Friday, June 28, 2013

If you can fake sincerity, you've got it made

I've wanted to read some Neil Gaiman for awhile. He seems like the type of author I would like. I was warned against American Gods as a starting point, but this was the book that was on sale one day, so this is what I went with. It's too bad I can't pass up a sale.

The basic plot, as best I understand it, is the old gods of mythology live all over America but their power is based on their believers. There aren't many contemporary Americans that believe in ancient Egyptian gods. Most people worship the new gods of technology and media. Shadow, an ex-con, becomes a bodyguard for a man named Mr. Wednesday. He's lost everything so why not be the bodyguard for some stranger he met him a bar. Oh and the stranger seems to know more about Shadow than he lets on.

Shadow and Mr. Wednesday travel around America meeting with the old gods to convince them to battle the new gods. Gods that I mostly didn't recognize. I am apparently not up on my old-time gods. There are also a number of side stories, explaining how some of these gods made their way over to America, showing how things are for them now. I liked these subplots more than the main story.

I felt like the main story was trying to make very deep and important points, and I just wasn't following them. I found myself having trouble focusing, or not really caring if I picked up the book again or not. I liked the main character, and when I think about the idea of the plot, I like it very much. But in actual execution I was bored. Bored and lost. I kept feeling like there was something else there that I wasn't getting. But I also didn't feel like I cared so much that I was missing it.

I think I would have enjoyed the book more if it had been a series of short stories. Maybe about the gods coming to America, about their powers waning as people move away from them, about their attempts to grow in importance. Because while I liked moments here and there overall I was on it.

The moments and a few quotes are the reason I'll give some more Gaiman a try but this one was a miss for me. Alice, you were right and I'm sorry I didn't listen to you.

To end this on a positive note, here are some of the quotes I liked
"It's almost hard to believe that this is in the same country as Lakeside," [Shadow] said.
Wednesday glared at him. Then he said, "It's not. San Francisco isn't in the same country as Lakeside any more than New Orleans is in the same country as New York or Miami is in the same country as Minneapolis."
"Is that so?" said Shadow, mildly.
"Indeed it is. They may share certain cultural signifiers - money, a federal government, entertainment; it's the same land, obviously - but the only things that give it the illusion of being one country are the green-back, The Tonight Show, and Mcdonald's."
"Have you thought about what it means to be a god?" asked the man. He had a beard and a baseball cap. "It means you give up your mortal existence to become a meme: something that lives forever in people's minds, like the tune of a nursery rhyme. It means that everyone gets to re-create you in their own minds. You barely have your own identity any more. Instead, you're a thousand aspects of what people need you to be. And everyone wants something different from you. Nothing is fixed, nothing is stable."
Next time I decide to give Gaiman a try, what should I go for? Or what should I avoid?

Title quote from location 4749

Gaiman, Neil. American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition. William Morrow, 2011. Originally published 2001. Kindle edition