American Gods is a modern-day treatment of ancient myths, focused mainly on the gods coming from Norse traditions. Through the travels of the main character, Shadow Moon, we’re introduced to a world that occupies the same space as ours, but has more going on underneath than we’ve ever dreamed.
On Gaiman’s website, American Gods is described this way:
As unsettling as it is exhilarating, American Gods is a dark and kaleidoscopic journey into an America at once eerily familiar and utterly alien.
Basically, as people immigrated to America, they brought their gods with them. The gods weren’t really at home here. They never felt quite as comfortable as they did in their own lands, but they came anyway, compelled by their believers. Over time, worship of these old gods in the new world shrunk. That flagging belief caused a corresponding reduction in the power the traditional gods wielded, until they could do little beyond parlor tricks. Because power like that can’t be destroyed, only reassigned, new gods worshiped by modern America came into prominence. The depiction of the new gods is equal parts pop culture and technology, and easily some of the most memorable moments of the book.
The interplay between the old gods as they struggle for control of the limited amount of faith left to them is the central concept of American Gods. Much of the action revolves around Shadow driving a mysterious benefactor across the country in an effort to rally his old world comrades. His employer turns out to be a familiar figure from Norse mythology, who I won’t identify by name so as not to spoil the surprise. With a distinct flavor of twentieth century Americana and a healthy dash of classic mythology, Gaiman tells an interesting and intricate story.
The best thing about American Gods is the portrayal of ancient gods in the modern world. The degradation of their once noble personalities into perversions of what they were is captivating. In order to maintain their power in our ever-increasingly unfamiliar world, the gods turn to strange and often disturbing pursuits. A god that once presided over death might become a funeral director. A goddess of love might resort to consuming those she seduces. Some gods turn to confidence games to amuse and inspire them. With a huge cast of potential characters from mythology, it’s easy to see how this book fits better in series format rather than just a single feature-length film.
Ever wonder what your favorite mythological figure would be like if he were written into a world of seedy bars and all-night grocery stores? There’s a good chance you’ll find out as American Gods is being written for HBO right now! Check out the novel as you still have time to get it read before the series hits the air (premiere date TBD!).
But what will it look like on screen? Who will be cast? Nothing is set in stone just yet so be sure to give your opinions with a comment below!
SERIES UPDATE: It looks like American Gods is still a-go on HBO! We tweeted Neil Gaiman today and got a response to our request for an update:
@hbowatch I’m handing in the new draft of the pilot the moment that the Dr Who episode is off my plate for good…
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) October 17, 2012