Book Review/Writing Tips: American Gods, by @neilhimself

Hello, friends.

I’ve been away far too long, and I’ll explain in later posts. This one is focusing exclusively on one of my new favorite, highest-recommendation reads: American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

Sure, tons of people–yourself probably included–have heard of this, and I bet a good majority of you have read it. Odds are, you aren’t following me, some indie horror/sci-fi writer, without loving the genre. So why do I say this? Why am I going out of my way to recommend a book by a guy who’s written tons of best sellers?

The answer is simple, though it has two parts.

One: If you’re anything like me, you’re probably distrustful of such lists. Sure, they show who’s selling the most, but there are ways of inflating those numbers, not to mention the fact that it completely bypasses any low-selling book that might, in fact, be pure poetry to read.

Fortunately, American Gods is an absolute treasure. The character development all around is steady and subtle, and the twists never left me saying, “That was random,” rather, I could only smile and say, “Of course. How didn’t I see that coming?” It also has one of my favorite lines from any book, when describing (on page one) the main character, Shadow, being in prison: “He was no longer scared of what tomorrow would bring, because yesterday had already brought it.”

Which brings me to point two: If you, like me, love to write, I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot from this book. Whether blessing or curse, I don’t read anything without trying to gleam some tenet of information. Fiction, non-fiction, comic books, you name it. Everything has something to learn from (and if you don’t believe me about comic books, I’ll be following up soon… and Gaiman will be featured there as well).

There were a number of times I had to stop reading this book to digest what had happened. The pacing is smooth, the flow is logical, the settings well-described but never over done, and while most of my stops were to say, “That was intense,” some of them were to reflect on how he made them intense. There’s something to be said for a writer that can make your heart pound without making it feel like the book is running along at top speed.

American Gods was a casual stroll through the shifting American society that equally like a pleasant dream and a sucker punch. Despite being released almost 14 years ago to the day (forgive me by being off by a few weeks), it remains timely and timeless, projecting the human psyche onto god creation in a way that I have not seen before, and likely will not see again. The notion that mankind creates its gods through worship, whether hanging effigies to the All-Father or maxing out a credit card on the newest perfume, feels like a very dark, and very real, possibility.

Do yourself a favor and check it out, travelers, if you haven’t already. And if you have, give it a re-read. Who knows what gods of yesterday you might find lurking in today’s shadows?

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