Review of "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman

Are you looking for a book that provides you with a whole bunch of genres at once–sort of a 1990s Moby Dick, only with mythology, fantasy, theology, murder mystery, and a USA travelogue?  Here is an astonishing book that does all that and leaves you thinking about its questions for days after. 
I have read no other Gaiman books–not his Sandman series or his popular Neverwhere–but this one, with its incisive plotting and cosmic scope, makes me want to look deeper into his oeuvre. In addition to relating a good murder mystery and noir-esque good vs. evil story, Gaiman’s book makes also sorts of provocative statements about God, gods, religion, fiction, and the USA.  

Here are some of the more arresting quotations I encountered in this 624-page novel (random weirdness–this is the second novel I’ve reviewed in two weeks that extended to exactly 624 pages)–

On religion:

“People believe, thought Shadow. 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 ghost, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe; and it is that rock solid belief, that makes things happen.”  

“Tell him that we fucking reprogrammed reality. Tell him that language is a virus and that religion is an operating system and that prayers are just so much fucking spam.” 

On fiction:

“Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.” 

On American History:

“The important thing to understand about American history, wrote Mr. Ibis, in his leather-bound journal, is that it is fictional, a charcoal-sketched simplicity for the children, or the easily bored.” 

On Chicago:

“Chicago happened slowly, like a migraine.” 

On human biological impulses:

“That is the eternal folly of man. To be chasing after the sweet flesh, without realising that it is simply a pretty cover for the bones. Worm food. At night, you’re rubbing against worm food. No offense meant.”  

So if you’re looking for an entertaining cosmic tale set in 1990s USA (with much of the action convincingly set in northern Wisconsin), you must read this book.  It will entertain you, but it will also give you plenty to think about.

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