Something happens to me when I finish reading a book I really enjoyed. I tend to feel sad, depressed even, and I feel like I get withdrawal symptoms. I’ve made a book, the reading of it, the characters in it, the events, part of my life. Once finished, my body is slow to commit the experience to memory. Instead, it rebels like a petulant toddler that it wants more and throws a tantrum until it gets what it wants.
I am in the middle of such an episode.
I put off reading the wonderful book American Gods because it came so highly recommended so many times that part of me was afraid it wouldn’t live up to such high expectations. In this case, expectations were shattered.
I had never read Neil Gaiman so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can be very picky with authors and their styles of writing. I was glad that he could deliver his world to me so deftly. His style is up front. He doesn’t inflate his text with wordy descriptions and tangents. His dialogue is expedient, but engaging, and when he does take time to describe scenery or characters, he quickly sets the stage without wasting your time.
His characters, some of them fantastical given the premise, seem lively and plausible. They have habits. Faults. Skills. I never got the feeling that characters were merely placed to move along the story. They felt alive.
In a land, a rather familiar America to be exact, where gods walk with men and feud with their rivals, successors, and descendants, I felt at home. The main character Shadow, who seems mysterious all on his own, becomes a constant companion, and his journeys and troubles become familiar in an intimate way.
As you can see, I became enamored with several of the book’s elements.
The most unfortunate thing about having finished this novel is that there are no direct sequels (yet). The part of me used to long series of novels that span years and years feels cheated. Where’s the rest? That’s all folks.
But that is a good thing. A sharp and powerful single novel is rare and it seems more and more writers venture down the path of multi volume series that wind up being full of long stretches of nothing. American Gods delivers the goods in a single blast like from a shotgun and I’m still reeling.
On a final note, a television series is in the works, formerly through HBO, and Neil Gaiman has confirmed he is writing a sequel. I’m definitely not complaining about that.
Now, what will I find to read next?