William Morrow / 784 pages / 10 Anv. edition 16 August 16 2016
Where do they go, the monsters of our childhood? After we conjured these boogeymen and solid shadows and beasties under the bed, did we really think they would fade away with our childish fears? Did we expect them to go quietly when we didn’t need them anymore? Come to think of it, whoever said we had grown up?
Shadow, betrayed and abandoned by his own personal god, is the perfect liaison in the showdown that is coming. As the gods of our present and future prepare to battle the ancient ones, an empty shell like Shadow may well be the safest thing to be. If, that is, there is any place on Earth that is safe. Some of the places in which our hollow hero is about to find himself don’t even appear on any of our maps. On every step along the journey he will suffer for our perceived sins.
Dark though the subject matter may be, American Gods is easily Gaiman’s most amusing and entertaining work since Good Omens, his brilliant collaboration with Terry Pratchett. Interestingly, there are some plot points in common between the two novels — here is clearly a theme that Gaiman tackles with glee and aplomb. If his name is not a household word yet, this book could well be the one that lands him that status.
American Gods has “Hollywood” written all over it. In the best sense possible.
The scope of this novel is reminiscent of King’s The Stand, without the gratuitous 100,000 words here and there. Gaiman’s command of language allows him to flesh out a character, build a setting, establish a mood, with a few dazzling, concise brush strokes. His artistry is such that, throughout the book there are phrases and passages that arrest the reader; words that deserve to be pulled out as a quote, an example of how we all wish we wrote. Or, how we wish all fiction could be written.
In a genre where cutting-edge has come to mean more graphic, more shocking, more disturbing, Gaiman represents the finest of another force in dark fantasy. While he does not flinch from violence and gore, neither does he depend upon it to carry his work. Many have said that Gaiman is the new face of horror fiction — who could ask for a better poster-child?
American Gods is a dark, mesmerising adventure into the innermost reaches of the human heart and mind. The characters we meet along the way are distinctive and unforgettable, aspects of our own fears, desires, and weaknesses. What are they, really? Gods? Figments of our imagination? The only one who can decide that is you. Read Gaiman at his best and come to your own conclusions.
When the time comes for awards for 2001, expect to see this novel on every short list, if not in the winner’s slot itself. Hard as it may be to believe, Gaiman has managed to top himself with a story that merits the label of classic.