American Gods Is A Great Show Even If You Didn’t Care For The Book

American Gods Is A Great Show Even If You Didn’t Care For The Book

Starz’s American Gods: A beautiful adaptation of a book I honestly didn’t like that much.

What it is: A prestige drama adaptation of the Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, with Hannibal‘s Bryan Fuller and Kings‘s Michael Green at the helm.

What I’ve watched: Only two episodes have aired and I’ve watched them both.

Is it good? This show is shockingly good.

Quick thoughts: It’s hard to describe the overstuffed premise of American Gods in brief — a man gets out of prison and then meets a bunch of old and new gods. Fuller and Green’s choices with Gaiman’s material is beautiful to look at, and they make small, but very smart changes. Ricky Whittle plays Shadow Moon as a man barely containing a huge wellspring of emotion where in the book he was annoyingly stoic. Ian McShane, ever wonderful, gives even the most banal lines a mythic tone, holding a lot of the show’s weirdness on his very capable shoulders. Of particular note are the ways some of the gods of the modern age have been updated. Technical Boy, in the novel, is a pretty offensive stereotype of a basement dwelling nerd. He’s depicted as fat and sweaty, looking like a kid playing dress up in a suit. In the show, where he’s played by Bruce Langley, he’s now a Silicon Valley vapelord in a designer shirt and sneakers. He looks like the exact kind of guy that would create the Juicero and tell you he was changing the world. The second modern god we’ve met so far, Media, is played with a sinister edge by Gillian Anderson. Sure, it isn’t necessarily a huge insight to say we, as a culture, “worship” the screens we surround ourselves with. But there’s a certain novelty about hearing it from Gillian Anderson dressed as Lucille Ball, just before she asks if you want to see Lucy’s tits. You should watch this show.


    • +1. The reason the show is good is because the source is stellar. In my top three books.

  • I haven’t read the book. It’s been on my to-read list for a while, but I haven’t gotten around to it. I have watched the first two eps, but I kinda feel like as a non-reader of the book I am missing something. I guess you need knowledge of the book to make sense of it? Like, I get they are gods and that something is brewing, I’m just not sure who some of them even are or what exactly is going on. It’s very pretty though, and I do quite like it. But I think for me at least it is going to be the kind of show I would be better off bingeing so I get all my answers at once.

    • In the book, Shadow is a stoic that gets swept up in this other world of gods. He doesn’t understand what’s going on and you aren’t meant to either. It’ll get weirder but also start making more sense.

      You don’t need to read the book for the show to work but it’s a very good book that you should read anyway. Knowing the various mythos that the characters come from is a happy bonus. You can just use Wikipedia for that though.

    • I’m going into the show only knowing the highpoints – who Wednesday is, the fact its old gods vs new gods, and lately, the background of Shadow Moon, but thats pretty much it.

      So I at least get some of the insanity going on, but man its a Legion type crazyfest in the first 2 eps.

      I think bingeing might be a good thing with this one as well. Most reviews I’ve seen were on the back of the first 4 eps, which I think is significant given how confusing the first ep by itself appeared. Clearly a lot comes together over at least the 4 ep arc as everyones established.

    • Gaiman and the producers state in an interview that this is by design. No hand holding. You work things out as Shadow does.

  • Good to hear. I couldn’t get through the book, although the version I read was Gaiman’s unedited version. The main version was edited down a lot and I can see why, I found it particularly laborious. Other Gaiman books rank in my absolute favourites, Good Omens (with Pratchett), Neverwhere, Stardust and Ocean at the End of the Lane.

    • Pretty sure it’s on Amazon Prime Video, which you can now sign up for in Australia 🙂

  • Thank you, thank you. I love Neil Gaiman but I greatly disliked American Gods. The crushingly bleak tone of book, the rather fragmented narrative and the utterly unlikable characters (with few exceptions) made the reading a chore from which I would definitely had balked if it were by any other author. It didn’t help that I had recently finished Douglas Adam’s criminally underappreciated The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul which dealt with very similar themes but with panache and humour.

    Thankfully, Gaiman’s next book, Anansi Boys, which was kind of a spiritual sequel to AG was SO much better.

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