Certain books have not been written for adaptation, Neil Gaiman’s, American Gods is one of them. It is, however, a book I thoroughly enjoyed, a story that clashes the old gods with the new gods of technology, media and consumerism.
The ancient gods are desperately in need of devotion from the lesser minions of mankind, or else they will disappear forever into obscurity, which for them is their own personal hell. A state of no longer being remembered via the age-old ritual of worship. The new gods find the old gods irrelevant and late to extinction. That’s why having people think about them is decisively important. “This isn’t about what is . . . it’s about what people think is. It’s all imaginary anyway. That’s why it’s important. People only fight over imaginary things.” And it would seem the gods do too.
The story is also a great road trip through the US, not so much to places we expect to see, but more so on hidden roads and to secret places we are surprised to learn even exist. And they do!
So, it comes as a surprise that Starz’s new TV series, based on the book, (remember, I did say the book was not written for adaptation), is so damn good. Having viewed half of season one, it seems to have succeeded in capturing the visual imagination of the book, as well as the extravagant ambition of the story telling.
But to be honest, American Gods’ proposal is a unique and daring risk for television, one that should pay off if you take your time and watch it from the beginning. Confusion seems to be part of the show’s rhythm, but holding closely to the characters you meet, each with their own bizarre personality, created from humanities desire to believe in deities, will reward your patience.
Let’s hope we see more risks like this in the future.