Saturday, July 1, 2017

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Rating: WARTY!

This was a bloated audiobook which I came to by way of the excellent TV show. I find it disheartening that authors like Gaiman (who is evidently channeling Stephen King here), so routinely get away with padding novels with extraneous material that's not even relevant to the plot, let alone moves it along. If this had been submitted, as is, by an unknown author it would have been slashed and burned by the editor or publisher, assuming they even deemed it publishable.

Gaiman needs to take a few editing hints from the writers of the TV show, because for me, this bloating is what ruined what could have been a fine novel. I made it about a third of the way through, and hit one section after another that was padded with material that seemed to come out of deep left field - which is saying something for a story that is entirely out of left field! - and I gave up on it. I'll stick with the TV version. It's better done.

For example, an entire half-hour drive to work listening to this audiobook (nineteen disks!) was ironically occupied in the novel by a drive which Shadow, the main character in the book, undertook simply to get from point A to point B. It did nothing to advance the story. Gaiman could have simply said "and he arrived somewhat worse for wear from the long drive, but he got there" or words to that effect and that would have been it, but instead, we got thirty minutes of prose and dialog occupied with his buying a crappy old car to make the trip, driving the car, sleeping in the car, taking a leak in the morning (yes, Gaiman described this!), having this random woman show up to beg a ride from him, driving the car, stopping for a meal, driving the car, and then dropping her off at her destination. What exactly, was the point? Just so's he could hook up with her at the end of the story?

The next disk after that became bogged down with the minutiae of running a funeral home. I pretty much skimmed every track on that disk, and quickly decided that this novel, which had started out so well, was not for me. None of this padding was necessary, giving how fat the book was. Frankly, I was annoyed and resentful that a writer felt he could so casually waste my time like this. This is why I don't typically like to take on long novels because they're almost inevitably larded with this kind of thing, and it's boring and irritating to me.

The story in outline is that the old gods - those which are familiar to anyone who knows anything about mythology or comparative religion (although some reviewers seemed sadly ignorant of the mythology which begs the question as to why they even started reading this book in the first place!) are at war with the new ones.

Gods such as such as Odin, Kali, and so on, are being forced out in a take-over by the new gods of television, videogames, technology and so forth. Odin resents this and decides to embark upon a fruitless war against them. He endeavors to recruit the other old gods to help him. This means we meet a lot of characters (if there is one thing humanity truly excels at, it's inventing gods). I notice that in his recruitment of gods obscure and common, Gaiman carefully avoids names like Yahweh, Allah, and Brahma so as not to piss off any fanatics. Other than that, he has no rules and no boundaries.

Some of the story was good, well-written, sacrilegious, and fascinating, but it was nowhere near good enough, well-written enough, or fascinating enough to make up for the dreck. I cannot recommend this. Go watch the TV show instead. be warned that both novel and TV show are explicit and violent.