Inside American Gods: Book Vs. Screen

As much fun as I had with the novel, I’ve really appreciated the changes so far. The extra world building has given the story breathing room, and assured me that I have appointment television on Sunday evenings for the next several years.

I greatly enjoyed listening to the unabridged audiobook of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods as the television series’ debut approached. However, I wondered how Bryan Fuller and Michael Green would adapt the 784 page novel as a multi-year series. The most recent episode, “A Murder of Gods provided the clearest clues yet through structural changes for the characters of Laura Moon, Mad Sweeney, and Salim. Moreover, we got the addition of a new old god — Vulcan — and an aspect of God — Jesus.

I’m particularly fond of the Olympian contingent, so I’ll start with Vulcan. Played awesomely by Corbin Bernsen, the God of the Fire and the Forge wasn’t in the book. In fact, none of the Greco-Roman deities were. Gaiman simply didn’t have room for them. I’m glad television allowed that room, because Vulcan was a trip.

As for Jesus, Gaiman addressed his absence from the book in the afterward of the 10th anniversary edition, which I listened to. He said he just couldn’t get the tone and timing right, and he didn’t want to botch it, given how important Jesus is to so many people. He included an excerpt of a discarded scene between Jesus and Shadow in the afterward, which I won’t describe for reason of spoilers. Suffice to say, I think Gaiman made the correct choices, and the scene with Jesus in this most recent episode was much better for the story.

As for the other characters, readers unfamiliar with the source material will be surprised to learn that Laura, Mad Sweeney, and Salim never met in the book. Sweeney’s coin did resurrect Laura, but he dealt with Shadow in his inquiries about it, not with her. In fact, Laura didn’t have a story line distinct from Shadow and was largely off the page when not interacting with him. As for Salim, he was a vignette in the book, not a fully fledged character. His only scenes in the original text were the ones involving his meeting with the Djinn.

As much fun as I had with the novel, I’ve really appreciated the changes so far. The extra world building has given the story breathing room, and assured me that I have appointment television on Sunday evenings for the next several years.

Raissa Devereux became a life-long genre fan at the age of four when she first saw The Wizard of Oz at a screening at Arizona State University. Years later, she graduated from A.S.U. as an English major, History minor, Whovian, and Trekkie. Now a Florida transplant, she loves the opportunity Sci-Fi Pulse has given her to further explore space travel, time travel, masked heroes, gothic castles, and good yarns.

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