Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Cover Blurb:

Released from prison, Shadow finds his world turned upside down. His wife has been killed; a mysterious stranger offers him a job. But Mr. Wednesday, who knows more about Shadow than is possible, warns that a storm is coming — a battle for the very soul of America . . . and they are in its direct path.

One of the most talked-about books of the new millennium, American Gods is a kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth and across an American landscape at once eerily familiar and utterly alien. It is, quite simply, a contemporary masterpiece.


It is important to take a moment and look at the books on our shelves and to give them a second read. With so many books and so little time, we can’t possibly do this for all of our favorite books, but there are some classics and classics-in-the-making that deserve another reading. One such book is American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

Before I start, I should mention that I dedicate this review to Wednesday. If you don’t know what I’m taking about, it’s time to visit your bookstore. Go now.

This year is the tenth anniversary of the publication of American Gods. I can’t tell you how many people I know who have been shocked by the fact that ten years have passed since Gaiman’s novel first hit the shelves. What surprises me most about this book is that it feels as fresh and relevant today as it felt ten years ago. Likely, I’ll be saying these same words ten years from now. I have no doubt that readers and scholars alike will be picking up American Gods in fifty or sixty years and using it as a stick in the sand by which to measure other books that were written in the early twentieth century, but only time will tell.

In a nutshell, American Gods is one man’s journey to rebuild his life after getting released from prison. Little does Shadow know that the gods have other plans for him, and little do they know that he has his own plans.

American Gods is a beautifully told story that is gorgeously written. The characters are all strong, unique individuals. With each turn of the page, you feel like you are getting to know a live person replete with all of the human (and inhuman) flaws that come with wanting to hang onto whatever form of “life” they may be experiencing. This novel spreads out, telling a complex tale that spans a huge geographic area, a large number of people, and quite a bit of history and lore. However, as sprawling as American Gods may be, it maintains a cohesiveness that broadens and deepens the reading experience.

When I first finished reading American Gods, I remember feeling like I had lost something important (innocence, perhaps), but I gained something of much greater value in return (wisdom, I hope). After rereading American Gods, I was left with the feeling that if there must be gods among us in this “new” world of ours, let them be writers who weave tales, tell stories, and keep us bound together in myth and fiction that helps us to better understand ourselves and our world. Neil Gaiman is a phenomenally brilliant writer and storyteller, especially when he turns his hand to these darker adult novels that dare you to think in unconventional ways and inspire you to imagine “what if” there were ancient and new gods among us? What would the world be like? Would we even know? Would we want to know?

American Gods is one of those books that you will not forget. It is a book that will likely remain on your bookshelf for years to come. If it’s on your shelf now, I urge you to open it and to give it another read. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to read American Gods, you are missing out on something special.

It also bears mentioning that HBO is planning to produce American Gods as a multi-season series. More information on the development of the series is sure to be coming soon.


From Neil Gaiman’s Website: Neil Gaiman’s work has been honoured with many awards internationally, including the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. His books and stories have also been honoured with 4 Hugos, 2 Nebulas, 1 World Fantasy Award, 4 Bram Stoker Awards, 6 Locus Awards, 2 British SF Awards, 1 British Fantasy Award, 3 Geffens, 1 International Horror Guild Award and 2 Mythopoeic Awards. 

About Erin Underwood

BIO: Erin Underwood is the senior event content producer for MIT Technology Review’s emerging technology events. On the side, she reads, writes, and edits SF.
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1 Response to Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

  1. Jed says:

    I just re-read this two weeks ago! And you are right, it did feel just as fresh and current as the first time. Every time I pick this book up, I discover a new treasure or idea in it

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