Mark Reads ‘American Gods’: Chapter 12

In the twelfth chapter of American Gods, HOLY SHIT THIS GOT SO REAL INCREDIBLY QUICKLY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read American Gods.


Holy shit. HOLY SHIT.

A lot has just happened in this book A whole lot. This is the longest chapter so far, and I actually wrote around a thousand words for this post and it was so disheveled and all over the place that I’m starting over. That’s a good thing, by the way. I have basically been shocked into incoherency. All of the information that Gaiman has given me so far is finally coming together, and then he decides to drop like a thousand head-explosion bombs on me and then OH BY THE WAY THE WAR STARTED LOL. He is cackling right now, isn’t he? He has no idea this blog exists, but he has a deep-seeded knowledge of whenever someone reaches this chapter, and he just cackles quietly to himself. That is just part of Neil Gaiman’s life, isn’t it?

This will also hopefully give you some insight into how I’m able to write these reviews so frequently and quickly, as I am going to split this up as I do my notes. Whenever I’m reading a book for Mark Reads (and generally I do the same during Mark Watches, though for some particularly gripping episodes, I don’t write a note for like…forty minutes straight), I write down important things I want to discuss or reflect upon in my review. Sometimes I write things down by hand, sometimes it’s in TextEdit on my computer. Either way, they’re generally these ridiculous little phrases or sentences that I know will trigger the exact thought I had in that moment. I tend to use ~Parallel Love~ whenever characters, behaviors, plots, etc., are paralleled with each other because there are few techniques I love more in fiction. If I’m reading something and get inspired to write one of those “alternate” reviews I haven’t done in a while, I might jot that idea down and then take note of everything that supports it.

(As a side note: It really has been quite some time since I’ve done those alternate reviews, and I do miss this. But I always told myself I would never force myself to come up with alternate narratives just for the sake of it. But I also realized that for nearly everything after The Hunger Games, I haven’t picked a book or a series that is…well, funny. Like I’m sorry, I’m not going to poke fun at the Holocaust or the end of all universes at the hands of God. And while I certainly think that having a sense of humor going in to this really helps, it’s never quite manifested itself like it did during Twilight or Harry Potter. That being said, I think it is going to be remarkably easy to pull them off–and quite often–during The Lord of the Rings. I anxiously await those days.)

I knew this review could turn out to be a disaster when I realized I was skipping around and trying to fill in the gaps for all the notes I took. I generally write reviews chronologically unless I have some fantastic idea/point that I want to execute before I forget it. Most of those super long/story time reviews were written out of order. But today’s post? Frankly, it was a hot mess. I was trying to link things together, remember past plot points without Googling them because

and we all know SPOILERS are the death of me. So, in lieu of a possibly sloppy vomit of words, let’s re-create my notes instead, shall we?


When I talk with my friends who don’t live in the United States, every so often I am reminded of how new my country is compared to those around the world. Perhaps that’s part of the reason that the culture of this place routinely highlights nostalgia for things that, in the grand scope of world history, really aren’t that old. Wednesday’s commentary about Mount Rushmore got me thinking about this. Now I know those presidents are important to our history, but this line struck me:

“Once they were carved, permission was granted, and now the people drive out in their multitudes to see something in the flesh that they’ve already seen on a thousand postcards.”

I mean RIGHT. I’m not a particularly tourist-y traveler and a lot of popular tourist traps hold no appeal to me. I don’t think I ever want to see those stone faces unless I can re-enact South By Southwest LOL WHAT IS THAT MOVIE I mean North by Northwest and I realize that by saying that, that technically makes no sense but I DON’T CARE I FUCKING LOVE THAT MOVIE.

Oh, America. My love/hate relationship with you will never end. We’re like the most dramatic OTP ever, aren’t we? Oh god, that is not an invitation to write fic about me. OR IS IT.


He brings up the fact that people have disappeared from Lakeside. SEE? SEE??? I TOLD YOU. Something is up! Right, I have no idea, but it is something.


No, I really wrote that. I was reminded of a comment someone left last week when I suddenly realized Shadow might be black or biracial or mixed. So Neil Gaiman really imagines Shadow as Dwayne Johnson? That is brilliant and I don’t care if you judge me for thinking that man is a hunk. I used that word. I did. What are you going to do about it?


Yeah, so…American Gods has been kind of slow. Again, I’m totally okay with that! Everything I read doesn’t need to be the fastest, most intense plot of all time. And then Wednesday realizes that they’re being trapped in a roadblock, so he draws “rune-like scratchings” on the dashboard, orders Shadow to drive very specific speeds, and then make a sharp right turn off the road and then:

For a moment he thought he had been correct, that the camper was going to tip, and then the world through the windshield dissolved and shimmered, like the reflection in a clear pool when the wind brushes the surface, and the Dakotas stretched and shifted.

The clouds and the mist and the snow and the day were gone.

Now there were stars overhead, hanging like frozen spears of light, stabbing the night sky.



Okay, while this was immensely satisfying to have acknowledged out loud in the book, I still laughed: Wednesday finally asks why Shadow never seems surprised by the weird shit that Wednesday puts him through. Which is a valid question, I think! But dude, you told him not to ask questions. So he’s just doing as he’s told? Okay, I’m being facetious.

And then he said, realizing the truth as the words came out of his mouth, “Anyway, nothing’s really surprised me since Laura.”

“Since she came back from the dead?”

“Since I learned she was screwing Robbie. That one hurt. Everything else just sits on the surface. Where are we going now?”

Okay, I have never been married and I was only with my first boyfriend for six months, but I found out he cheated on me after he dumped me. And good god, this is exactly how it feels. It’s a really hard sensation to bury in your heart. You constantly deny it and refuse to believe that someone could hurt you like that. Everything does sit on top of that. It almost takes over your every waking thought for a while before you accept it.

Yeah, sorry to get super serious there for a moment, but that’s what this book does to me! I can laugh at one line and then suddenly feel like I got a brick to the face the next one.


There’s a giant mechanical spider at the bottom of the hill where Shadow and Wednesday stand. What the fuck is going on?


Shadow loses his footing and slides down the hill and when his hand touches a human thighbone (!!!!!!), he TRANSFERS TO ONE OF THE BAD GUYS. And he doesn’t become him, so much as he gains the ability to observe him through that man’s head. Oh, and he’s Mister Town. So he’s a god named Mister Town. I don’t even know how to process this.

Even stranger, the mind jump is so seamless that Shadow isn’t fully aware of what’s happening and one of his stray thoughts creeps into Mister Town’s mind: There was something very familiar about Mr. World’s voice. So…we’ve met Mister World. Who is he? The man from Las Vegas, maybe?

The entire conversation is a huge insight into what’s going on, even if it’s mostly ambiguous conversation, but this part was pretty blatant to me:

“It’s a pissing contest. I’ve proposed that we have it out here. The techies want it in Austin, or maybe San Jose, the players want it in Hollywood, the intangibles want it on Wall Street. Everybody wants it in their own back yard. Nobody’s going to give.”

AHHHHH HE’S TALKING ABOUT THE WAR. This is so fascinating to me! And we also get slang terms for the different groups of modern gods. The techies. The players. The intangibles! Ugh, this book is SO FUN TO READ.


This. Is. The. COOLEST. It’s like…shit, okay, I would spoil things if I tried to give examples. But it’s a moment in this book where everything has to change, where I am introduced to such a massive piece of this alternate world’s backbone that I remain simply in awe of what’s crafted here. There is a backstage for the gods. A BACKSTAGE. What is the spider? What are the bones? WHO CARES THERE IS A BACKSTAGE FOR THE GODS. Oh my god I WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS.

“What was that spider thing?”

“A pattern manifestation. A search engine.”

Oh, I’m sorry, this is just so ridiculously spectacular. I DON’T GET THIS AND IT DOESN’T BOTHER ME AT ALL.


He’s real. He’s in this book. I cannot fucking believe this. I love how casual this is, and I love how with each new god revealed, Gaiman is basically saying, “Oh, you have no idea what the scope of this thing is.” Every myth and legend and god is here and it’s a treat to see how Gaiman decides to use them. I mean PAUL BUNYAN. Oh god, Paul Bunyan is empty calories. And Wisakedjak is here, too. How much research would one person have to do to pull this off so well???


“Are you going to fetch your Ho Chunk?”

“My what?”

Ho Chunk. It’s what the Winnebago call themselves.”

OH MY GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS. All of this is just accepted nomenclature at this point, and no one makes a big deal out of any of it.

[Edit: It’s been pointed out to me that Winnebagos are NOT gods. Thanks, everyone! I UNDERSTAND NOTHING. They’re still the TARDIS, though.]


There is a bizarre subtext/dynamic to the scene in the rec hall with Harry Bluejay. Why is there so much tension when Chapman tells Bluejay he’s suppose to give his car to Shadow and Wednesday? I get the feeling this whole town is full of gods.  Was there another meaning to this scene?


“So we set out January the what, twentieth, twenty-first? I wasn’t keep track of the dates, but it was the third week of January. We were three days on the road, all told. So how is it the fourteenth of February?”

“Because we walked for almost a month,” said Wednesday. “In the Badlands. Backstage.”

HOW. HOW IS THIS HAPPENING. So time backstage progresses faster than time in the real world? I AM BEWILDERED.


Chad Mulligan is kind of adorable, isn’t he? I love that he tries to pretend he’s not talking about Marguerite when he asks Shadow what he should do about someone he likes who make him like it back. It’s one of the few moments that Mulligan feels like an awkward teenager. I hope things work out for him.

~recruiting omg~

I think it will be fun to come back to this section when I finish this book so I can try and guess who all the gods are that Shadow sees while he continues to travel with Wednesday. It was clear to me that Gaiman was trying to increase the pace of the novel at this point; he cycles through meetings with many gods in just a few paragraphs. I highly doubt that Gaiman doesn’t know exactly who all these gods are, but, again, I’m avoiding Google so that I don’t spoil myself. It also seems that Wednesday is pretty much hit or miss when it comes to recruiting gods. I started worrying that he wasn’t going to find enough gods to put up a good fight against the modern gods. How was this going to affect the war?


I think out of everything before this, Laura’s scene with Shadow in the cemetery is my favorite of hers so far. It’s alternately touching and horrifically depressing. Again, I must commend Gaiman for giving her agency, for making her her own person even though she is dead. She is just as much lost and hurt as Shadow is about this entire journey, even if they only seem to cross path periodically. But what this is really about leans more towards closure, and it sort of scared me that this happened before the book was done.

I expected a conversation about this to happen near the end, but Laura brings up a character trait of Shadow’s that had been driving the action: he does not seem to feel much at all, or he at least does not show it. She says he is not alive, which doesn’t mean that he is dead. She goes on to describe that Shadow, while he loved Laura fiercely, lacked vibrancy. He was always simply there, and it’s one of the main reasons she eventually ended up cheating on her husband while he was in prison.

It’s not an excuse so much as a reason. This is why it happened, and what I’ve seen of Shadow makes it hard for me to deny this.

It’s honestly a viciously depressing scene to me because they both clearly love and miss each other, but they simply cannot be together. I’m haunted by the image of her pulling away from his embrace only to sit at a picnic table to watch him leave.


And then the bomb drops and I don’t know how to feel anymore. Very matter-of-factly, Gaiman tells us that the war began before anyone on Wednesday’s side even knew it.

A falling girder in Manhattan closed a street for two days. It killed two pedestrians, an Arabic taxi-driver and the tax-driver’s passenger.

oh. my. god. The ifrit. He is dead. he is dead. I’m going to imagine that Salim was not in that taxicab.

Gaiman cycles through them. A trucker in Denver, who I do not recognize. A troll in Phoenix. Nine gods in Montana. A driver in Idaho. Destruction. Vandalism. The war has begun and no one even knows it yet.

The worst of them all is the Queen of Sheba, who comes to find out that the war has started in her own way. We know her as Bilquis. In Hollywood, off Sunset Blvd, she gets a possible customer, except it’s the worst one imaginable. (A bit of a side note: I know that it might be in-character or representative of the language used in that part of Los Angeles, but the use of misogynist language is a bit much for me. I mean, yes, people really do talk like that in Hollywood, so at least it is accurate, but just sayin’. It doesn’t distract me too much from the story, thankfully.) I mean as soon as I read this:

“I can pay for anything I want,” says the john. She leans into the car and looks around. There’s nobody else in there, just the john, a puffy-faced kid who doesn’t even look old enough to drink. Nobody else, so she gets in.

AH, CHRIST. DON’T DO THAT. It’s the technology god from earlier and THIS CANNOT END WELL. And it truly doesn’t, because the god wastes no time calling her my her real name. He also says something that actually might be the first real reason why the new gods want to eliminate the old ones:

“There’s only so much belief to go around. They’re reaching the end of what they can give us. The credibility gap.”

Well, shit. So now the new gods are losing their source of belief as well? How so?

We don’t find out much more, because Bilquis manages to leap out of the limo onto a hillside road above Hollywood. (I’m imagining it as Mulholland Drive.) Yet as she tries to scramble up the hillside to escape the car, she slips and falls and is ran over by the limousine. THREE TIMES.

When, finally, it drives away, down the hill, all it leaves behind on the road is the smeared red meat of roadkill, barely recognizable as human, and soon even that will be washed away by the rain.





I don’t know why it hit me so hard, but the final interlude of chapter twelve belongs to Laura. She is getting a job at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, and the owner refers to her prospective hours as the “zombie shift” and I basically want to cry into my pillow forever.

What the hell has this book become. sweet christ.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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86 Responses to Mark Reads ‘American Gods’: Chapter 12

  1. cait0716 says:

    I feel like I can barely comment on this chapter without spoilers. It's like Gaiman has spent the first half of his book setting up all of his pieces and now he's finally starting to move them. The war has begun.

    The sheer number of gods that get introduced in this chapter is the main reason I'm excited that they're making a television series. There are too many for a book, but there's a whole lot of room to stretch out and play on a television series. And I wonder how much they'll have to update the new gods to reflect the shifts in our culture in the past ten years. I mean, we've gone from dial-up internet to smartphones in the time since this book was written.

    Hz…Punq qrsvavgryl jnfa'g gnyxvat nobhg Znethrevgr. Ubyl njxjneq jura gung erirny pbzrf va gur arkg puncgre

  2. Vikinhaw says:

    After the scene where they go backstage, in my head, the Winnebago became a DeLorean. I'm sorry, but for a while afterword I kept seeing Wednesday as Christopher Lloyd.

  3. Meenalives says:

    I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure the cab driver was Salim. The ifrit traded identities with him and took his ticket home. I've always wondered if the ifrit did that on purpose, setting Salim up to die in his place, since all the gods seem to have had some idea that the war was coming.

  4. trva says:

    Isn't it North by Northwest?

  5. clodia_risa says:

    The Winnebago are not gods, they’re Native Americans. Ho-Chunk, so wikipedia tells me, is the tribe’s preferred name now. They did used to use the name Winnebago.

    Qb lbh guvax ur’f tbvat gb svther bhg jub Ze. Jbeyq vf? V zrna, nal bs vg? Zl thrff vf ab. V pregnvayl qvq vg. (Nygubhtu ur’f qrsvavgryl fzryyvat fbzrguvat jvgu gur xvqf va Ynxrfvqr. Vg’f va gur gehax!)

    Vg’f sha frrvat ubj bsgra Ybxv vf ersreraprq va gur obbx (nf uvf cevfba anzr, bs pbhefr). Funqbj frrzf gb gryy n fgbel nobhg uvz bapr rirel puncgre be gjb.

  6. Elexus Calcearius says:

    Parallel Love would make an awesome band name, I've got to say.

    Everything's starting now. But literally, every single thing I want to say is spoilery, and since I do not want to face the wrath of Mark and River, I'm just going to laugh evilly to myself, like some twisted super villain.

  7. Lola says:

    Actually Marguerite and Samantha are sisters

  8. monkeybutter says:

    I just remembered something I had a question about and I'm not sure if it's explained later, so rot13: "Jr ner jevgvat gur shgher va yrggref bs sver" vf ernyyl ivivq, ohg vf vg ersreevat gb nalguvat va cnegvphyne?

  9. arctic_hare says:

    Your notes are the best, Mark. <3 I love your thought processes and it's great to get this glimpse at how you do your reviews.

    Ah, America's obsession with recent history. To be perfectly frank, it's why I've never felt that much of a connection to my own country: it's just not old enough for me. Ancient history always fascinated me as a kid, the ~mysteries of the ancients~ still does, so a country that's only a couple hundred years old or so is like "… so? What's the big deal?" There are other reasons too, but this review/chapter hit on that aspect of my lukewarm feelings for America.

    I'm going to take a stab at the first of those mysterious gods Shadow and Wednesday visited. Keep in mind I have no fucking clue since I don't remember and haven't looked it up, but it sounds right to me. Still going to rot13 it just in case somebody doesn't want to know what my guess is. Crefbanyyl, V znl or jebat, ohg V guvax vg'f Zrqhfn. Jba'g yrg gurz frr ure snpr, gur sbbq va gur sevqtr vf jung lbh srrq fanxrf… lrnu. V'yy ybbx vg hc nsgre gur obbx'f qbar gb frr vs V'z evtug be abg.


  10. Mary Sue says:

    Dwayne Johnson is the hottest thing since hot came to Hottown.

    And I say that as someone who is on the whole attracted to fem rather than butch.

    But homgz. Dwayne Johnson. Yes. Please. Thank you.

  11. sploo says:

    "We don’t find out much more, because Bilquis manages to leap out of the limo onto a hillside road above Hollywood. (I’m imagining it as Mulholland Drive.)"

    I was ON MULHOLLAND DRIVE in the Hollywood Hills when I heard this section in the audiobook version. It was raining in LA. Creepy.

    Poor Bilquis.

  12. stefb says:

    When HoChunk is mentioned, all I can think about is the casino in Baraboo, WI and the fact that I've both won and lost money there and have probably developed lung cancer because the little old ladies SMOKE LIKE THE CIGARETTES ARE GIVING THEM EXTRA OXYGEN OR SOMETHING (~irony~). The love for gambling (not excessively, thankfully) seems to run in of all the females on my mother's side of the family. True story–every time my grandparents are in town my grandma's sister calls them immediately to ask them when they are taking her to the casino (she has never driven in her 81 years cause her jerkass husband wouldn't teach her, among other things).

    On topic (sorta), I picture Dwayne Johnson as Shadow.

  13. FuTeffla says:

    I always pictured Vin Diesel as Shadow when I first read the book, and now I can't replace him with Dwayne Johnson 🙁

  14. pennylane27 says:

    So I'm pretty sure my brain has imploded or something from sheer information overload. I can't seem to process everything, although reading the review has helped me somehow. I need to read this again. There are so many things I don't even know how to interpret. This book will be the death of me.

    Going to clear my head with Mark Reads Eclipse now.

  15. Noybusiness says:

    Ooh, now you're getting into chapters I haven't read yet!

  16. Shiroikami says:

    *rot13'd on the off chance that my thoughts could be considered spoilers… even though I don't think they are*

    "Fb ur’f n tbq anzrq Zvfgre Gbja."

    *V'z ernyyl abg fb fher guna nal bs gur "Zvfgre" punenpgref ner -tbqf- cre fr. Orpnhfr, abg nyy bs gur zlgubybtvpny punenpgref vagebqhprq unir orra tbqf. Wbuaal Nccyrfrrq? Abg n tbq. Fnzr tbrf sbe gur cvkvrf naq fb ba. Ohg gurl pyrneyl rkvfg va gur fnzr snfuvba nf gur tbqf qb, guebhtu oryvrs. V guvax gung gur "Zvfgref" ner zber yvxr gur vqrn bs n snpryrff tbireazrag ntrapl. Lbh xabj, gur zra va gur fhvgf jub ner ernqvat lbhe rznvyf naq yvfgravat gb lbhe cubar pnyyf naq nyy gung. Gur barf jub ner fbeg bs n pebff orgjrra gur SOV, gur PVN naq gur AFN gung bayl ernyyl rkvfg va zbivrf.


    "Fb…jr’ir zrg Zvfgre Jbeyq. Jub vf ur?"

    UNUN! LRF! LRF LBH UNIR!! Jryy, npghnyyl, ab. Funqbj'f zrg uvz, ohg ng guvf cbvag, jr, gur ernqref, npghnyyl unira'g. Ur fubjf hc va gur arkg puncgre gubhtu, fb vg'f bxnl. Vg'f Ybj-Xrl (Ybxv) naq ur znxrf zl qnl. Nyjnlf. Rirel fvatyr gvzr. Orpnhfr ur'f njrfbzr.


    V pna'g jnvg hagvy vg trgf gb gur cbvag jurer lbh ernyvmr gung guvf unf nyy orra bar ovt pba, naq gung Funqbj jnfa'g Jrqarfqnl'f frpbaq zna… ur jnf bar bs gur znexf.

    Tnvzna jevgrf n OEVYYVNAG pba. Gur zna vf n travhf. Ur fubhyq jevgr na rcvfbqr bs Yrirentr, orpnhfr frevbhfyl? Abobql jbhyq rire frr uvf raqvat pbzvat. Gurl'q or nyy yvxr "bu, V gbgnyyl haqrefg-JUNG WHFG UNCCRARQ?!?!".

    That is all.

  17. notemily says:

    The thing about the hummingbirds dying of malnutrition really gets to me. DAMMIT NEIL, STOP TORTURING SMALL ANIMALS IN THIS BOOK.

    As opposed to my novel-length comment on last chapter, I don't really have much to say about this one. You think shit is real now, Mark? You are not prepared.

  18. Nicki says:

    I'd just like to point out that Chad the sheriff's second cousin is a widow, he says as much to Shadow. As far as we are told Marguerite is divorced, not widowed. Chad is talking about someone else.

  19. nyogu says:



    Some great artwork that Neil Gaiman linked to from his own blog.

    (Hope the image works – I'm a bit of a noob at posting anything other than a straight comment. Apologies if it doesn't.)

  21. threepistols says:

    Hearing who everyone pictures for Shadow (Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel) made me realize I always pictured Shadow as Neil Gaiman.

    That picture of him that was on the back of my copy of American Gods? Yeah.

    Yeah, I don't know why either.

  22. Stacy Chambers says:

    Does Neil Gaiman really imagine Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Shadow? If that's true, it's gratifying to hear, because that's who I imagined as Shadow all the way through this book the first time I read it (I've read it four times). : )

  23. Derek says:

    ++America is obsessed with recent history.++

    Well, duh. All our own history is recent. When I was in England in the early 90's, the tourguide at a Cathedral mentioned how it was recently refurbished in the 40s. Most of my town didn't exist in the 40s, and they call it recent.

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