The only good thing about the flu is the amount of time you get to spend in bed reading, right? Well that’s what I thought too until last week! I was in bed for a week straight and I just couldn’t concentrate enough to read anything! Heck, the intervals between naps weren’t long enough to really get into a book anyway.
So what did I do? I started watching American Gods!
I have read a lot of articles and blog posts online about the Starz adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s brilliant book American Gods and almost all of them have been extremely complimentary. Full disclaimer here: American Gods is one of my favourite books and Gaiman is one of my favourite authors (love you).
As I understand it, American Gods came out at around the same time as another television series adapted from a beloved novel – The Handmaid’s Tale.
I haven’t seen the Handmaid’s Tale yet because I am fairly certain it will make me furious and I’m not sure I’m emotionally zen enough to deal with that kind of rage at this point in time. I’m going to wait until I can watch it with another female and we can be outraged together!
When I first heard the news that they were going to adapt American Gods I was a little worried. It’s the same worry that every fan of a particular book gets when someone starts messing around with their baby – what if it sucks?
Television has been doing such a good job with adaptations lately that I really shouldn’t have worried. American Gods is good! And not just because it stays faithful to the source material – it expands the original story to dive a little deeper into stories that had been hinted at but not explored in the book. For example, Laura Moon’s story takes an entire episode to flesh her out as a full blown character with a proper backstory instead of the background character that she is in the book.
For the most part the show gets the casting exactly right. Ian McShane is Wednesday. Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney was not at all what I expected but I fell in love with the cantankerous leprechaun.
Orlando Jones as Mr Nancy made me squawk with happiness; and Yetide Badaki is perfection. I want to see her in everything!!
My one huge gripe is Easter. Kristen Chenoweth is bright and funny and I love her but she is not Easter! Easter is meant to be voluptuous! She’s Ashley Graham, Kate Winslet, Drew Barrymore, Christina Hendricks.
The story centres on Shadow Moon, but his scenes have not been stand outs for me. My favourite parts have been the side stories. Anansi’s spine chilling speech to the slaves heading for America; Anubis escorting a woman to her death; the incredibly erotic sex scene between Salim and the taxi-driving Djinn; Bilquis devouring her lovers; and that crazy Vikings scene right at the beginning of the series. There is something weirdly Black Mirror-esque about these scenes. Please don’t ask me to explain that statement, that’s just the vibe I get.
The fact that the central storyline is overshadowed by what’s going on in the periphery is my biggest issue with this show. So far, Shadow himself has just not been that interesting even though he’s the character that is introducing the audience to this world of worn-out Gods. So far, Shadow’s dead wife is infinitely more interesting than he is! I think part of the issue might be that, for an ex-con, Shadow is surprisingly vanilla. I get that he is meant to be the human connection amongst a cast of not-so-super beings, and in the book he does play that role well. So far in the TV series, that human connection has come from Laura not Shadow. He’s a bit too perfect, naive, and gentlemanly, and yet somewhat emotionless. If it wasn’t for the amazing side stories I probably would have lost interest quite quickly. I really hope Shadow’s story picks up soon.
That’s my thoughts on American Gods. I think TV is doing amazing things for books these days. I tried to borrow American Gods and the Handmaid’s Tale from the library a few months ago and they were booked out for several weeks. Hopefully that means the TV shows are bringing new readers to the books!!
Have you ever been so ill that TV was the only option? What do you think of the American Gods series, or about television adaptations of books in general?
Sidenote – the TV adaptation book cover is UGLY! Why do they do that?? Stop it, for the love of the Gods!!