A Bit Like the Hero’s Journey Through Wonderland
I took last week off from posting because I found myself deeply entrenched in the 10th anniversary edition of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I have been meaning to read this book for quite awhile [my husband has been patiently, and then not so patiently, waiting for me to read it as well]. Finally I found myself with enough time to be able to properly devote myself to the book, below I’ll walk you through my review. Be aware the version I read of American Gods is the 10th anniversary edition, also known as the Author’s Preferred Text, and has been identified as about 12,000 words longer than the original book published in 2001. If you have read the original published version there may be differences between your reading and mine and I’d love to know what you think and discuss.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman, HarperCollins (541pp), ISBN 978-0-06-208023-3, Buy it on Amazon ($14.31)
“‘The tale is the map which is the territory. You must remember this.’ From the Notebooks of Mr. Ibis”.
In this tale we follow Shadow on his Hero’s Journey, and the story both challenges and inspires belief in the reader – asking that you not only suspend disbelief for the journey, but that perhaps you start to believe in it as well. While there are times where we wander away from Shadow’s path to see the journey’s of others we are reminded that these journeys are just as tied to Shadow’s own, and at the end of the tale Mr. Gaiman makes it all come together beautifully.
Neil Gaiman shows us a con artist’s repertoire, delights us with coin tricks, and befuddles us with riddles that we don’t realize we already know the answer to until after the answer is given, and all the while we are able to be enchanted the way a small child is when a rabbit is pulled from a magician’s hat. The moment you truly suspend disbelief is as magical as Alice falling into Wonderland, and once you allow yourself to believe when you return to the regular everyday a little bit of that wonder comes with you.
Certainly there are tropes throughout the story, and mysteries that are easily figured out, but in a way being able to figure it all out felt a little bit like being in on the secret from the beginning, and having that confirmed time and time again was less a let down and more a positive delight. After an initial read through this is one tale that will still surprise the reader with new details each time through.
If you’re looking for a more traditional story of good versus evil be aware that this isn’t that story – but if instead you’d like a complex antagonist you can’t believe you’re actually rooting for as well as a gray area hero to champion then this should check those boxes easily. There are no black and white views in the world of man, and neither do these views exist in the world of Gods.