1) This is the first time I've read Gaiman, and through the first 200 pages or so I had to remind myself I wasn't reading Stephen King. Gaiman fans probably see that as a slight. I don't mean it as such — it was just a thought that occurred to me in the first pages, probably because of the supernatural elements, the dialogue, and the roadtrip-ness, and that I had trouble removing from brain after.
2) Strangely enough, even with all the supernatural flair here, my favorite section of the novel is the part where Shadow makes a domestic life for himself in the cold environs of Lakeside, Wisconsin. It's such a contrast to everything that came before and then comes after. It's a quiet, mysterious section of story. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.
3) Man, there are some wonderful pieces of wisdom in this novel. Here are three of my favorite quotes:
"Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives."
"Religions are, by definition, metaphors, after all: God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you — even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers and triumphs over all opposition."
4) There are a surprising number of surprises in this novel! Just when you think you've got it figured out — new gods vs. old gods, old gods are fading because Americans lack belief, Wednesday is leading a war to the death — Gaiman gives you the slip. I really liked this about the novel, as I'd been under the impression that it was lots more "straightforward" than it is.“What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul.”
5) Speaking of which, man, there's a lot to unpack here — the foundation and nature of belief, delusion vs. faith, the soul of America, the fine line between life and death, loyalty, evil, etc. The depth of this novel was also a surprise. I'd gone in thinking it was a fairly straightforward book with some goofy supernatural stuff — I even kind of made fun of this book before giving it a try. It's a profound, smart story that does really require a second (or third or fourth) reading to figure out in total. I don't know whether I'll be doing that, but I'm certainly glad I finally gave Gaiman a shot — and looking forward to reading more by him.