Saturday, December 15, 2007

American Gods

Author: Neil Gaiman
Published: 2001

Excellent novel. The conceit of gods being brought to America by the immigrants from around the world is done perfectly. I continue to be amazed by how well this English bloke portrays American characters and the landscape and culture of the U.S.

I must address an issue as it was raised in the other blog and for better or worse stuck in my mind as I read American Gods. Is this a better book than Anansi Boys? I'm going to punt and say it is a different book.

In my humble opinion (I don't claim to be very good at analyzing or even reviewing books) Anansi Boys was a much lighter tale. Intended or not by the author, it seemed to have a lot more humor and, despite the dangerous situation one of the boys finds himself in near the end, I never felt like any of the characters faced serious threats at any time.

In American Gods, however, the entire enterprise seemed very grave. There was a point maybe mid-way through the novel when I thought not only may all of these 'good guys' wind up dead, they may even lose! The tension is maintained from beginning to end.

Hard for me to say, therefore, that one was better than the other since I enjoyed reading both of them but for different reasons.

I will risk wading into analytical waters. I think from a technical perspective, Anansi Boys is better written. This shouldn't be too controversial, the novel is four years removed from American Gods after all.

The earlier book seemed to have a lot of passive sentences in the early going. There were also a lot of actions by characters that seemed to just take up space rather than move the story along or better defining the characters. At one point I wondered how many more times Odin was going to excuse himself to use the bathroom. Maybe I'm missing something in those moments but I found myself thinking "Okay, let's move along now."

But these are minor points. American Gods is an excellent read.

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