Cover of first edition (hardcover)
|Publisher||William Morrow, Headline|
|Publication date||June 19, 2001|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 21|
|LC Classification||PR6057.A319 A84 2001|
|Followed by||Anansi Boys, "The Monarch of the Glen" (Fragile Things)|
American Gods is a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novel by Neil Gaiman. The novel is a blend of Americana, fantasy, and various strands of ancient and modern mythology, all centering on the mysterious and taciturn Shadow. It is Gaiman's fourth prose novel, preceded by Good Omens (a collaboration with Terry Pratchett), Neverwhere, and Stardust. Several of the themes touched upon in the book were previously glimpsed in The Sandman graphic novels.
The book was published in 2001 by Headline in the United Kingdom and by William Morrow in the United States. A special 10th Anniversary edition, with the "author's preferred text", which includes an additional 12,000 words was published by William Morrow in June 2011. The text is identical to the signed and numbered limited edition that was released by Hill House Publishers in 2003. This version of the text has also been in print from Headline, Gaiman's publisher in the UK since 2005. The 10th Anniversary edition marks the first time the author's preferred text has been available in wide release outside the UK. He also did a very extensive sold-out book tour celebrating the 10th Anniversary and promoting this book in 2011.
There are two audio versions of the book, the first one an unabridged version of the original published edition, read by George Guidall, released in 2001 and a full cast version of the 10th Anniversary edition with the author's preferred text including the 12,000 additional words, released in 2011. Both were produced and published by Harper Audio. The full cast audio project also was announced on Neil Gaiman's blog with a contest in which people could submit audio auditions and the winner would get an all expense paid trip to NYC to record a part for the audio book. 
The central premise of the novel is that gods and mythological creatures exist because people believe in them (a form of thoughtform). Immigrants to the United States brought with them dwarves, elves, leprechauns, and other spirits and gods. However, the power of these mythological beings has diminished as people's beliefs wane. New gods have arisen, reflecting America's obsessions with media, celebrity, technology, and drugs, among others.
Shadow is a taciturn ex-con who leaves prison only to find that his wife (Laura) and best friend died in a car accident, leaving him alone in the world. Bereft, he takes a job as a bodyguard for a mysterious conman called Mr. Wednesday, who seems to know more about Shadow's life than he lets on. Shadow and Wednesday travel across America visiting Wednesday's unusual colleagues and acquaintances until Shadow learns that Wednesday is in fact an incarnation of Odin the All-Father (the name Wednesday is derived from "Odin's –Wōden's – day"), who in his current guise is recruiting American manifestations of the Old Gods of ancient mythology, whose powers have waned as their believers have decreased in number, to participate in an epic battle against the New American Gods, manifestations of modern life and technology (for example, the Internet, media, and modern means of transport). Shadow meets many gods and magical creatures, including Mr. Nancy (a manifestation of the spider god/trickster figure Anansi), Czernobog (here an elderly East European immigrant), and a leprechaun named Mad Sweeney, who gives Shadow the gift of a magical gold coin. Shadow tosses the coin into his wife's grave, inadvertently bring her back from the dead as a semi-living revenant.
Shadow and Wednesday try to rally the Old Gods to fight the new, but most are reluctant to get involved. The New Gods abduct Shadow (utilizing a group of shadowy Men in Black led by the mysterious Mr. World), but Laura rescues him, killing several MIBs in the process. For his protection, Wednesday hides Shadow, first with a few stray Egyptian gods (Thoth and Anubis, here Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jaquel) who run a funeral parlor in Illinois, and then finally in the sleepy Great Lakes community of Lakeside. Shadow meets many colorful locals in Lakeside, including Hinzlemann, an old-timer who spins tall tales, and Chad Mulligan, the workaday local chief of police. Lakeside is tranquil and idyllic but Shadow suspects something is not quite right about the town: While neighboring communities turn into ghost towns, Lakeside is mysteriously resilient. The town's children seem to disappear with unusual frequency. But he cannot investigate further, busily traveling across America with Wednesday, meeting the likes of Johnny Appleseed and the goddess Easter to solicit their help in the brewing conflict. They are pursued all the while by the Men in Black, particularly Mister Town, a jaded MIB who blames Shadow for the death of his friends (actually murdered by Laura).
Finally the New Gods seek to parlay with Wednesday–but in fact they murder him. This actually galvanizes the other Old Gods into action, and finally they rally behind a common banner to face their enemies in battle. Shadow is bound by his compact with Wednesday to hold his vigil by re-enacting Odin's time hanging from a "World Tree" while pierced by a spear. Shadow dies and visits the land of the dead, where he is guided by Thoth and judged by Anubis. Easter later brings him back to life, obeying orders that she does not fully understand. During the period between life and death, Shadow learns that he is Wednesday's son, conceived as part of the deity's plans. He realises that Odin and Loki have been working a "two-man con." They orchestrated Shadow's birth, his meeting of Loki in disguise as his prison cellmate "Low Key Lyesmith" (Loki Liesmith) and Laura's death. Loki, secretly "Mr. World", the leader of the New Gods, orders Odin's murder so that the battle caused between the New and Old Gods will serve as a sacrifice to Odin, restoring his power, while Loki would feed on the chaos of the battle.
Shadow arrives at Rock City, site of the climactic battle, just after the battle had started but in time to stop it, explaining that both sides had nothing to gain and everything to lose, with Odin and Loki the only winners. America is a "bad place for Gods", Shadow tells them, and recommends they go home and make the best of what they can get. The Gods depart, Odin's ghost fades, and Laura impales Loki on a branch of the World Tree, and finally dies after Shadow takes the magical coin from her.
In the aftermath of the climax, Shadow returns to Lakeside, where he finally stumbles on the town's secret: The missing children are abducted by Hinzlemann, who is in fact an ancient Germanic household god. Hinzlemann blessed and protected the town, making it prosper despite the hardships plaguing the rest of the region, in exchange for the town's unwitting sacrifice of their young. Shadow destroys Hinzlemann, even though he knows this may doom the community.
In Iceland, Shadow meets another incarnation of Odin, who was created by the belief of the original settlers of Iceland, and is therefore much closer to the Odin of mythology than Wednesday was. Shadow accuses Odin of Wednesday's actions, whereupon Odin replies that "He was me, yes. But I am not him." After a short talk, Shadow gives Odin Wednesday's glass eye, which Odin places in a leather bag as a keepsake. Shadow performs a simple sleight-of-hand coin trick, which delights Odin enough that he asks for a repeat performance. Shadow then performs a small magic of his own, pulling a golden coin from nowhere. He flips it into the air and, without waiting to see if it ever lands, walks down the hill and away.
The book also features many subplots and cutaway scenes detailing the adventures of various mythical beings in America: The Queen of Sheba stays young and powerful by preying, succubus-like, on Johns; a salesman from Oman meets a cab-driving Ifrit; the first Viking explorers to come to America bring their gods with them; a Cornish woman turns fugitive in the new world, inadvertently populating it with the pixies and fairies of her native country; even going back all the way to 14,000 BC and the gods of the very first American immigrants.
- Shadow - An ex-convict who becomes bodyguard to Mr. Wednesday, an incarnation of an Old Norse deity, altogether becoming involved in a war between old and new gods.
- Mr. Wednesday - Odin, the Old Norse god of knowledge and wisdom, aspects which he uses to his advantage as a confidence artist. He spends most of the story trying to get other old gods to join him in the inevitable war.
- Czernobog - The Slavic god of darkness, twin brother to Bielebog, the god of light.
- Mr. Nancy - Anansi, a trickster spider-man from African folklore. He often makes fun of people for their stupidity, a reacurring aspect of his personality in his old stories.
- Mr. Ibis - Thoth, the Ancient Egyptian god of knowledge and writing. He runs a funeral parlor with Mr. Jacquel in Cairo, Illinois. He often writes short biographies of people who brought folkloric beings with them to America.
- Mr. Jaquel - Anubis, the Ancient Egyptian god of the dead and mummification. He is an expert at preparing bodies for the wake at funerals.
- Easter - Ēostre, the Germanic goddess of the dawn.
- Mad Sweeney - Shuibhne, a king from an old Irish story. Though not portrayed as such in his story, he calls himself a "Leprechaun," perhaps referring to how Irishmen are seen in America: a foul-mouthed, frequent drinker, who is taller than expected.
- Whiskey Jack - Wisakedjak, a trickster figure of Algonquian mythology. He lives near a Lakota reservation in the badlands with John Chapman, where he is mistaken for Iktomi, a trickster of their culture.
- John Chapman - Johnny Appleseed
- Low-Key Lyesmith - Loki, the Old Norse god of mischief and trickery.
- The Technical Boy - New god of computers and the Internet. He is adamant about the prevail of the new gods over the old gods.
- Media - New goddess of television.
- The Black Hats - Mister Town, Mister Stone, Mister Wood and Mister Road exist out of America's obsession with Black helicopters and the Men in Black. They work as spooks for the new gods.
Various real-life towns and tourist attractions, including the House on the Rock (and its 'world's largest carousel') and Rock City, are featured through the course of the book. Gaiman states in an introduction that he has obscured the precise location of some actual locales.
According to Gaiman, American Gods is not based on Diana Wynne Jones's Eight Days of Luke, "although they bear an odd relationship, like second cousins once removed or something". When working on the structure of a story linking gods and days of the week, he realized that this idea had already been used in Eight Days of Luke. He abandoned the story, but later used the idea when writing American Gods to depict Wednesday and Shadow meeting on the god's namesake day.
About John James's novel Votan, Gaiman stated: “I think probably the best book ever done about the Norse was a book that I couldn’t allow myself to read between coming up with the idea of American Gods and finishing it. After it was published I actually sat down and allowed myself to read it for the first time in 15 years and discovered it was just as good as I thought it was”.
Gaiman's subsequent novel Anansi Boys was actually conceived before American Gods, and shares a character, Mr. Nancy. It is not a sequel but could possibly be of the same fictional world. Although Anansi the spider god of African legend appears in both American Gods and Anansi Boys, implying a connection, one of Neil Gaiman's signature touches is the use of allusion, both to works by other authors and to mechanics and themes used in his own books. Though some elements from American Gods are mentioned in Anansi Boys (such as Nancy telling a group of women that he fought in a war), none of the gods of the latter mention the importance of people's belief in them, and only deities of African and Caribbean folktales are seen or mentioned. The novella, "Monarch of the Glen" (from the Legends II anthology, later collected in Fragile Things), continues Shadow's journeys. This latter anthology also features the characters of Mr. Alice and Mr. Smith, a pair of dubious men who also appeared in a Gaiman short story called "Keepsakes and Treasures", suggesting that this tale is a part of the American Gods universe as well.
The novel also shares a number of themes and images with Gaiman's graphic novel series The Sandman. For instance, in American Gods Shadow dreams of thunderbirds and a mountain of bones. Similarly, in The Sandman's "A Dream of a Thousand Cats" a cat speaks of a dream in which she is wandering a mountain of bones and being circled by a bird similar in description to the thunderbirds of American Gods. In addition, one chapter features a young girl, described in a way similar to The Sandman's character Delirium.
While Gaiman was writing American Gods, his publishers set up a promotional web site featuring a weblog in which Gaiman described the day-to-day process of writing, revising, publishing, and promoting the novel. After the novel was published, the web site evolved into a more general Official Neil Gaiman Web Site, and as of 2010[update] Gaiman still regularly adds to the weblog, describing the day-to-day process of being Neil Gaiman and writing, revising, publishing, or promoting his current project.
On February 28, 2008, Gaiman announced on his journal that for one month, the complete text of American Gods would be available to the public on his publisher's website.
The book won the 2002 Hugo, Nebula, Locus, SFX Magazine and Bram Stoker Awards, all for Best Novel, and likewise received nominations for the 2001 BSFA Award, as well as the 2002 World Fantasy, International Horror Guild and Mythopoeic, and British Fantasy awards. It won the 2003 Geffen Award.
In May 2010, American Gods was selected in an online poll to be the first "One Book One Twitter" book.
In an interview with MTV News published in June 22, 2011 Gaiman announced he had plans for a direct sequel to American Gods. Gaiman was apparently planning to write a sequel even as he was writing the first book. The second book is likely to focus more on the New Gods.
- Ameerika jumalad (Estonian),
- Amerykańscy bogowie (Polish), ISBN 83-89004-10-0
- Zei Americani (Romanian), ISBN 973-733-070-6
- אלים אמריקאים (Elim Amerikaim) (Hebrew)
- American Gods (Italian), ISBN 88-04-52083-3
- Deuses Americanos (Portuguese), ISBN 85-87193-59-7
- Američtí bohové (Czech), ISBN 80-85911-98-1
- Unohdetut jumalat ("Forgotten Gods") (Finnish), ISBN 951-1-18055-X
- Amerikai istenek (Hungarian), ISBN 963-9441-53-8
- American Gods (Spanish), ISBN 84-8431-627-0
- Američki Bogovi (Croatian), ISBN 953-220-126-2
- Aмерички богови (Serbian), ISBN 86-7436-039-4
- Американские боги (Amerikanskie bogi) (Russian), ISBN 5-17-019844-2
- Amerikos dievai (Lithuanian), ISBN 9986-97-101-2
- Amerikan Tanrıları (Turkish), ISBN 978-975-10-1904-2
- American Gods (German), ISBN 3-453-40037-2
- Amerikanska Gudar (Swedish), ISBN 91-37-12227-4
- 美國眾神 (Chinese), ISBN 978-986-7399-84-7
- 美国众神 (Chinese), ISBN 978-753-6459-50-2
- Ο Πόλεμος των Θεών (O Polemos ton Theon/War of the Gods) (Greek)
- American Gods (French), ISBN 978-2-290-33041-8
- Американски богове (Bulgarian), ISBN 954-585-519-3
- 신들의 전쟁 (상), 신들의 전쟁(하) (Korean), ISBN 978-89-6017-268-5,ISBN 978-89-6017-269-2
- Amerikaanse Goden (Dutch), ISBN 90-245-4261-8, ISBN 978-90-245-4261-1
- Gaiman, Neil (2007-03-01). "More Mysteries of the Oracle". Neil Gaiman's Journal. Retrieved 2007-01-03.
- "2002 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- Official Website of Neil Gaiman's UK Publishers Retrieved on 2009-06-13.
- *Gaiman, Neil (2011-05-05). "Neil Gaiman's Journal - May 2011". Neil Gaiman's Journal. Archived from the original on 24 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- Dornemann, Rudi; Kelly Everding (Summer 2001). "Dreaming American Gods: an Interview With Neil Gaiman". Rain Taxi Online Edition. Rain Taxi, Inc. Retrieved 2009-09-28.
- *Gaiman, Neil (2001-09-25). "Neil Gaiman - September 2001". Neil Gaiman's Journal. Archived from the original on 10 December 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-03.
- Interview with Neil Gaiman 2005
- *Gaiman, Neil (2008-02-28). "Kids! Free! Book!". Neil Gaiman's Journal. Archived from the original on 2 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
- "2001 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- 'One Book, One Twitter' launches worldwide book club with Neil Gaiman The Guardian May 4, 2010
- HBO In Talks For 'American Gods' Series RTT News April 18, 2011
- Neil Gaiman Reflects On 'American Gods,' 10 Years Later MTV News June 22, 2011
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: American Gods|
- The first five chapters of American Gods from the publisher, HarperCollins
- only the gods are real, a listing of all the gods and mythical beings featured in American Gods
- Internet Speculative Fiction Database - Top 100 lists: American Gods ranks second on the 'Balanced' and 'Popular' lists, and third on the 'Critical' list
- "And the One Book, One Twitter Winner Is ..., Wired, April 29, 2010, John C Abell. part of the "One book, One Twitter (#1b1t)" contest, selection April 2010 "
- Full-length Commentary on American Gods