It has been a long time coming and “American Gods” have finally crossed over from the pages of the book to the screen. The powerful narration and literary skills of Neil Gaiman have fascinated the fans for years and the success of the book “American Gods” can only be confirmed with the sales number, the cult of fangs that it spawned and a Hugo and the Bram Stoker awards being among the many that it received.
“American Gods” the book has been released back in 2001 and was written by Neil Gaiman. Neil is a British writer whose works incudes other fictional novels like “Stardust,” the “Graveyard Book” and “Good Omens” which he wrote in a collaboration with Terry Prachet. But let’s not forget his comic book background as he is the person who brought us “Death,” “Lucifer,” “Black Orchid,” “Violent Cases” and most notably “Sandman,” viewed as probably the best graphic novel ever written.
“American God” is Neil’s most commercial and publicly acclaimed book. With it he combined all of his knowledge of myths and literature and combined it into this great novel. So it was only a matter of time when the people from Hollywood mange to get a hold of it. After various discussion about a movie fell through, they finally agreed on making it into a show. Thus “American Gods” finally aired in 2017 on Starz with the first season having 8 episodes. It is needless to say that the show delivered immediately and it left us with eagerly expecting the second season to come out. But what are the main differences between the show and the book?
Of course, you cannot really transfer the entire book into a movie without any changes as the fans who read it would not find anything new in the show. So there are certain elements that have changed, but not in such a significant matter. The first season, at least, follows the driving plot of the book almost verbatim. But, there are changes that have smoothen things up and also some indications that the second season will bring in more disambiguation between the show and the book.
“American Gods” is a book which tells the story of Shadow Moon, in the show played by Ricky Whittle, and the way how old Gods are being forgotten and substituted by modern Gods of technology.
Here are some of the parts that are different in the show and the book.
Mr. Nancy’s introduction
Anansi, or Mr. Nancy is introduced in the show through a coming to America story on a slave ship with people chained and rowing the gallows. This is a perfect example of how other, different Gods made its way to America. Mr. Nancy, or better yet Anansi is an African trickster God, depicted as a spider and weaver of stories. In the show Anansi, played by Orlando Jones, is a swab, English, thin man who makes the slaves rebel against captures. He is introduced to Shadow when he tailors his suit.
On the other hand, in the book Mr. Nancy is an elderly man wearing a checkered suit. His introduction in the book is actually much later when Czernoborg introduces him to shadow at House on the Rock, which is an event that is yet to happen in the show and we will probably see it in Season 2.
The Queen of Sheba, Bilquis
Bilquis, the Queen of Sheba is introduced in the very first episode of the show. She is probably responsible for the most graphic and intriguing scene of the show. As a Goddess who is losing her worshipers, she seeks to find people and make love to them and make them worship her. But the twist is that during sex, she devours the person with her neater region. What a way to go, right?
While the show depicts Bilquis, portrayed by Yetide Badaki, using online dating to find her victims, the original Bilquis from the book was a prostitute who stocked her victims in the streets of LA. But the thing here is that they needed to adapt things for the show in order to make it modern and adaptable to the age. The book was written back in 2001 when social dating was not even a thing. So it makes much more sense for her to look for her victims this way.
One of the new Gods appearing in both the book and the movie is Media, portrayed to perfection by Gillian Anderson. She makes a few appearances and always dawns a different look to her in order to confuse and trick Shadow. But in the book she makes two appearances and dawns two different incarnations, Lucille Ball of “I Love Lucy” and the character of Diane from “Cheers.” This was probably a plot that Gaiman did not to confuse the readers so much and make reading the book more streamlined.
But the show introduces Media, a few times more. She appears a total of 4 times in the series and dawns a few more looks. Media adds two more costumes to her look and appears to shadow first as David Bowie, dawning his famous “Spiders from Mars” era look, and as Marilyn Monroe in her famous white dress. This is much more suitable for the show since it leaves us with a great visual appearance that explains the nature of Media. So don’t be surprised to see more of them appearing in the second season.
More Screen Time for Audrey
Audrey, the best friend of Shadow’s wife Laura, plays a much more significant role in the series than in the books. We are not really still sure why, but it is obvious that she has gained a lot more value here than in the original. In the books she palsy a very important role and is a surprise twist, but we have yet to come to this part so maybe she gets to replay it.
In the series, Laura confronts Shadow at Laura’s funeral and later attempts to have sex with him on Laura’s grave. She also has a very comical scene where she meets her undead friend for the first time. In the books, she appears at the funeral where she gives her friend’s corpse some flower and then spits in her face. She later offers a ride to Shadow but is not at all eccentric as she is in the series. We are expecting much more from her in the show so brace yourself for that.
New Gods and Old
One of the main plots of the story is the war between Old and New gods. This is a driving point of both the book and the show. But there is substantial difference in how this comes about. The New Gods in the books attempt to take the place of Old Gods in a much peaceful way. They do not act as hostile as you would presume they would be. They attempt to make a seamless transition and they simply want to substitute the Old Gods and take their place.
But the show’s version of the New Gods depicts them as very violent. Particularly Technical Boy, played by Bruce Langley, who is the most aggressive one of them all. He even kills Bilquis. This is probably a way of making the show more interesting and graphic. Sometimes more violence is what will draw the viewer to the show much faster. While the bool does not need to do that especially when it is expressed in the right way.
The evil henchmen or the goons that Mr. World, played brilliantly by Crispin Glover, differ very much in the book and the show. Mr. World is followed but a number of goons that he releases on the main characters from time to time, but the book gives them more personality.
The henchmen that we see in the book are actually much more than faceless and disposable figures that tend to die and later reappear when they face the protagonists. Although not really as powerful as Mr. World, his helps in the book are given legitimate names, Mr. Town and Mr. Stone. They are not really central characters, but they are given more to work with.
The henchmen in the show are literally faceless and are not given any names. They are mere instruments of Mr. World and the New Gods. This demystifies their role in all of this and turns them completely to helpers. All the attention has been turned to Mr. World this way who is the driving force of the New Gods.
Shadow and his wife Laura are the main protagonists of both the show and the book. Their relationship is instrumental to the plot. But there is a slight difference given between the origins of how they meet.
The book actually portrays this in a sweeter and much romantic way. The master of words, Neil Gaiman, has portrayed their relationship and the start of it very exquisitely. They first meet on a double date as they are brought by their friends Audrey and Robbie. The two hit it off immediately and have a beautiful and a romantic relationship.
But the way Shadow meets Laura is the show is completely different. Shadow meets Laura, portrayed by Emily Browning, while she works as a dealer at a local casino. He tries to play blackjack and has a go at counting cards. Laura quickly sees through his effort and debunks his scam. But eventually they end up together. The Laura from the series is set up as a much darker figure, which we would later get to see much more of.
The Coin of Life
The Leprechaun Mad Sweeny is not a titular character in the books as he is in the show. He does appear in a similar way and in both instances he gives the coin to Shadow. But the affect that it has on him in the books is that he eventually winds up dead without it and Shadow finds his corpse with an empty bottle by his side.
But Mad Sweeny in the series is a much more interesting and fun character. Portrayed brilliantly by Pablo Schreiber, Mad Sweeny starts his journey the same way as in the book. His coin does wind up with Laura and her corpse is indeed resurrected because of the coin. But Mad Sweeny cannot have the coin unless she willingly gives it to him. He starts off on an entirely different journey with her and the duo wind up having some very interesting adventures together. This part does not exist in the book and has solely been made for the show. It might also mean that there are more interesting things waiting for Mad Sweeny as he becomes a very important character here.
One thing which is the same for the show and the book is the villain. But this is actually the big twist of the story so spoilers ahead. The story leads us to a part where we find out that Mr. Wednesday is actually Odin, the All-father, who has orchestrated and began the battle between the Old Gods and the New Gods just to regain some of his power back. It seems that the show is doing the same, but the first season has yet to reach this part. We have only reach the part where Mr. Wednesday reveals himself as Odin, a performance brilliantly portrayed by the veteran Ian McShane.
The difference her is only that Mr. Wednesday from the show put a hit on Laura by Mad Sweeny. But the book only mentions him as being both responsible for Laura’s death and Shadow’s incarceration. Shadow is supposed to be Odin’s son and there is a lot to be covered in the show. This is the main part of the story and we are eager to see how it will unfold and if they plan to add any changes here.