ideas of this story with more humor, better characters, a tighter story, and a lot of heart. It's a better book by a more-experienced writer.

Did you want more serious examinations of America and the mythology surrounding the American experience, plus the fictional examination of various modern "gods?" Check out DC Vertigo's Uncle Sam, a truly great comic about the truth, lies, and promise of America, propped up by smart writing, an ultimately optimistic story, and the beautiful artwork of Alex Ross.

  • maninahat
  • 12th Jul 17
Thanks for the suggestions. I have been getting into modern fantasy more, even if I find myself liking each authors\' ideas more than the results.

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