Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

American Gods USA cover American Gods (2001)
A dark fantasy journey across America

2002 Hugo Award Winner
2002 Nebula Award Winner

William Morrow USA hardcover (left)
Jacket photograph illustration by Kamil Vojnar
461 pages

Headline UK paperback (right)
632 pages
American Gods UK cover

From the inside cover of the book:
       The storm was coming...
       Shadow spent three years in prison, keeping his head down, doing his time. All he wanted was to get back to the loving arms of his wife and to stay out of trouble for the rest of his life.  But days before his scheduled release, he learns that his wife has been killed in an accident, and his world becomes a colder place.
       On the plane ride home to the funeral, Shadow meets a grizzled man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A self styled grifter and rogue, Wednesday offers Shadow a job. And Shadow, a man with nothing to lose, accepts.
       Bur working for the enigmatic Wednesday is not without its price, and Shadow soon learns that his role in Wednesday's schemes will be far more dangerous than he ever could have imagined. Entangled in a world of secrets, he embarks on a wild road trip and encounters, among others, the murderous Czernobog, the impish Mr. Nancy, and the beautiful Easter -- all of whom seem to know more about Shadow than he himself does.
       Shadow will learns that the past does not die, that everyone, including his late wife, had secrets, and that the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined.
       All around them a storm of epic proportions threatens to break. Soon Shadow and Wednesday will be swept up into a conflict as old as humanity itself.  For beneath the placid surface of everyday life a war is being fought -- and the prize is the very soul of America.

Read for group discussion on June 12, 2002

How we each rated this book

Dan 10 Amy 7.5 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 9 Barb 10
Aaron 8 Cynthia -
Jackie 7.5 Ron 9

Aaron's Commentary Neil Gaiman - American Gods

      This story of clashing American gods is a perfect vehicle for Gaiman's delightful writing style. No matter how many unreal elements he includes, Gaiman always manages for the story as a whole to maintain a believable feel. One doesn't expect to meet a giant talking crow while wandering through the woods, but if you ever did, and if on a lark you asked it to say "Nevermore," I am certain that it would in fact respond, "Fuck you."

       Shadow is an interesting and sympathetic main character, even though he is very much in the mold of somber protagonists Gaiman seems to favor. The other mortal characters are also done well, combining for a nice portrait of Middle America. I particularly liked Sam Black Crow, and was quite disappointed that she never played as important a role in the story as Gaiman hinted she might.

       The old gods are a wonderful metaphor for the American melting pot. Mostly, though, they're just a lot of fun to read about. They may be down on their luck, but they never lack for wit. Just getting to meet them was worth the price of admission.

       I can't say, however, that I ever felt terribly involved in the struggle between the old gods and the new. It never felt important to me how it all might play out. And I was disappointed that we didn't see more of the new gods. I would have liked to learn more about them. In particular, I have a hard time understanding Gaiman's choice to avoid any explicit explanation for how the Judeo-Christian God fits in with the other American gods.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Our book group has also selected the following books by Neil Gaiman:
-- Good Omens (written with Terry Pratchett)  in May 1996
Neverwhere  in March 1999
-- Stardust  in February 2000
-- Coraline  in January 2004
-- Anansi Boys  in January 2007
-- Fragile Things  in March 2008

Neil Gaiman (1960-    ) is a writer of graphic novels, fantasy comic books, and fiction. Originally from England, Gaiman now lives in the United States.

1991 World Fantasy Award for Short Story (with Charles Vess) for "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
1999 Mythopoeic Award for Best Adult Novel for Stardust
2000 Bram Stoker Award for graphic novel The Sandman: The Dream Hunters
2002 Hugo Award for Best Novel American Gods
2002 Bram Stoker Award for novel American Gods
2003 Nebula Award for Best Novel American Gods
2003 Hugo Award for Best Novella "Coraline"
2003 Bram Stoker Award for work for younger readers "Coraline"
2004 Nebula Award for Best Novella "Coraline"
2004 Hugo Award for short story "A Study in Emerald"

Neil Gaiman has written the novels Neverwhere (1997), Stardust (1998), American Gods (2001), and Anansi Boys (2005).  Stardust was published in comic form with pictures by Charles Vess.

He wrote with author Terry Pratchett Good Omens, The Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnes Nutter (1990), a fantasy novel about the end of the world.

Coraline (2002) is a young adult short novel illustrated by Dave McKean.  InterWorld (with Michael Reaves, 2007) is a young adult novel featuring travel between dimensions.  The Graveyard Book (2008) is a young adult fantasy novel.

For children (reading level ages 4-8) he's written The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish (1998) and The Wolves in the Walls (2003).  Both are illustrated by Dave McKean.

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions (1998), and Angels and Visitations: A Miscellany (1993) and Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders (2006) are collections.  M is for Magic (2007) is a YA collection.

Gaiman's first graphic novel was Violent Cases: Words and Pictures (illustrated by Dave McKean, 1987). For DC comics in the US he wrote Black Orchid (#1,-#3, 1989).

Gaiman's gained success with the acclaimed Sandman series of dark fantasy graphic novels. Characters include Death, the dark maiden, and Dream. "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (#19, drawn by Charles Vess, 1990) won a World Fantasy Award for best short story.

Sandman graphic novels:
1 - Preludes and Nocturnes (1990)
2 - The Doll's House (1990)
3 - Dream Country (1991)
4 - Season of Mists (1992)
5 - A Game of You (1993)
6 - Fables and Reflections (1993)
7 - Brief Lives (1994)
8 - Worlds' End (1994)
9 - The Kindly Ones (1995)
10 - The Wake (1997)
11 - Endless Nights (2003)
Dust Covers -The Collected Sandman Covers 1989-1997 (1998)
Death: The High Cost of Living (1994)
Death : The Time of Your Life (1997)

The Sandman: The Dream Hunters
(1999) is a cross between Japanese fables and Gaiman's Sandman universe. It's lavishly illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano, but it's not a true graphic (i.e., comic book style) novel. This volume grew out of research Gaiman did after accepting to write the English dialog for the US release of the anime film, Princess Mononoke.

Other graphic novels by Gaiman are Signal to Noise (illustrated by Dave McKean, 1992) about a dying movie producer; The Tragical Comedy or the Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch (1994); The Books of Magic (1993); Spawn: Angela's Hunt (1998); Last Temptation (2001, illustrated by Michael Zulli, inspired by rock legend Alice Cooper); and Harlequin Valentine (2002, illustrated by John Bolton).  Eternals (illustrated by John Romita Jr., 2007) revisits Jack Kirby's Eternals Marvel superhero series.

Day of the Dead: A Babylon 5 scriptbook (1998) is TV media tie-in.

Nonfiction books he's written are Duran Duran (1985), Ghastly Beyond Belief (with Kim Newman 1985), and Don't Panic: The Official Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion (1988).

Our book club's page for Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Our book club's page for Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Our book club's page for Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Fantastic Reviews: Aaron's book review of Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Fantastic Reviews: Jackie's book review of Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman - Wikipedia
The Dreaming - The Neil Gaiman Page
The SF Site: An Interview with Neil Gaiman (Feb. '99)
DangerMedia Innerview Neil Gaiman
The SF Site Featured Review Neverwhere
January magazine: Interview Neil Gaiman
The Wake Information about Neil Gaiman's Sandman
The SF Site An Interview With Neil Gaiman (Aug. 2000) Books  American Gods by Neil Gaiman
january magazine: Review American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The SF Site Featured Review American Gods
Science Fiction Weekly Interview - Neil Gaiman (2004)
Science Fiction Weekly Interview - Neil Gaiman (2001)

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This page was last updated December 12, 2008