In 2001, "American Gods" won the Hugo and Nebula awards as the best science-fiction novel of the year, as well as the Bram Stoker Award for best horror novel. Not a bad grab bag of honors.
The premise of the book, written by Neil Gaiman of "Sandman" fame, is genius. It pits the Old Gods of mythology — Norse, Egyptian, European, Native American, African, you-name-it — against the new "American" gods of media, technology, finance and paranoia, among others.
The world in the book no longer needs the Old Gods, which frustrates and frightens them. The New Gods are smarmy, entitled and, honestly, a lot like us. And they don't want to give up their status and power.
The book's subtext hovers over the power of belief; what makes something "holy" or consecrated; and the coarsening of humanity's belief in anything beyond what can be seen and touched.
Personally, I was disappointed in "American Gods." I didn't read it until several years after it was released. By that time, I had heard raving reports about it, so my expectations were high. Parts of the novel were stunningly good, but overall it seemed to me a fabulous idea that wasn't adequately fleshed out.
That said, I am looking forward to the new miniseries based on the book. On April 30, the eight-episode adaptation premieres on Starz. Producers say the first season covers only the first third of the book.
A review of it on io9.com gives it a glowing thumbs-up and says some of the scenes are lifted virtually verbatim from the book. Since this is cable, there's no censorship, so all nooks and crannies are opened and explored — sometimes more than viewers need. Or, as io9 says, it's "slathered in blood and sex-sweat."
Call it the curse of "Game of Thrones." Nothing is off-limits on cable, even if you sometimes wish it were. Watch one episode of "Ash vs. Evil Dead" and you'll see what I mean — and I'm a big fan of "Ash vs. Evil Dead."
In a local note, it will be interesting to see how the makers of "American Gods" handle the book's climax, which takes place at Rock City and on Lookout Mountain and includes the Old Gods and New Gods preparing to fight it out.
Will the filmmakers actually come here? I don't remember any huge movie crews running around town in recent months but, since this is the first season of several, chances are they're not anywhere near to making that decision yet.
Seems to me, though, that at least some of the scenes must be shot here because it's hard to fake Rock City, although you can't put it past Hollywood to try.
Contact Shawn Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.