Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels discussion

American Gods (American Gods, #1)
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Monthly Reading: Discussion > September 2019 American Gods (Caution! There be spoilers here!)

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message 1: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kateblue | 3542 comments Mod
Say whatever you want to about American Gods here.


Rebecca | 96 comments I've always felt that the God choices were somewhat Eurocentric, though South America seems to the be the only one thats totally absent (possibly because migration from there came after Christianity)

I'd be curious what people think is missing from the showdown, old and new- I noticed Mary and the various Catholic saints are not represented, though they still have a good sized following, and I have no idea HOW it would be shown, but the whole prosperity-gospel idea seemed to be missing (for those not familiar, Prosperity Gospel is a controversial doctrine that people are rich/poor because of their faith, that the poor need to pray harder, and that donations and prayer will bring good fortune in the material world, not just spiritual)


message 3: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kateblue | 3542 comments Mod
Hmm . . . I will have to think about your points as I read


message 4: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3330 comments Mod
Eurocenticity of gods I guess is due to the narrator and his gang so to speak. As for the Christianity - it was mentioned that churches aren't on places of power thus no representatives.


message 5: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3330 comments Mod
I'm 30% into re-read and here are my random ramblings.

1. Gaiman is great with dialogues. At the start, when Shadow is in the jail, we have that guard, who has just a few phrases, but they are enough for me to want to punch him (and I'm a mild guy). I guess this comes from comics

2. Slavic deities. All those are quite obscure, I found about both Czernobog and Zoryas after I first read this book and I'm local (that should show that either I'm ignorant or they are really obscure). For example, as I become aware later, duality of Czernobog/Bielobog is just a theory and quite tenuous - there are no mention of the later in written sources, but there several names of localities, which suggest it can be the case.


message 6: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3330 comments Mod
Finished the novel, here is my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Additionally some interesting things:

1. I remembered the storyline well enough, but forget an "epilogue" part with the girl in the trunk, the horror element of the story.

2. I assumed it was hinted that Shadow is an incarnation of Thor after the previous one blew its brains out, but seems it is not so


Ryan Dash (ryandash) | 122 comments It took me quite some time, but I finally finished. Lots of questions.

So...who/what is Shadow? Is he a god of some kind? What was the deal with his death and resurrection?

Where is Christianity and the other major religions? We get cameos from Easter (if this is even related) and a Jew, but not much else.

Why was Laura a zombie instead of just dead? I get that it had to do with the gold coin Shadow gave her corpse...but do we know anything else?

Who is Mr Town? Just a lackey?

Who is the buffalo-headed man, and what is the significance of Shadow's dreams?

What was Shadow doing in Iceland at the end of the book? Why did the old man (i.e. Odin) speak Icelandic to him originally? Of course this could not just be a chance meeting. Also, I'm having trouble understanding the difference between Odin's old body/identity (Wednesday) and the new one. It doesn't seem like everything carries over.


message 8: by Bryan, Village Idiot (new) - added it

Bryan | 481 comments Mod
Ryan wrote: "It took me quite some time, but I finally finished. Lots of questions."

Hey Ryan, I can't say I have all the answers or if the answer I'm about to give is even close to the correct answer...but here are my thoughts:

God Shadow: Shadow is a demi-god, like Hercules. Except he was created/conceived just to fulfill Wednesday's plan for this battle.

Christianity: I got the anniversary version of the book and in it Neil Gaiman talks about this very question. Shadow has an encounter with Jesus...well the American Jesus god. It's a short encounter and it doesn't change anything, but he was there. Neil Gaiman just thought it best to leave it out.

Zombie Laura: You know...I didn't even think about this. But, pulling from another non-Gaiman book, maybe the coin was taken from Charon, the ferryman of the dead in Greek mythology. Maybe? Hell, I don't know...stop asking hard questions!

Mr. Town: I think he was just a lackey for the new gods. Maybe a "hero" of the gods and thus making him more than human...but a lackey none-the-less.

Buffalo-Head-Man: He was the land. American land. "Worshiped" by Native Americans and modern Americans ever since they came over. Like the Land Run or needing to buy land to build a business/home on. I think it took the form on a buffalo because buffalos are native to the Americas.

Old-in and New-din: I would guess Shadow went to Iceland for the purpose of finding Odin. He is human, after all, and grew up without a father. It makes sense to want to know more about him. As for Wednesday being the old Odin and Iceland Odin being younger...I think that's the other way around. Odin is a Viking god and the Vikings roamed and concurred all over Iceland, Vinland, Greenland, and Europe. So that area would have the oldest form of Odin.
I think the old man spoke Icelandic to Shadow because its a great way for the author to show he isn't the exact same Odin.
I think the confusion comes from the word "god" in general. We associate that word as meaning all powerful and all knowing. So, Odin is Odin and it doesn't matter where or when he appears. But, I think Gaiman's "god" is meant more of something we, humans, "worship." The more followers, the more powerful you, as a god, become. But the people worship American-Odin which is inherently different than Icelandic-Odin. So you have a "god" that is very similar but not the exact same. Kind of like mind cloning: You and your clone know everything about each other at the point of creation...but from that point on you experience different things and become different people.

Man...I sure can talk a lot about nothing. lol. Those are my two cents. What do you think?


message 9: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kateblue | 3542 comments Mod
Interesting talk you guys. I almost wasn't going to say anything b/c I can't think of anything to say. Later!


message 10: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kateblue | 3542 comments Mod
I said I was going to finish my reread started a year and a half ago, but I have too many other things to read right now.


message 11: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3330 comments Mod
I agree with most of Bryan answers/comments. Maybe as an addition here are my views:

Shadow still can be Thor, for Thor is the son of Odin and the previous avatar shot his brains out before Shadow's birth. There is a question why doesn't he feel the worship, but maybe he does?

The coin as I got it is the original/ideal coin, which can create its copies, it is a 'master coin' so to speak and as such has great power, including bringing back the dead.

Mr Town and others - I guessed protogods, like we, human, can worship many inanimate things...


message 12: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan Dash (ryandash) | 122 comments Thanks for the comments, Bryan! That clears up a few things.

Scott, I also missed Low Key/Loki, but I wasn't really on the lookout. IMO this is one of the weaknesses of the book - it's not clear which gods we should be looking for and there's little to distinguish how powerful they are: most of the old gods are described as tired and weak in a land that's "not good for gods". Not to mention some of them have left a negligible imprint on the American consciousness (and, according to Oleksandr, on the Slavic consciousness as well) so it's hard to keep them straight. I'm also unsatisfied with the nonexistent role of Christianity; it seems it should loom pretty large in the book, as the dominant American religion. There should at least be some explanation of why it's missing.

What was the deal with Shadow's meeting with Whiskey Jack when he was dead?

How did Shadow know he could find Odin in Iceland?

Odin is back in the land of the people who created him. The modern-day people there presumably still have stronger cultural ties, and maybe even belief, in him. It begs the question: why are the gods in America at all, which is constantly described as a bad place for gods, if they could be back in their native lands? It's never hinted at that they could have two physical forms at once, nor is it clear what role they play, if any, in their homelands.


message 13: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan Dash (ryandash) | 122 comments Has anyone read, or planning to read, the associated novellas? How are they?


message 14: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kateblue | 3542 comments Mod
I didn't even know there were associated novellas! Can you list them, Ryan? Thx!


Caitlin O'Neill (ktdid42) | 101 comments i had a tough time getting into this book in the beginning but I'm glad i stuck with it i really wound up liking it. there were a lot of gods i didn't know and i was a little disappointed there wasno Thor. i was worried it would be too similar to the show to not be spoiled but it was really different.


message 16: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3330 comments Mod
Ryan wrote: "Has anyone read, or planning to read, the associated novellas? How are they?"

I plan to read them but don't know when


message 17: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan Dash (ryandash) | 122 comments Kate, Goodreads makes it pretty easy to see the books in any series.
https://www.goodreads.com/series/1141...


message 18: by Bryan, Village Idiot (new) - added it

Bryan | 481 comments Mod
Ryan wrote: "Has anyone read, or planning to read, the associated novellas? How are they?"

I've had Anansi Boys in my library over 2 years now. I wanted to jump right into it, after American Gods, but figured I should read the challenge for this month first. Now I'm so close to October...I think I'll read it in November.


message 19: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kateblue | 3542 comments Mod
Thanks, Ryan, I know Goodreads shows series, I just didn't realize this was a series. However, I had heard that Anansi Boys was about the other, more American gods we met in this book. I just have never gotten around to reading it.

Thanks for the link


message 20: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (last edited Jan 22, 2020 09:57AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Art | 2540 comments Mod
I wonder how Gaiman came up with the idea of adding Cheznobog/Belebog to the story. Can't say that I'm in anyway an expert on Slavic mythology, so maybe people in the "know" get it.

I also think that overall Slavic mythology did not survive as well as other representatives which in some cases could even rival some religions.


message 21: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new) - rated it 5 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3330 comments Mod
Art wrote: "I wonder how Gaiman came up with the idea of adding Cheznobog/Belebog to the story.."

I'd say he went for diversity before it was the hype: we see gods from all over the world there. re: Chernobog/Belobog there no Belobog mentions in old chronicles, and only one (!) of Chernobog in XII century travelog. But there are several toponims based (supposedly) on Belobog's name. So the duality is XIX attempt of reconstruction based on sketchy data


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