3 stars on Goodreads, 2.5 in my mind.
There was something about this book that left me deeply unsatisfied. I can’t quite put my finger on it. It makes me sad because I thoroughly enjoyed Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book, but American Gods had me lukewarm for the most part.
The writing is amazing, and the concept is, in my opinion, brilliant, but the pacing drags more often than not and the majority of the action is packed into the last three chapters of the book. The rest is Wednesday running around trying (and often failing) to recruit other gods while conning people and luring young women into bed with him every chance he gets. Not really my cup of tea, as far as characters go.
I also had hang ups with Shadow. He’s the main character, but he is dragged around so much by Wednesday that his agency becomes paper thin, and it’s hard to connect with his motives when so many of them are purely reactionary. Laura easily steals the show from him whenever she appears in the book. Shadow’s character arc gets pretty overshadowed (hah, pun…) throughout the book, and I wish he’d come into his own sooner.
Perhaps, if I’d read the book with the understanding that Shadows is more of a lens to view the action of everyone around him than he is the driving character, I would have enjoyed it more. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until about 75% of the way through. By that point, I’d become a bit numb to the rest of the plot, so when things started actually happening, I was never really… surprised. There are a few twists that come to light, and while I hadn’t guessed any of them beforehand, instead of gasping and saying, “WHOA, really?” every time I read one, my reactions were more along the lines of, “Oh… okay.”
There’s a lot that goes on that never seems to get resolved, and maybe that’s my main issue (outside of wanting Shadow to just DO something). One example is what happens with Bilquis. I won’t say more since that is a spoiler, but it’s such a minor plot point that there just doesn’t seem to be a reason for it.
As a final word here, it was weird seeing all of the gods have negative incarnations in America. There’s a deeply cynical approach to it that culminates in the manifestations of the modern American gods, and I can’t help but wonder if the rest of the world really doesn’t have an incarnation of Technology and Media and the like while the non-American incarnations of the old gods are fairing just fine. Britain, at least, has a modern god of new cars. Top Gear alone would have ensured that.