Kicking off our AtoZ for 2021 is American Gods.
And I’ll be talking about the book, the show and why they, like a lot of adaptations, should be considered as seperate entities.
My history with the Gods of America
American Gods and later, Ananzi Boys, were two of my favourite books in my first years as a parent. American Gods was originally released in 2001. Neil Gaiman (who I know in passing (long story, I might talk about it on my own blog later) recorded an introduction for the anniversary edition which I listen to on Audible talking about how he started his tour at the bookstore in the Two Towers, and less than a month after he returned, at the end of the year-long tour, they were gone.
The book itself isn’t quite on par with the one a year reading of Lord of the Rings that I used to do, but, it was a book I read so often that when Neil came to Scotland in 2006, my partner got me tickets and a Hardcopy of Anansi boys to have signed. It’s a complex book – it did win the Nebula, the Stoker, and the Hugo (Sci-fi, horror and fantasy awards) because it’s not easy to explain. Many of my beliefs about how we end up with personal understandings of deities are echoed in the book too, but most of all, despite the fact he is an absolute git, I love Grimnir (Wednesday/Odin) in this book. I like how there’s a murder mystery mixed in and complex elements of belief, horror, grifting, and traveling around. I like Neil’s take on what happens when we take gods with us when we explore, something that I’d been writing about (and will continue to) as I write my novels about space exploration. It’s a good book, but hard to explain. And if you’re anything like me, sound out some of the names. You’ll not facepalm quite as hard when you get to the reveal.
(Honourable mention here for the audiobook, because they somehow keep the reveal just as if you were reading it, the cast is fantastic, and I like that Neil reads some of it – the Coming to America interludes are really good.)
American Gods has always been a favorite book of mine, and so, when I head they were making an adaptation, I was understandably twitchy. But hopeful. My writerly Gods include Gaiman after all, and, as he’s been involved in Dr Who and other things, and Bryan Fuller was a part of the team…it all looked so promising.
Between Ian McShane (Wednesday) and Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon), I was pretty excited. But I have to offer kudos to Pablo Schrider, Crispin Glover (Mr McFly from the Back to the Future movies, among other things), Gillian Anderson and Orlando Jones as actors I recognise, and as characters themselves, Isis was brilliant, as were all of the characters these actors were playing.
It deviates quite a bit from the book though, and while I was ok with it at the end of Season 1, because we got to the Merry Go Round, there are some changes I didn’t like at first, while others, I just don’t like.
Laura’s involvement in the show is something, consistently I don’t like. While moderately involved in the stuff going on in the book, she had a purpose. The show’s Laura though….she’s annoying.
Another character, Bilquis, had two or three appearances in the book, and at first, I was quite annoyed that it seemed she was being inserted into parts I didn’t think she fit, but as the third season has drawn to a close, I actually quite like Bilquis as a character. But we have less of Anansi (there were a lot of cast changes at the end of season one) and there are some pivotal bits of the story that I don’t think would work from the book as well as the changes.
Technical Boy and Mr World are the two characters, that, outside of the Old gods, I kinda resonate with/ I can’t really say why I feel those characters are so great for me, without giving a spoiler for Mr World, but both actors portray such complex stuff, and quite honest, Technical Boy went from a bratty little git in my head to someone I actually almost respect. The ‘buddy movie’ stuff they did in Season 3 with him and Shadow was some of the funniest acting I’d seen in the show, and I really enjoyed that, as I did with Mr World giving the game away and being a chameleon (so far, Mr World has been played by *at least* three actors – Crispin Glover being the slightly maniacal, unstable one we see most of the time, though he’s jumped into the body of a woman, in the form of Dominique Jackson for a few episodes and then Danny Trejho, before switching back to Crispin).
Beyond that Ian McShane as Mr Wednesday was an inspired and amazing casting choice and one we’ve grown to appreciate more and more. He’s so off the wall and wacky, and serious, and angry, and severe and….just everything I’d want in a Wednesday.
I’m still not so sold on Ricky Whittle. He’s a solid actor, but he’s not…outstanding, I guess. Nothing to complain about, but no lightning bolt moments either, IMO.
Is it American Gods though?
If you’re looking for a faithful recreation of the book, even if nothing had hiccuped at the end of season one with Fuller and Green leaving (and I don’t want to focus on that controversy, nor the accusations and thinks that were repeated in the statement Orlando Jones made, as that’s not what this review is about, though I do link to them to acknowledge them), then, unfortunately, that’s not what you’ll get with it. And, just as I finished writing this, we’ve just had the last of Season 3, and it was announced that Starz had officially canceled it, though Niel Gaiman says the show isn’t dead.
But despite season 2 being weaker than I liked, I did still – mostly – enjoy American Gods. Not like the book, but I’ve got a rule about that – much like the Dresden Files adaptation, I just disconnect them and treat them as versions of a universe in a multiverse of entertainment. (which WILL come up tomorrow, be ready for spoilers, as I’m talking BattleGrounds by Jim Butcher, which is the latest in the series).
We’ve had the Lakeside story wrap up, and some other things happen that were such good parts of the book, but the Gods are still waiting…to finish the story.
What do you think? Fan of the book, or just found out about Mr Wednesday and Shadow Moon because of the TV show?