Jeffrey Keeten's Reviews > American Gods

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, horror, myth

***Now a celebrated TV series on Starz.***

“‘I read some book about brains,’ she said. ‘My roommate had it and she kept waving it around. It was like, how five thousand years ago the lobes of the brain fused and before that people thought when the right lobe of the brain said anything it was the voice of some god telling them what to do. It’s just brains.’

‘I like my theory better,’ said Shadow.

‘What’s your theory?’

‘That back then people used to run into the gods from time to time.’”


 photo Shadow American Gods_zpsynhfzja0.png
Shadow Moon is played by Ricky Whittle. Excellent casting.

There are few experiences that will teach someone more about himself better than going to prison. It is a microcosm. It is like shoving the world into a shoebox. There are rules, not prison rules, but prisoner rules, and you better get them figured out in a hurry. It is one of the few places remaining where people really have to interact and deal with other people. Inmates learn how to cooperate, or really bad things happen.

Plenty of bad things happen anyway.

Time keeps traveling at a normal rate outside, but inside the box, this minute is the same as the last minute, and when a person emerges from prison, it is like being dropped into a different world because his brain is still shackled in place, in whatever decade he first went into prison. A person spends a lot of time with himself in lockup. They become either a better version of themselves or a horrible twisted version of who they were supposed to be.

Shadow lost his temper and lost three years. He came out of prison probably a better person than who he was going to be. He learned to ignore the bullshit and focus on what was most important...living.

The universe is not done fucking with Shadow, not by a long shot. Prison is just the beginning, the burnishing of his character. He barely has made footprints in the dusty highway of his new life when he meets a god. Like it would with any of us, it takes a while for him to really believe he has met a god. This supposed god doesn’t glow or have a thunderous voice. He is abnormal, but in a kooky uncle sort of way, who besides being weird also happens to be a con man. He is frankly...kind...of...annoying.

Gods have fallen on hard times in America.

This god needs Shadow to work for him.

“The land is vast. Soon enough, our people abandoned us, remembered us only as creatures of the old land, as things that had not come with them to the new. Our true believers passed on, or stopped believing, and we were left, lost and scared and dispossessed, to get by on what little smidgens of worship or belief we could find. And to get by as best we could.”

Christianity commits deicide. The whole convert or die thing sort of makes pagans and what would be considered alternative religion types to quickly reevaluate their level of faith in the old gods. It is easier, after all, to focus on one god than figuring out the pantheon of gods they were trying to please before the first bedraggled priest washed up on the shores of their community. Christianity simplified faith. This left all the old gods, used to receiving tasty animal sacrifices, fresh fruits, virgins, bereft of not only sustenance but also...love.

We brought these gods to America with us and then abandoned them.

The new gods who are putting the final nail in their celestial coffins are the new deities, such as internet, media, and cell phones. They hurl insults like these: “You-you’re a fucking illuminated gothic black-letter manuscript. You couldn’t be hypertext if you tried. I’m…I’m synaptic, while, while you’re synoptic…” It is hard to be insulted by a compliment, isn’t it? These new gods are even starting to chip away at the strong foothold that Christianity has on the minds of the American people. If he doesn’t watch out, JC is going to be bumming rides from truckers on the interstate and hoping for the kindness of his former people, eyes focused like zombies on the screens before them, for a handout.

Not to mention the fact that Shadow has televisions asking him, ”Do you want to see Lucy’s tits?”

I’d explain that, but it is more fun for you to find out for yourself.

Needless to say, things are dire.

 photo Mr. Wednesday American Gods_zpszvgemaki.jpg
Ian McShane plays Mr. Wednesday, brilliantly of course.

Shadow’s boss, Mr. Wednesday, you can probably figure out who he is, decides it is time to wipe the new kids off the block (a version of Titan vs Olympian) and seize the power the old gods so passively let slide through their fingers. Shadow is caught right in the damn middle of it. He is Odysseus in the midst of the Trojan War.

Shadow naturally asks himself, why me?

When Neil Gaiman first submitted this book for publication, his editor/publisher suggested that he cut 12,000 words out of the manuscript. If you are having deja vu feelings of The Stand by Stephen King, you are on the right fright frequency. Gaiman won a plethora of awards for American Gods, so how can you argue that the cuts weren’t a good idea? The thing is, those orphaned 12,000 words were still whispering to Gaiman, and when the decision was made to put out a tenth anniversary edition, he decided it was time to put the kids back with their parents. I would highly suggest reading the 10th anniversary edition. I do not feel the book is bloated. All the scenes are relevant to the larger arc of the plot. I would be nervous to lose the experience of reading any part of this book.

I was skeptical when I began reading this book. Gaiman introduces these gods from different cultures and does not exactly explain who any of them are, or at times he is even being cagey with their names. He is expecting a certain sophistication from his readers that is not only refreshing, but startlingly bold. I thought, in the beginning, that he has the Stephen King magic figured out with the easy accessibility of the writing and enough interesting factoids to make people feel like they are learning something as they work their way through the plot. He has those things, but he doesn’t just let us dog paddle on the surface of the water. He snags our ankles and thrusts us deeper beneath the waves to where things get dark, and we have no choice but to examine ourselves in the context of this story.

And what a pleasant surprise it has been.

”Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.”

With books like this, we resume a richer life.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Reading Progress

March 19, 2019 – Started Reading
March 19, 2019 – Shelved
March 19, 2019 – Shelved as: fantasy
March 19, 2019 – Shelved as: horror
March 19, 2019 – Shelved as: myth
March 22, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

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Murf the Surf I'd loved this book very much as my family from Denmark still see the old gods, and the boys like to tattoo them intra dermously… Odinism is making quite a comeback in Eurooe as of late. Murf


Jeffrey Keeten Murf the Surf wrote: "I'd loved this book very much as my family from Denmark still see the old gods, and the boys like to tattoo them intra dermously… Odinism is making quite a comeback in Eurooe as of late. Murf"

The old Norse Gods are way more interesting than the Christian crap. :-) I am not surprised to find an interest in the old gods is coming back. Awesome!


message 3: by Zebulynn (new)

Zebulynn Hanson I started the comic book but couldn't finish it. I will have to check it out again.


Jeffrey Keeten Zebulynn wrote: "I started the comic book but couldn't finish it. I will have to check it out again."

You might try the book instead. :-)


message 5: by Jaline (new)

Jaline Excellent review, Jeffrey! This one has been on my radar for quite some time but I have yet to do anything about it. Maybe the time has come. ;)


Jeffrey Keeten The time has come Jaline! 😁 I’ve put this book off for at least ten years but I may have enjoyed it more now than I would have then. Thanks Jaline! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Glyn Ashworth-Cobban (Updates) I've seen so many good reviews for this book and people I know keep telling me to read it. Now you have reviewed this I have to read it!


Jeffrey Keeten You won’t regret it Glynjabin! Let me know what you think.


message 10: by Sawalbertcho (new) - added it

Sawalbertcho So do i need to buy it through ur review. excellent!


Jeffrey Keeten Thanks Sawalbertcho! Enjoy the book!


message 12: by Steve (new)

Steve Very cool -- all this to look forward to. Like too many great books, it's waiting patiently on my shelf. (At least this wasn't one of your excellent reviews that was forced to wait patiently in your archive before I got to it.)


Jeffrey Keeten Well I know the Cubs have first priority. 😉 I appreciate the time you give my reviews away from the ivy clad walls!


message 14: by Steve (new)

Steve This is an unusual time of the year where there is baseball at Wrigley, but the ivy hasn't filled in yet. I prefer not to attend until that part of the aesthetic is complete.


Jeffrey Keeten I agree ivy is important to the overall experiences. It makes triples out of doubles. 😀


Britton Summers This was probably one of my favorite books that I've read lately, Gaiman's approach to fantasy is always something that captures my attention and he's up there as one of my favorite authors still working today.


message 17: by Steve (new)

Steve Jeffrey wrote: "I agree ivy is important to the overall experiences. It makes triples out of doubles. 😀"

Fortunately, the Cubs' outfielders practice digging balls out of the vines. It probably saves 5 to 10 runs every year.


message 18: by Dustin (new) - added it

Dustin Excellent review, as always, Jeffrey!


Jeffrey Keeten Britton wrote: "This was probably one of my favorite books that I've read lately, Gaiman's approach to fantasy is always something that captures my attention and he's up there as one of my favorite authors still w..."

When you step back and look at this book objectively this was a huge project to try and take on. He pulls it off. He does state that he didn't not write as great a book as he hoped which only makes sense to me. He had an epic idea by the tail and hoped to write an immortal book. He wrote a fantastic book, but I can see him believing there was an even bigger book if only he could have found the thread to write it.


Jeffrey Keeten Dustin wrote: "Excellent review, as always, Jeffrey!"

Thanks Dustin!


Britton Summers Jeffrey wrote: "Britton wrote: "This was probably one of my favorite books that I've read lately, Gaiman's approach to fantasy is always something that captures my attention and he's up there as one of my favorite..."

Indeed, I actually read the author's intended version, which is about a thousand words longer than the original product. Though I was surprised how easy it was to read, despite its length. it might be my favorite Gaiman book asides from Coraline and The Sandman (two books that I'd recommend as well.)


Jeffrey Keeten Britton wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "Britton wrote: "This was probably one of my favorite books that I've read lately, Gaiman's approach to fantasy is always something that captures my attention and he's up there as on..."

I plan to work my way through Gaiman's work. I have Nevermore queued up to be read next. I'm sure it will be good.


Glyn Ashworth-Cobban (Updates) I just finished reading my copy and it's really weird but good! Thanks for convincing me to get it Jeffrey! :)


Jeffrey Keeten Glynjabin's_Obsessive_Reads wrote: "I just finished reading my copy and it's really weird but good! Thanks for convincing me to get it Jeffrey! :)"

I'm glad you enjoyed it despite the weirdness. You are most welcome!


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