Given the recent explosion of new TV series based on classic books we in our infinite wisdom decided to raid our archives for some of the original book reviews we wrote way back in the mists of time when we first came across some of these literary offerings. And guess what we dug up from February 2012?
American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
How apt, right?! Especially with the series premiering on Amazon Prime Video this week in the UK. Only one episode has been released so far and we duly checked it out. The good news guys, is that it seems promising- drenched as it is in neon gore and peppered with sly machinations. The opening credits are suitably nightmarish and mesmerising and everyone involved seems to be going for it acting-wise so even though it’s early to say, we actually have high hopes for the show to be honest.
Anyway, in homage, we’re posting our original book review below for your viewing pleasure. Maybe it’ll encourage you to give the show a look. Or maybe you’ll read this and think nah man, that’s not my bag. Either way, this is what we thought when we read the source material.
Therefore sit back and enjoy…
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
So, if you’ve ever found yourself wondering what you would get if you kidnapped a geneticist and forced them to cross breed-Cormac McCarthy’s The Road with a Las Vegas stranger who had a strange otherworldly sense of humour hiding under all that trashy loungewear you might just come up with something like American Gods.
And if we wanted to coin a phrase for this genre (and if the patent office asks, it’s all ours ya dig) we’d say it was a Bleak Frontier-Epic, although that sounds a little too po-faced for what is essentially also a populist page turner.
Do you know what it was that really made this such an enjoyable read, leaving aside all the labels and soundbites that instinctively follow this book and its author? It was the inclusiveness of Gaiman’s writing- the generosity behind it. He never once panders to the audience. He’s quite happy to hint at mythologies and allude to deities on almost every page but he also never explicitly tells you who these characters are supposed to be. As a result half the fun of this tale can be found in taking the time to try and narrow down the ones you think you know. The ones you think you recognise. It’s a form of trust that really made us warm to Gaiman from the very first page.
The author’s genius isn’t purely down to his benevolence though. It’s also due to the fact that the novelist is intelligent enough to realise that the human incarnations of these Gods (with their weariness and obvious frailties) are much more interesting subjects than a bunch of untouchable, omnipotent beings floating about up in some distant netherworld.
If we had to level any criticism at the novel (and its fairly difficult to be honest) we would admit that there were a few chapters in the middle of the story that lost a bit of their focus and urgency. But in the end, the tautness of the pacing and the intricacy of the wordplay between the characters kept this from being any kind of major problem. The inclusion of refreshing little asides in amongst the narrative (our favourite being the slave girl and the pregnant colonial girl from Blighty) also swept us right past any unintentional drops in pace.
It seems like a solid bet that all of these things are part of the reason that the book has been hot property in the TV industry. It’s absolutely ripe for visual production with its vivid scenery and the episodic nature of the plot seems like a perfect fit for any conscientious screenwriter.
All we can say for sure though is that we will definitely be watching if it ever makes it to the small screen. It may not live up to the show-reel we have filed away in our heads (our disturbing and messed up heads) but any chance to revisit the world of the son of Odin is well worth the time.
CONCLUSION: A masterclass in the shabby chic of showmanship
MARKS: 8 out of 10.
It seems even five years ago it was no secret that the television vultures were circling this book like prey! We don’t know why it took so long to finally make it to the screen but as we said, we’re pretty glad it did.
We’ll be watching it avidly that’s for sure.
Comparing and contrasting with the version in our head.
And now that you’ve read our thoughts on the book…how about you?
Are you willing to give this lurid, rapacious beast a go?
Let us know if you do…