I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I really liked the plot and the characters, but on the other, the book was just too dense. I think I’ll settle for a three star rating, but I may change it.
The main storyline was amazing and engrossing. We follow Shadow, an ex-convict as he is freed from prison and becomes employed by this guy who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. Gods exist, brought to America by all the beliefs and hopes of the people who came here, and they are fading. New gods are coming into being, gods of technology and progress, and Wednesday is set on stopping them. With Shadow in tow, the pair travel around the country recruiting and persuading gods to stand and fight. But not everything is as it seems. For even gods can die, if people forget, and it’s everyone out for themselves with Shadow caught in their midst.
The tenth-anniversary edition, which I read, is very long. In fact, it’s a good twelve thousand words more than the previous edition. This is Gaiman’s original, untrimmed text, as well as his “preferred text”. And really, I can’t see why, because I think that in this case, less is more. There are passages that doesn’t contribute to the storyline, or they are stretched out for too long. Gaiman is a phenomenal writer, but I don’t want to read about the minute details of a person three hundred years ago who brought a god to America. If the point of the passage is to show us how the gods came here, it’s entirely possible to do it in less words, and then carry on with the plot at large. It was kind of like slowing down for a speed bump in the middle of the highway: frustrating because the speed bump is totally unnecessary, and because it interrupted your flow. I would’ve enjoyed this book a lot more if the “speed bumps” were removed entirely.
However, the characters were a highlight. As Shadow and Wednesday travel around, they meet lots of interesting people in interesting places. From Mr.Ibis and Jacquel of the funeral home, Easter in San Fransico, or the mysterious person in a Las Vegas Casino, they all have their distinct personalities and lifestyles. It’s also fun to match the gods to the characters, as the gods are all based off of myths we know today. Shadow, with his reticent and unfazed nature, along with Wednesday, the devious orchestrator, are among my favorites. The characters, both humans and gods, are what makes this book breathe.
So to sum it up, I would not recommend reading the tenth-anneversary edition, author’s preferences be damned. It’s too verbose and dense, with too many words than actually needed. Apart from that, this was quite a thriller to read, and I’ll be looking into more of Gaiman’s works from now on!