Monday, October 7, 2013

Review: American Gods - Neil Gaiman

American Gods
Neil Gaiman
Series: N/A
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Adult, Science Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: ErmygerdNeilGaiman
On Goodreads

When I was consulting a friend about this, I proposed it wouldn't even take five minutes to sell this book to almost anyone who has read anything ever. So this will be short, centering on Neil Gaiman's command of language, winding, almost architecturally sexy plot structure, and, let's not forget, his cast of incredible characters.

The most difficult to display is his plot structure. American Gods is not one story. It's not about our too-calm, too-passive, and often-silent protagonist, Shadow. This story is like the depiction of the World Tree on the cover (of my version), but in reverse: a plethora of branches funneling into one large trunk. There is the divine Hunger Games running through as one branch; a dead wife and a live ghost with a secret; a mad road trip; ostensibly irrelevant and cast aside gods who've become whores and prisoners; a game played by two cunning gods with Shadow struck in the middle with a classic outcome that represents no classical ideas; the Men in Black, the Media, and all the rest that present themselves as antagonistic and yet aren't at all. I urge you to read this novel more than once. It is difficult to fully grasp the underlying themes, factors, and analyses all at once. Shadow experiences everything so passively, as if they weren't happening to him, that the reader experiences the novel as such (though we are given intimate knowledge of Shadow's thoughts). Until the big moments, when Shadow realizes his dynamic and chooses to act, chooses to change, and the novel begins to explode all in your face and you are rendered into a ball of fangirling mess:

Le plot.
And you.
This might not accurately describe anything at all but this is what most people I know have felt and therefore it is so obviously right. Heh . . .

This novel is enormous and tiny all at once, soaring and plummeting, suspenseful and slow and yet incredibly fast flowing. Growing and shrinking in on itself, this novel is a journey where you don't move an inch and yet you travel hundreds of miles. Gaiman's command of language in this novel lies not just in his stunning description around a constantly arresting narrative – as if lines like "the house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies" weren't enough! – it lies in his deliverance and juxtaposition of ideas:
I can believe that things are true and I can believe things that aren't true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they're true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny . . . I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in American is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theatres from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternate . . . I believe that mankind's destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it's aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there's a cat in a box somewhere who's alive and dead at the same time . . . I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn't even know that I'm alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.
To exemplify my love of the characters:
The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes."Say 'Nevermore,'" said Shadow."Fuck you," said the raven.”
Our cast of characters is vast and filled to the brim with character: The Technical Boy, who is most relavent to us now . . . is the god of computers and progress and the prevail of new gods over old gods. In a nonconformist vs. conformist society like ours, The Technical boy takes on the antithetical role to Mr. Wednesday (Odin); however, the characters are not just their representations in society but what they embody. The novel's weird, often three-layered, and dynamic (Odin, though, is tirelessly stubborn, though, and Gaiman establishes a nice balance between static and dynamic characters). As many of the characters are created and upheld by people's belief in them, most are exaggerated forms of human desires and consciousness, and pitting these against each other is like playing Twister with my brain, or this:

So yeah, if you're still reading this and not American Gods, I have nothing else to say to you because these aren't Neil Gaiman's words and therefore are not worthy of being read at the current moment, seriously why are you even still here?
- Marlon

How much are your cultural beliefs a part of your identity?
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