Gaiman's American Gods is a masterpiece of modern fantasy. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover

In Print
In this novel, Gaiman weaves character, concept, humor and drama into a balanced whole. American Gods is precisely what an alternative reality novel should be.

On the eve of Shadow's scheduled release from prison, he gets word that his wife has been killed in a car accident. What he doesn't realize until he's returned home to make funeral arrangements is that his best friend was also in the car, that he and the wife were having an affair. With his wife dead, his job prospects defunct and even his fond memories besmirched, Shadow has nothing. On the plane ride home from jail, his transfer gets mixed up, and he ends up bumped to business class, sitting next to a peculiar man who calls himself Wednesday, and seems to know Shadow, know the details of his life even before he does—and offers Shadow a job within minutes. Having little left to lose or to live for, Shadow accepts the position. After accompanying Wednesday on a number of visits, Shadow soon realizes that Wednesday and his compatriots are Old World gods, transplanted in America.

Book Cover

On Audio
Mixing Old World folklore and modern Americana, Gaiman creates a fantasy world that readers will thoroughly enjoy losing themselves in. It's a well-executed twist—and parody—on the traditional fantasy world based in a recreated medieval Europe. Gaiman recreates contemporary America with enough familiarity and enough fabulation to create both a sense of authenticity and enchantment. Gaiman's skill at peppering his story with humor is especially impressive. Too often, when I've read humorous fantasy, the story seems to be about the humor, to exist as an excuse for creating humor. Gaiman, however, infuses his story with humor in a way that feels natural. Readers care ultimately, in this story, about the emotional stakes for the main character—a feat stunningly achieved by Gaiman through a very modern style of depicting character motivation primarily through action and interaction, rather than interior monologue or exposition. This book is vast, but not inaccessible, and it's a rare treat for readers looking to get lost in the world of a story and the plight of a character.

I would recommend this book, not for one particular audience, but rather for any fan of alternative reality fiction. While technically fantasy, this book defies convention as much as it parodies it. Readers of irreverent mainstream fiction will also find this book a perfect foray into the literature of the fantastic.

Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.

Alternative Reality Web Zine: ISSN# 1559-3037

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