Neil Gaiman's American Gods
February 29, 2008 10:25 AM   Subscribe

The novel American Gods by Neil Gaiman is being offered for free in its entirety at the Harper Collins website (only viewable using HarperCollins' BrowseInside system). It was put up in celebration of the seventh birthday of Neil Gaiman's blog. Which is appropriate since Neil Gaiman started his blog to chronicle the process of turning the text of American Gods into a physical book. [via the man himself, natch]
posted by Kattullus (25 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
He, like, writes comic books or something, right? Yawwwn
posted by spiderwire at 10:28 AM on February 29, 2008

I'll continue to hold on to my well-worn advance reader's copy, but this link is good to have, too.
posted by malaprohibita at 10:30 AM on February 29, 2008

That first link is...awesome? I, too, have asked the question "Is 'Swamp Yankee' an insult or a badge of honor?"
posted by lumensimus at 10:31 AM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

He wrote Swamp Yankee too?

I was completely underwhelmed by American Gods, but I'll admit to being old enough to yell at the kids to get off my lawn.
posted by MtDewd at 10:32 AM on February 29, 2008

Looks like Mr. Lyesmith may have tinkered with your first link. Here's the book.

(I have looked for the ash tree.)
posted by Wolfdog at 10:42 AM on February 29, 2008

This is probably as good a time as any to point to the previous post including "A Study in Emerald," if only so that no one misses it; the link shouldn't be buried in the post like that! [direct link]
posted by spiderwire at 10:49 AM on February 29, 2008

posted by absalom at 10:53 AM on February 29, 2008

Thanks for this Kattullus. I read the "Author's Preferred Text" version of American Gods last year and had wondered what the differences were, but didn't want to have to purchase another copy.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:00 AM on February 29, 2008

Oh for creepin' out loud how did I pull this blunder. I'll e-mail cortex and jessamyn now with the correct link.
posted by Kattullus at 11:03 AM on February 29, 2008

I fixed the link, but I am looking forward to his Swamp Yankee work.
posted by cortex at 11:11 AM on February 29, 2008

Anyway, for those curious what this "swamp yankee" business was, I linked by mistake to a Providence Journal article I sent out to a couple of friends about the term swamp yankee that's used for rural inhabitants of Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut.
posted by Kattullus at 11:26 AM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

American Gods seemed like it had a lot of potential, but never really went anywhere. However, putting it up online for free is beyond awesome. I just finished re-reading The Sandman, and I can't help but feel like Gaiman set the bar too high early in his career.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:58 AM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Haterfilter: I read the first 50 pages of American Gods, seeing as how I'd heard good things about Gaiman and was advised to start with it. Yow. The writing was just painful. I remember putting it down and regretting my loss of eight bucks during during a kissing scene between a zombie-woman and a guy. In itself, that could have been kind of cool, but mygawd, the writing was just so darned cliched.

But I'm all for free books. And de gustibus and all that, but I just don't think the due can write IMO.
posted by bardic at 12:56 PM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Gaiman is a comic writer, not really a novelist. But he's a great tale-spinner, and his books are worth the time, by and large. American Gods is probably the one of his I've liked least, but I still thought it was worth the time.

And, what the hey, free is a very good price. :)
posted by Malor at 1:43 PM on February 29, 2008

@bardic Cliched how? I'm actually interested, not trying to make you justify your opinion.
posted by zerolives at 2:07 PM on February 29, 2008

More from Neil Gaiman about how he wants to make the giveaway better, what other stuff he's given away and responds to criticism he's received for giving the book away.
posted by Kattullus at 2:11 PM on February 29, 2008

I love American Gods. I've got my own copy, but I recommend it frequently, especially to my mythology students, so I'm thrilled it's online. Thanks for posting this.
posted by bibliowench at 2:50 PM on February 29, 2008

Dang it - I was hoping he'd put up Angels and Visitations instead of American Gods. I like his short fiction is far better than his novels and I think A&V is out of print and hard to find. Or perhaps I'm thinking of a different collection of his short stories.

Swamp Yankee was actually a late-80's revamp of a little-known DC title. Originally, It told the story of consumptive teenager Steve Holland, who volunteered for the Army's super scientist program during World War II. Deep in the project's secret location in the bayous of Louisiana, they injected Steve with the Super Scientist Serum causing him to promptly burst into flame. Driven mad by the pain, Holland ran out and disappeared into the swamp.

Over the years, many reported seeing a star-spangled swamp monster who would them from Nazis and sundry villainous types. Sightings ceased after the local Nazi rocket factory blew up towards the end of the war.

Fifty years later in New Orleans, a Mardi Gras float shaped like an iceberg splits open to reveal a mysterious star-spangled figure lying on a bed of moss, the Swamp Yankee! SY went on to help found the Revengers and continue his fight against new villains like the ScumYuppie, the Ultra Reaganite, and the Perm.

Gaiman came in and remade the Swamp Yankee into the personification of Malaise, part of a pantheon of seven anthropomorphic representations of the modern plagues - Malaise, Mediocrity, Mendacity, Marketing, Media, Money, and Morbidity. It was a complete departure from the character's origins, but it caught on with the younger set and became insanely popular with the emo crowd (it was a little too much of a downer for the goth set, apparently).

Anyway, Gaiman moved on from there a long time ago. The last I'd heard about the Swamp Yankee was that it had been optioned by a major Hollywood studio. They were going to propose having Swampy (that's Malaise) be a rough-and-tumble cop in the streets of L.A., played by a digitally-reconstructed Arnold Schwarzenneger. His partner, and source of comic relief, would be played by Sylvester Stallone as reimagined by Jim Henson's Creature Workshop. They would fight crime.
posted by ooga_booga at 3:48 PM on February 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Coincidentally, I just read American Gods yesterday. I loved it.
posted by flatluigi at 8:53 PM on February 29, 2008

Of course it's cliched. It's fun! It was a very enjoyable book.
posted by blacklite at 1:41 AM on March 1, 2008

bardic, put down American Gods and step away.

The free book to give away was decided by a fan vote on his website, and Neil requested that people vote for the book that was not your favorite, but the one you'd be most likely to recommend to a friend that had never read his work before. I don't think Neil fans paid much attention to that detail, because if someone had never read his work, there's no way I'd ever plop a copy of American Gods in their hands. Try a short story collection like Fragile Things; Good Omens would be better to start with if you want a longer read- Pratchett and Gaiman together, writing about the Apocalypse, is pure bliss.* Once/If you get into his style of writing, American Gods will be a much easier read.

*If you don't mind footnotes, which are sprinkled liberally throughout the text, and quite enjoyable, if I do say so myself
posted by andeluria at 2:11 AM on March 1, 2008

American Gods starts off well but really poops out quickly. Gaiman sets up the main character and then doesn't develop him in any way - just gallops him all over the landscape doing stuff that doesn't resonate because the character is paper-thin.

I haven't actually read Anansi Boys, but the audio book is genius.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:21 AM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I preferred Anansi Boys, but I have to agree with andeluria that it's in his shorter works that he shines. So I'd probably give someone who'd never read him a copy of Smoke and Mirrors, maybe Neverwhere if they were already an avid fantasy fan.
posted by JaredSeth at 2:25 PM on March 1, 2008

Bardic, you got about as far as I did.

I love The Sandman and like most of Gaiman's other comics, but I just could not stomach American Gods. I did like Good Omens, but that could've been because of Pratchett.
posted by Target Practice at 5:23 PM on March 1, 2008

I have also had Bardic's experience -- in fact I've tried reading American Gods at least four times -- but I find the writing so painfully bad that I give up, disappointed each time. Bardic said "cliched' but "overwritten" is the best word I can think of. Heavy-handed, maybe?

And mine is not a snobby bias, either. Like Target, I've read and admired Gaiman's entire Sandman piece (more than once), as well as many of his other comics/graphic novels, and they're much better than that book... or at least much better than its first fifty pages or so. I can't get any deeper.

Knowing how much better Gaiman could be (or used to be, or whatever), I feel like I did watching the Star Wars prequels.
posted by rokusan at 5:36 AM on March 2, 2008

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