First, a confession. I confess that I am shamelessly in love with Neil Gaiman. If you are worried that this will sully my unbiased review of this book, worry not. In fact, this was my second read through of American Gods and, truth be told, I wasn't all that in love with it the first time I read it. Maybe it was where I was at in my life, or the current reading mood I had, but despite my love for Gaiman this book and I just didn't click. So, when I was offered the Author's Preferred Text version for review, I was eager to give it another chance. Oh, I am so glad I did. So, so very glad. This book is an experience. Brutal at times, beautiful at others, and full of things that will have you questioning reality. In other words, it's Gaiman. At his finest. I don't know why I ever thought otherwise.
Shadow's journey is a strange, and fascinating one. Whether you're familiar with the Norse Gods or not, Shadow will always be there to stumble right along with you. Here's the thing though, Shadow is infinitely more steady than I expected him to be. He's a character who, despite having done things in the past that he regrets, still believes in the inherent good in people. He walks around partially blinded to the world that he's found himself wrapped up in, and yet he never seems inept. I loved Shadow. Every single messy part of him. The book is long, this is true, but with Shadow as my guide I didn't mind one bit.
Then there are the Gods themselves that slither, flap and saunter through this book as if they own every page. Gaiman's broken world pits the Gods of old against the Gods of new. Odin and Bast against the manifested Gods of technology and progress. It's an intriguing premise. If a God is birthed and sustained through worship, why wouldn't we have birthed new ones that relate to cell phones, internet and music? Simply fascinating. What's more interesting than that though, is all of the underlying lore that is penned into these pages. Stories of Thunderbirds, coins that bring back the dead, and areas that shouldn't exist but do. It's so easy to lose your footing in reality and go crashing, right along with Shadow, into this world.
In an effort not to endlessly ramble on, let me assure you that this book easily made my favorites shelf this time around. As I mentioned, this is the Author's Preferred Text version, and actually contains quite a bit of content that was originally cut out. I think it's perfect. The story, the extras, the whole package is perfect. Pick this up! You won't believe how easily you can get lost in Gaiman's world. American Gods is well worth your time.