How the TV Show American Gods Differs From the Book

If you’ve watched the show American Gods, or read the book, or done both, then you understand just what it’s like to be looking back and forth and trying to figure out just where and why the two failed to meet in the grand scheme of things. You might chalk it up to nothing more than the fact that this happens on a regular basis when books make it to the big or small screen, but with this show it seems that a lot of stuff got switched around in a big way. The book was something unusual and eye-catching and as a rule that’s usually enough to get people interested, but keeping them hooked takes some skill and Neil Gaiman does have quite a bit of it. But in this instance it almost feels as though the show took his idea and made it into something that was willing to take one piece from the story and then another and another and create an entirely different picture. Thankfully that’s just not so.

One thing, and Matt Miller from Esquire reminds us of this, is that Gaiman’s novel came out long before the current era in which we’re now living. It wasn’t so long as decades and decades obviously, but it was long enough that things have still changed and therefore the wording of the novel and certain ideas had to be switched and remolded in an attempt to make it all fit into this current era. The main gist of the story was kept thankfully, and the idea that the old gods and new gods were still at war has been continually pushed, but things have been changed just enough that it keeps in tune with the current trends, issues, and feelings that are being experienced in this current time line. Plus, Gaiman was in on it as well, changing things up and making them fit where they could along with the showrunners so that his creation could possibly become something that would make sense and that people would be able to follow.

One thing, or person, that seems to stick in a lot of people’s minds is Laura Moon. In the book she barely had a presence, she was a thought that kept Shadow moving forward and kept him pining at times for the life he’d had before. In the show she’s an actual person and someone that’s able to influence the world around her. Plus, if you take that a bit further, Mad Sweeney is still around, when in the book he didn’t last nearly as long, and by the first season we should have seen Shadow with Mr. Jacquel and Mr. Ibis, who would have taught him the ways of the dead much sooner. But once again, the book has been reviewed and pieced back together to create a show that is far more likely to gain viewers than to keep things on the straight and narrow as far as Gaiman’s vision went.

Meagan Walsh from Romper also reminds us about Technical Boy, who in truth is one of the most annoying characters in the story, but is also quite different from the book version. In the book he was plump, had a bad complexion, and an equally nasty attitude. In the show however he’s whip thin and just looks like a tool but is still fairly dangerous since he does serve Mr. World, who’s played by the always-disturbing Crispin Glover and is made out to be a kind of super villain that just flat out creepy and yet somehow super powerful since he can speak through his subordinates. The differences between the book and the show stem largely from the world of a couple decades back vs. the world as it is today, which is why the changes were necessary and why it’s become a more modernized version of itself. In a way it’s kind of ironic since throughout history and the spoken and written accounts of the gods things have changed so greatly that the old legends have, in the views of some, given way to newer and improved gods of technology. What’s funny about that is that by trying to merge the old gods into their system, the new gods are still capable of lending power to the old gods in a way that could be quite destructive since if you think about it, belief is a double-edged sword that cuts either way and can do as much damage to either set of deities.

In other words, in a war between the gods, there aren’t any real winners or losers, there are simply those that are trying to escape the blade and those that are trying to use it. In this vein the show is all about who’s on which end. As it happens this only makes for a more interesting story.


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