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What Is 'American Gods' About? Neil Gaiman's Book Follows A Brewing War

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Like a lot of current TV, Starz's newest series American Gods isn't an original story — it's based on a book. Specifically, it's based on a book of the same name by award-winning British author Neil Gaiman. The over-400 page novel was published in 2001. Despite the fact that it's over 15 years old, the book's themes are as surprisingly relevant and timeless as ever, especially in the current political climate. With the upcoming premiere of the visually stunning new show from the mind of Hannibal's Bryan Fuller, many non-book readers are wondering: What is American Gods about?

In short, the story is about exactly what the title suggests: gods, in America. Gaiman's lore pits the Old Gods — deities from various ancient religions and cultures who immigrated over to America at the same time the people who worshipped them did — against the New Gods, who sprung up and gained power from the modern conveniences that Americans worship in the Old Gods' stead (like media and technology).

More specifically, this larger story is told through the eyes of apparent-everyman Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), an ex-con recently released from jail early, after the unexpected car accident death of his adored wife, Laura (Emily Browning). En route home to attend his wife's funeral, Shadow repeatedly encounters a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), a smooth-talking con man. Wednesday offers Shadow a job as his bodyguard/right-hand man, one that Shadow repeatedly refuses until it becomes clear that he's got nothing left to lose — he's lost his wife, his best friend (who died in the same car accident), and the pre-jail job he'd been planning to return to. They make a deal to work together, though Shadow has little idea of what he's really getting into the middle of (y'know a literal war between gods).

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Shadow and Wednesday proceed to travel across America, encountering all manner of older gods who have been variously beaten down and demoralized by their newfound lack of worship or those who have adapted in such a way to allow themselves enough worship in the modern era to subsist — like Easter (Kristin Chenoweth), who has to share her holiday with 13 Jesuses because of the modern demand for him.

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Intermixed with Shadow and Wednesday traveling the country to recruit Wednesday's fellow gods in their battle against the New Gods (an attempt to reclaim supremacy), there's also the small matter of the resurrection of Laura Moon, who gets brought back to not-quite-life by a powerful gold coin given to Shadow by the leprechaun Mad Sweeney.

At the surface level, the story is a fantastical tale about gods battling. But beyond that, it's a pretty clear allegory for immigration and for America itself. And though the story adheres closely to the book, it also expands upon the material to create a more fleshed-out world, according to Fuller. "The show is very faithful to the book, but it also takes a lot of liberties — liberties that have been sanctioned by Neil [Gaiman]," Fuller told Cnet in an interview about the new show.

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Basically, American Gods has a lot to offer and will probably be your next new obsession in the coming months ahead. Be sure to check out the premiere on Sunday, April 30 at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.