Neil Gaiman--American Gods

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Neil Gaiman--American Gods

Post by Prajnaparamita on Fri Feb 06, 2015 11:06 am

So as part of my American Graphic Novel class my professor has been giving us a crash course in the tradition of American fantasy, and of course Neil Gaiman has come up a lot in that. I actually haven't read anything by Gaiman (shame on me, I know) so I decided yesterday would be a good time to get myself a copy of American Gods and see what all the hype is about, for that seems to be his most acclaimed work. And so I'm over 50 pages in now, and... I really don't like it, at all. One of my all-time favorite fantasy novels is The Kraken by China Mieville, and I was really hoping something like that--weird, darkly funny, and jam-packed with twistedly brilliant characters and situations. One of the criticisms I've heard about The Kraken was that after you leave that tripped out universe, you get the feeling that you never really met any of the characters, but frankly I'm finding American Gods to be a lot worse in that aspect. Gaiman wrote in the forward that some people found Shadow to be unrelatable, and I can't blame them. I feel like I'm reading a book about a silent protagonist from some FPS or something, the man has the emotional capacity so far of a sack of potatoes. (I'm not saying there's anything wrong with those games, just that it doesn't work quite as well in written fiction) I get if the point is that he's a hardboiled and grief-stricken ex-con who bottles up his emotions, but perhaps that could be his character, not this... blank slate? Also, I understand it gets annoying when ordinary characters are thrust into extraordinary worlds and they spend the entire time gawking and blathering "oh my god, what's happening?!" but having them not react at all is almost just as bad unless its been established that they have experience in such things before.

Also, according to a lot of people Gaiman is a really cool guy, and I don't think he's sexist, but did the first female character we meet have to be a prostitute who eats men alive...? I don't want people to think that I'm saying that's a trope that should never be used, but it often doesn't bode well in my personal experience.

I really want to like this book. I love weird fantasy as a genre. I want to understand why everyone loves Gaiman so much. I think mythology is incredibly cool. But I don't want to slog through 500+ pages if the first 50 leave me so uninspired. Are there any Gaiman fans out there? Sometimes I find that if someone tells me what they like about a work/author, it helps me find things to appreciate as well, and get over my own biases. Or at the very least anyone else have this experience as well?
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Re: Neil Gaiman--American Gods

Post by eselle28 on Fri Feb 06, 2015 3:43 pm

I do like Gaiman, though I like Sandman and his short stories better than his novels. I mostly enjoy his worldbuilding and the way he weaves mythology and fairy tale elements into mundane everyday events.

That being said, the female character thing gets worse in American Gods, if I'm remembering correctly. Like I said, I like Gaiman, but I don't think he writes adult women very well (oddly, he can be pretty decent at writing girls), especially in his novels. A lot of them end up striking me as either manic pixie dream girls or uncool anti-fun buzzkill chicks.
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Re: Neil Gaiman--American Gods

Post by skullbearer on Sat Feb 07, 2015 10:34 am

Oh man, I read that and just went the entire way through thinking how utterly sexist the whole things was. Not just the eating men prostitute, but

cut for spoilers if you want to see how bad it gets:
the endless detail on how Shadow's wife was going down on his best friend when they crashed, the total lack of major female gods, Wotan cheerfully mind-controlling young women and raping them- the list goes on.

And Shadow is the most incomprehensibly dull protagonist imaginable- he follows Gaiman's tradition of men sleepwalking into greatness; Shadow has no motivation, doesn't even try and make an effort to understand the world he's in unless it's spoon-fed to him- and still ends up saving the day. Oh, and he ends the book by nearly letting a mass-murdering spirit get away with killing countless kids because he can't be arsed to stop him.


This book blows. Read Anasi Boys instead.
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Re: Neil Gaiman--American Gods

Post by Prajnaparamita on Sat Feb 07, 2015 12:34 pm

Oh man I managed to get to the whole explanation of the blowjob/car crash scene, and was like "oh man that's really gross... Especially as he seems to care so much more about that than the love of his life being dead." I'm so glad this isn't just me. I'll check out Anansi Boys sometime, but I think first I need to read some feminist positive fantasy to get this nasty taste out of my mouth, especially as I came into this book with a lot of people saying it was modern American fantasy par excellence. Ugh.

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Re: Neil Gaiman--American Gods

Post by Enail on Sat Feb 07, 2015 1:12 pm

I really enjoyed American Gods, largely because I liked the way the con and the mythology were woven together, but the gender stuff was...ugh.
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Re: Neil Gaiman--American Gods

Post by skullbearer on Sun Feb 08, 2015 12:03 am

It's like every time she's brought up he jerks off fantasizes imagines her in that state- none others just that. Most important traits of the character: mysterious love of Shadow's life and gave a blow job once. Ugh.
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