American Gods isn’t a book that really needs to be reviewed anymore. Upon its release in 2001 it promptly won nearly every award in the known universe for speculative fiction, sold millions of copies and insured that Neil Gaiman would no longer belong only to the nerds (though he was our’s first). Apart from being one of the most acclaimed books of its time and a watershed moment in the career of its author, it also remains a landmark work of modern fantasy, a haunting journey into the landscape of myth in America. Today William Morrow is releasing its Tenth Anniversary Edition of American Gods, featuring 12,000 previously cut words and several pages of special features, including a new introduction by Gaiman. A reason is never needed to pick up a great book again, but a new edition of one of the best fantasies in a decade serves as a reminder that while American Gods may no longer need reviewing, it’s always worth revisiting.
Shadow returns from a stint in prison to find that his wife and best friend are dead, and that his old life, along with the new life he had looked forward to, have come crashing down. His encounter with slick, one-eyed Mr. Wednesday at first seems like chance, then feels more like stalking, until Wednesday reveals he has a job for him, and Shadow is sent spinning into a world of gods, monsters, myths and magic. In this expanded version, the premise is the same, but it’s deeper, broader and more immersive.
Gaiman’s prose is like coin magic. It looks deceptively simple. He doesn’t create his illusions through florid, Lovecraftian prose or metaphors of mind-crunching complexity. He does it with carefully placed intellectual sleights of hand, flicks of the grammatical wrist. It’s the kind of thing that looks easy when you read one paragraph, but when you see the entire trick played out, you realize it’s the kind of thing only a master can do.
American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition maintains that same deft sorcery in each of its 12,000 new words, all of them revisited and honed by Gaiman himself. Books purported to contain the “author’s preferred text” or the “new and expanded edition” often feel bloated, weighed down by ego and self-indulgence. Gaiman’s preferred text is far from self-indulgent, but it is indulgent. It takes the reader deeper into Shadow’s world, deeper into the mythic exploration that made the novel great in the first place. This is an expanded edition of a novel that doesn’t feel stretched or overburdened by literary sloth. It moves with the same dreamy pulse it did a decade ago. There’s just more to love.
As an added bonus, both in his introduction to the new edition and in the appendix that follows the text, Gaiman mentions American Gods 2, a book without a timeline, but a book that seems almost certain to appear somewhere in the future. For Gaiman that day will arrive when the call of the gods is too loud to resist. For us, it can’t arrive soon enough.