Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

Reviewed by:

Whenever humans travelled to North America, be it via the ice of the Bering straight, the longships of Norse explorers, or slave ships ferrying enslaved Africans to misery on the plantations, they took their gods with them. When Shadow is released from prison and travels home to attend the funeral of his wife, he meets a mysterious and enigmatic man who calls himself Mr Wednesday and who offers Shadow a job as his bodyguard. In the service of Mr Wednesday, Shadow finds himself drawn into the world of those myths, legends and gods from bygone eras.

I was waiting for the American Gods-audiobook read by the author himself to become available on my favourite app, but when I saw they uploaded a full-cast version instead, I couldn’t hold back – if you like to listen to your books, I can whole-heartedly recommend it.

As I already wrote in my Update, American Gods has got to be the best thing by Gaiman I’ve read so far. Gaiman has a somewhat fairy tale-esque, at times silly style that sets him apart from all of the other great fantasy authors of our time, but that style isn’t always my cup of tea. American Gods is still very much Gaiman, but is a bit darker than his other works, and suddenly it fits my preferences much more.

Moreover, the book has a wonderful premise (’what happens to the gods of all the immigrants to the Americas?’), that Gaiman, rather than leaning on it heavily, expertly sprinkles over what is essentially a story about a mourning human character in this world. Gaiman keeps the mystery of the Gods alive throughout the book by closely guarding his secrets, never feeling the need to clarify anything, and by weaving in little vignettes throughout the story that make you wish for more.

I think it shows how great an author Gaiman is that basically nothing in this book is ever explained to the reader, but nothing ever feels out of place or deus ex machina. Shadow’s somewhat nihilistic outlook goads the reader into accepting whatever comes at him, however impossible, and rolling with it. The result is a book that is featherlight on worldbuilding or ‘rules’ but rock solid in atmosphere and character, with a very satisfying conclusion and – in the 10th anniversary edition – some lovely little epilogues.

American Gods was recommended to me by pretty much anyone who ever read it, and now I am finally ready to join the ranks of those missionaries. Oh, and I can finally watch the Amazon adaptation!

Share this post: