Review and Preview: American Gods

By John Knestis on

 

Fans of the acclaimed author, Neil Gaiman, are in for a real treat in 2017. Arguably one of his most beloved novels will be making its appearance on the Starz network. American Gods is the story of a man named Shadow. After serving his time in prison, he discovers that his wife has died in a car crash. On his way to her funeral, he meets a mysterious man who refers to himself as Mr. Wednesday. Through a series of grifts and all manner of occurrences, it becomes apparent that Wednesday is actually a being of great power. A God. However, no God is omnipotent. What power they have, is gained through worship, sacrifice, and remembrance.

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Shadow struggles to keep up as Wednesday rallies his forces, in preparation for war. Unlike the old Gods, like Wednesday, who were brought to America by immigrants and were all but forgotten, the new Gods were brought into being by the American love of things like technology and media. It’s clear that neither side believes there is room in America for the other.

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Another interesting aspect of the novel is its delving into historical fiction. It will often branch off from the main story to tell a tale of people long ago and how they came to America. It’s important, because it shows how the people who came to America brought their own beliefs with them, thus manifesting their old world’s Gods in this new and strange land. It will be interesting to see what role, if any, these types of chapters will play in the TV series.

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The book is certainly worth a read, so I won’t say more. You should check out the author’s preferred text for an interesting appendix featuring none other than Jesus himself. If you’re into audiobooks, there’s also a full cast recording of that edition. I will say that Shadow’s character is well-developed and there is a host of other amazing characters as well. If you like character-driven narratives like A Song of Ice and Fire, this book might be for you.

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And speaking of George R. R. Martin’s ongoing series, there’s the question of what we can expect American Gods to look like after being adapted for television. First of all, take a look at the trailer and maybe you can gauge it for yourself.

The casting has brokered no room for argument so far. Ian McShane will be playing Wednesday. Ricky Whittle will be playing Shadow and, judging by the trailer, I don’t think anyone will have much room to complain about him. Furthermore, it looks like most of the major roles have been cast already. So if you have read the book, you most likely don’t need to worry about your favorite God being cut from the series. One particularly interesting choice is that Gillian Anderson will play Media, the God of… well, media.

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Bryan Fuller is an executive producer on the show, a man known for his work on Star Trek spinoffs like Deep Space 9 and on the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery. It’s also possible you know him from his work on Hannibal.

Starz representatives have said that the show will focus more on the personal stories of various Gods. This means we can expect more in the way of diverging perspectives and less focus on Shadow himself. This should make for a more fast-paced drama suitable to the screen, since Shadow doesn’t really do a whole lot sometimes. In fact, he is completely removed from the real “action” of the story once in awhile.

The most important thing is that fans temper their expectations. Much like Game of Thrones, we can’t expect American Gods to be a 1:1 reflection of its novel counterpart when it hits the small screen. All things considered, if you can divorce the upcoming series from the book itself, it’ll be easier to appreciate.

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