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635 pages, Paperback
First published June 19, 2001
The Written Review:
No denying that this one is a big boi. A long boi. Extra extra page boi.
But was it worth all that paper?
Click the link for my video review of the big bois in my life.
Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end.The Old Gods - brought over by immigrants. Wild, fantastical tales of elephant-headed men and trickster spiders. Of power and lust. Of fear and worship.
"The TV's the altar. I'm what people are sacrificing to."And of course, because it's Neil Gaiman...there's a bunch of weird sex thrown in...because reasons.
"What do they sacrifice?" asked Shadow.
What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.or this:
The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies.Sometimes, I really want to know what goes through this man's head...and then again...maybe not.
"Religions are, by definition, metaphors, after all: God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you--even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers, and triumphs over all opposition."
‘This is the only country in the world,’ said Wednesday, into the stillness, ‘that worries about what it is….The rest of them know what they are. No one ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique. They know what they are.’
There's never been a true war that wasn't fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.
God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of the players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.
“What I'm trying to say is that America is like that. It's not good growing country for gods. They don't grow well here. They're like avocados trying to grow in wild rice country.”What strikes me now is that I completely forgot how strangely detached Gaiman’s narration is in this book. It adds a subtle layer of unreality - like it’s almost a strange dream where you start to realize you’re dreaming and decide to just roll with the punches because you can’t wake up. Shadow — our eyes into this world — is so strangely even-keeled and unperturbed by anything around him; it’s like he is trudging through a fog. It’s like he’s not wholly there, like he’s detached from this world, like he is like his name — just a shadow. And that’s of course deliberate:
“You're not dead," she said. "But I'm not sure that you're alive, either. Not really […] It's like there isn't anyone there. You know? You're like this big, solid, man-shaped hole in the world.”And it’s in the end, in the last quarter, when this detachment finally cracks — and the book springs to life.
“You know,” he said, “I think I would rather be a man than a god. We don't need anyone to believe in us. We just keep going anyhow. It's what we do.”
¹ Well, except Native Americans, of course.
"It's a god-eat-god world." This quote by Sir Terry Pratchett, another amazing British writer, perfectly summarizes the surface plot of the intimidating bulk of American Gods.
"It's what people do. They believe, and then they do not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjuration. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe; and it is that rock solid belief, that makes things happen. "
"Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end."
"There was a girl, and her uncle sold her. Put like that it seems so simple."And to top it all off, we are treated to the portrait of a seemingly idyllic, very Stephen King-esque small American town of Lakeside, hiding its own dark deep secret. Lakeside, the quintessential American small town, the stuff of legends, as one may say. Terrifying legends, indeed.
"What should I believe? thought Shadow, and the voice came back to him from somewhere deep beneath the world, in a bass rumble: Believe everything."The imagery that Gaiman creates is stunning. He paints a vivid picture with confident brush strokes, creating an unforgettable literary landscape. And he takes a gamble with the storyline and the plotting as well. Do not look for exciting battles and confrontations, for non-stop action or fast-moving plot. This is the book unfolding slowly and finding its depth in the side stories and interludes that are there not to move the plot forward in the traditional sense but to give an extra glimpse, an extra dimension to the unfolding epic picture.
"What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul."
"If you are to survive, you must believe."
"Believe what?" asked Shadow. "What should I believe?"
He stared at Shadow, the buffalo man, and he drew himself up huge, and his eyes filled with fire. He opened his spit-flecked buffalo mouth and it was red inside with the flames that burned inside him, under the earth.
"Everything," roared the buffalo man!
When the people came to America they brought us with
them. They brought me and Loki and Thor, Anansi and the Lion-God, Leprechauns and Cluracans and Banshees, Kubera and Frau Holle and Ashtaroth, and they brought you.
We rode here in their minds, and we took root. We traveled
with the settlers to the new lands across the ocean.
"The land is vast. Soon enough, our people abandoned us, remembered us only as creatures of the old land, as things that had not come with them to the new. Our true believers passed on, or stopped believing, and we were left, lost and scared and dispossessed, to get by on what little smidgens of worship or belief we could find...