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An Inside Look: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

By Rhiannon Kavity on Nov 4, 2013 to American Gods


Legends are little masterpieces of culture, fit together like puzzle pieces of different generations that shape the entire whole. Each country has these legends, going back centuries in time, that have helped define the place it eventually became. When it comes to America, we lack many of those archaic adventures. Neil Gaiman took advantage of that gap in our history by spinning the brilliant and riveting tale American Gods, which creates legends out of nothing with such ease, it’s hard to believe that his stories haven’t been told around fires since the beginning of America’s time.

HBO has proven time and time again how successfully they can adapt a best selling novel into a hit television show. The benefits of this type of adaptation are endless, especially when one factors in the built in fan-base, and the following for what can only be described as an unforgettable, unique work does not disappoint.

After devouring the novel and imagining how powerful it would be to see the story I fell in love with come to life, I scoured the internet in search of the wonderful fandom that I was sure had to exist. I wasn’t disappointed. One of the best things I came across was an on point, description of everything the novel includes by Tim Hauser; “It’s a book that’s all about the journey and not the ending. It makes you believe in magic and that there’s something fantastic in the mundane.” Along with the endless fancasting, speculation of what the sequel will entail, and awesome playlists created by fans, it’s clear that American Gods will prove to be another amazing win for HBO.

Mama-ji by Dean Reeves

Mama-ji by Dean Reeves

Gaiman plays with the themes so apparent in American culture, one that is often categorized as a strictly material and commercial universe with very little substance beyond personal gain. The entire concept of the novel is based on the fact that these mythical entities and “American Gods” exist because of the belief that people have towards them. While Gods were initially based in traditional things such as the power of the moon or the hope for a successful harvest, as America became more calculated and cold so did its higher powers. New Gods were created from the true obsessions in our culture; the media, money, drugs, and various other aspects of modern day America.

The novel follows what is perhaps one of the most unique protagonists ever created. Shadow appears to be nothing more than his nickname suggests, a man whose life has been spent fading into the background of self-sacrifice. The novel begins with an intimate look into his incarnation where he spends his time performing coin tricks and counting down the days until he can return to the love of his life. Except, as in any good story, his world had to fall apart. With the unexpected death of his wife and best friend, Shadow finds that he has no life to actually return to. He has truly become a Shadow, pushed to the edges of society as an ex-convict and a widower. Enter Mr. Wednesday, the eclectic conman who hires Shadow for an undisclosed body guard position that ends up being one of the most amazing adventures to ever be documented.

Shadow is pulled abruptly from the stark reality of the real world and into the unbelievable world of the supernatural, where he is crucial in the war between the Old Gods and the New Gods. It’s a vicious battle between the things that were once important to society and the things that have corrupted it. The riveting story is riddled with characters that keep you on your toes, unique in their own ways, and endless plot twists that keep the reader constantly engaged and invested in the outcome.

Anubis by Jake Murray

Anubis by Jake Murray

One of the most powerful things about the novel is Gaiman’s beautiful writing style, which seems to go against every “rule” that has ever been established. His sentences range from short and choppy to seeming to last forever effortlessly. He writes as if he’s speaking to his reader, drawing you in and giving you glimpses into the hidden world in his mind.

There are so many aspects here that would elevate HBO to a whole new level with this series. It contains every aspect that HBO covets in a hit show; dynamic characters, powerful plots, steamy scenes, and beautiful visuals. There are also a million questions that seem to be haunting dedicated fans. Will HBO go the route of Game of Thrones were the show follows the books directly with very little deviation, or will they take the approach used with True Blood where they used the basic skeleton of the novel and created something different. As a self-proclaimed “book adaptation snob”, I’d much prefer the first option, which seems to be a possibility with the surrounding rumors that Gaiman himself will be writing the pilot for the show. The show is rumored to be replacing True Blood, which will end after the 2014 season, and should prove to be a wonderful new obsession for all the Truebies looking for a new supernatural show to get lost in.

Stay tuned to HBOWatch, where we will keep you posted on all the new developments for American Gods. Let us know what you think in the comments section below! 

Want to be ahead of the HBO show and look like a complete badass when American Gods hits the air?  Grab the book and give it a read well in advance.


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5 Comments on "An Inside Look: American Gods by Neil Gaiman"

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Cian Gaffney
This is great, Rhiannon! You managed to get me hooked on the book before I even begin reading it, and without giving away any spoilers. Being from Ireland I’ve obviously been exposed to a rich selection of legends and myths growing up, a lot of which are familiar to people the world over. It will be interesting to see how newly-conceived legends compare to the ancient ones that have been passed down. The concept of American Gods really reminds me of the Fables series by Bill Willingham, in that the author takes fictional characters and historically inserts them into a… Read more »
Rhiannon Kavity

I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Cian! I definitely had some high expectations based on the things that people had said about it before I read it and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I’m interested to see all the different ways they can adapt it! Let me know what you think after you read it!!

Jef Dinsmore
This book was my beach read this summer. It was my first novel by Mr. Gaiman. He has a unique stlye of writing that made the story seem freshly odd. You can suspect, since he is doing the screenplay, that his tone will carry through in the scripts slowly forthcoming. I hope the show can capture the provocative slyness of the novel. The only thing that worries me is if the show slows down the storytelling and offers us a “God of the week” approach. Though they are the intriguing element here I wouldn’t want that formulaic format to be… Read more »
Tarod Kildennyn
I’d also like to point out, that even though Neil hasn’t had a lot of time writing for TV compared to other screenwriters (there have been some episodes of Doctor Who), he’s no stranger to serialization, as he’s been the sole author of several comic book series, and none of them have fallen victim to the sort of pitfalls that so many storytellers fall into. Mr. Gaiman is anything but formulaic. I don’t see it becoming an issue with this project unless he gets busy with something else and HBO hires a team of hacks to take over writing.
Rhiannon Kavity
I agree completely, Jeff. It was definitely his writing style that had me so hooked. I just hope they can bring that into the script of the show. It would be a shame to lose something so unique. I’m hoping that they will simply go with the flow of the novel, without trying to break it up by a different God each week because I agree that would be a little exhausting after a while. I know Gaiman was quoted somewhere saying that the book would cover the first two seasons so we’ll just have to see how they break… Read more »

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