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Book Club > "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman - general discussion

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 30, 2011 01:38PM) (new)

We'll be reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman from July 1st through the end of August.

This thread can be used to give book reviews as well as for a general discussion of the book. Please feel free to start a new discussion in the book club folder if you'd like to focus on specific aspects of or ideas from the book.

message 2: by Cora (new)

Cora Judd (corajudd) | 163 comments Have audio-ed this via It's a wonderful audio production.

message 3: by Betsy (last edited Jul 02, 2011 04:47PM) (new)

Betsy I may not be able to read this book. Based on it's selection by this group, it's 5-star rating by one of my favorite authors, and some of the reviews I read, it looks interesting, if not pleasant. However, based on the awards and some of the genres listed on the book page, it appears to be horror. I really do not like horror.

So, I think I'm going to wait a little while and see what some of you in this group think of it. As you read it, I'd appreciate any comments you might have as to whether this qualifies as horror. Thanks.

message 4: by Cora (new)

Cora Judd (corajudd) | 163 comments Betsy - not in a Stephen King kind of way. More of a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. As an Atheist, this story of modern and ancient gods converging for a sinister/desperate project was a special delight.

message 5: by Melki (new)

Melki | 211 comments Don't know if it's just a case of the right book at the right time, but so far (pg. 53) I am lovin' this book!

message 6: by Melki (new)

Melki | 211 comments If you'd like to see photos of The House on the Rock:

Has anyone ever been there? Looks like my kind of tourist attraction!

message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian (ouisl) | 28 comments That's definitely the kind of house I'm going to get after making my fortune in televangelism.

message 8: by Ian (last edited Jul 05, 2011 02:25PM) (new)

Ian (ouisl) | 28 comments I'm enjoying the book too, I'm almost half way through. So far I wouldn't say it qualifies as a horror. Especially compared to smut like the bible. Then again, maybe I'm not the one to ask since it comforts me to fall asleep to movies like The Shining or listening to death metal.

message 9: by Betsy (new)

Betsy Shudder!

message 10: by Melki (new)

Melki | 211 comments Betsy, hope you don't mind but I did a book comparison and saw that you've read the Harry Potter series. I'd say this is no "scarier" than anything in Rowling's imagination. Half way through, I would describe the book as "humorous adventure," though perhaps "misadventure" would be more appropriate. My library put a "fantasy" sticker on the spine, if that helps.

message 11: by Betsy (new)

Betsy Thanks, Melki. No, I don't mind at all. I'll give it a shot.

message 12: by Melki (new)

Melki | 211 comments I'm enjoying the travels to various landmarks and tourist destinations:

You can tell I don't get out much.

message 13: by Melki (new)

Melki | 211 comments Oooo - you can get a "See Rock City" birdhouse AND a garden gnome for only $59.99! I am SO tempted right now...

message 14: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (pezski) | 121 comments Melki wrote: "If you'd like to see photos of The House on the Rock:

Has anyone ever been there? Looks like my kind of tourist attraction!"

by Odin's glass eye, that's even kitchier than i imagined!

review. may contain spoilers and traces of nut.

Just finished American Gods audiobook, thanks to a five hour bike ride yesterday. I definitely wouldn't describe it as a horror; while like much fatasy there are horror elements, they are rather minor.

This is my second read, and I do think it is a wonderful book, quite possibly a great book. The flawed, all too human gods are fascinating, but what really makes the novel for me is the truly fantastical wonder that suffuses the book, along with Gaiman's unparalleled understanding of myth - of the true importance of the mythic and of how myth works. I recently read his collection Smoke and Mirrors, and this is something that is evident in all his work. Perhaps only Charles de Lint equals Gaiman in this respect.

It's a particularly interesting book from an atheist perspective. While it is quite clear that all the gods are constructs of the human imagination, Gaiman also seems to be saying that humanity has a deep seated need to worship gods and holy places, be they Thoth or the motor car, Stonehenge or the House on the Rock. I like the sole reference to Christianity; Shadow is told "Jesus does fine here, but I've seen the guy trying to hitch a ride in Palestine and being ignored".

I think an important theme is also the con being run by Odin and Loki, the implication being that religion is the big con. I did wonder whether that was something I was reading into the story more strongly than the author intended, but I had forgotten about the epilogue. When Shadow returns to Lakeside with his realisation of what happened to the missing children and that Hinzelman is an ancient god, resident in the town and protecting it from the ravages of the world, at the cost of sacrificing a child every winter. To me, this says that any value gained from religion is a false paradise, the costs of which are far too high.

Of course, religion is not the only theme of the book. It can be argued that the central theme is that of the immigrant experience, of the drawing together of people of diverse cultures into the American melting pot, and that there is no such thing as a single vision of what it means to be American. "Kansas and Minnesota aren't part of the same country, no more than San Francisco and New Orleans" says Wednesday at one point.

On the structure of the book, i know that some people have found the travelogue nature of much of the novel has made it feel somewhat fragmentary. I confess that I had remembered Shadow's living in Lakeside occurring much earlier than it did. However, this is a quest story, and this sets Shadow's journey firmly in the area of myth itself. The structure of the book follows the pattern of quest and monomyth - complete with the journey through the underworld.

I look forward to reading other people's views. Hope you all enjoy as much as i did.

message 15: by Melki (last edited Jul 16, 2011 12:20PM) (new)

Melki | 211 comments If I went on a five hour bike ride, I would be delirious enough to be seeing gods... I really loved that there are all these "imaginary", mythical beings, puttering around the US in various POS vehicles, visiting very real landmarks - Mt. Rushmore, and tourist attractions - see comments 6 and 12.
Never knowing if anyone was exactly who they appeared to be was also fun.

From an atheist perspective, you gotta love it when a god admits - "We feed on belief, on prayers, on love."
If only their followers could be as circumspect.

message 16: by Betsy (new)

Betsy I'm sorry, I'm having trouble getting into it. And when I realized it was nearly 700 pages, I'm really discouraged.

message 17: by Cora (new)

Cora Judd (corajudd) | 163 comments Great review, Paul -- I wish I'd read it before I took on American Gods. :) I thoroughly enjoyed the book but was so slow on picking up on the grander plot that I had to re-audio it. Now you're making me think I've still missed much of the good stuff.

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

I've had my eye on this book since learning it's going to be a tv series, but I can't decide if I want to read it. Iwas pretty bored by Neverwhere so I'm not anxious to jump at another Gaiman.

message 19: by Naomi V (new)

Naomi V (naomi_v) | 98 comments Paul 'Pezter' wrote: review. may contain spoilers and traces of nut..."

great review, Paul. i finished this last week and really enjoyed it -- as much as i liked Neverwhere.

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Sorry I'm late to the party! I (finally) got a copy last week and have started reading. Right off the bat I'm finding it hard to put down. Good choice!

message 21: by Carl (new)

Carl | 8 comments I thought was a good fantasy, horror and a great imagination on how the imaginary gods have come and gone through out history.

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

It’s Official: AMERICAN GODS to run 6 seasons on HBO

message 23: by Ian (new)

Ian (ouisl) | 28 comments I didn't think while reading it 'this would make a great TV series,' but I'm interested to check it out! On a side note, I went to see Neverwhere as a play last weekend.

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