I've lost track of how many times I've read this but I felt like it has been a bit and I wanted to refresh myself before really diving into the Starz series. I didn't want to be surprised and question if what I was seeing was a deviation from the book or maybe I just didn't remember the book. It's a thing.... be happy that's not you.
Ian McShane and Cloris Leachman in the Starz series
I've seen enough of the series to be over the moon about it - the cast alone makes my heart pitter patter. But let's talk about the book. I listened to the 10th anniversary edition with a great cast of readers, plus an additional 12,000 words from Neil Gaiman. I loved that I remembered so much of it (I am 41, you know...getting older) but I loved even more when I was surprised by something and then remembered how it played out.
The basic plot is: Gods live in America, brought here by older generations in tales and folklore and sacrifices, but they fade as people forget about them. Newer Gods come in, ready to be worshiped by the next generation. The new Gods of Media, Internet, TV - all so easily worshiped by those of us who eagerly read and absorb the media. Gaiman references Norse mythology quite a bit in his novels, so it would help you to read up on it. Actually, read his book Norse Mythology. He makes it easy for you.
Shadow Moon is serving a sentence for robbery and is scheduled to get out soon. We know he's one of our main characters, but we really don't see why until much further into the book. Honestly, he's just the every day man who moves the Gods plot along and allows you to meet the necessary big players. He gets out of prison early because his wife, Laura, is killed in an car accident. While giving his best friend, who is driving, a blow job. The end must have been very very painful for Robbie.
Shadow's world starts spiraling downward.
On the way to Laura's funeral, he meets Wednesday, aka Odin (look him up), and through a very odd series of events, agrees to work for Wednesday as an errand boy. Shadow ends up on some odder errands that get him nearly killed by various people who apparently strongly dislike him. Wednesday hides him in a small community and hopes to keep Shadow safe until the war. But, not before Shadow loses a game of checkers to Chernabog, and promises to come back to get his head bashed in. Weird wager, y'all.
Did I not mention the war?
The old Gods vs the new Gods. Wednesday is rallying his troops to destroy the new Gods and the new Gods are doing the same. Things are gruesome as they start randomly killing each other (it was sad to see you go, Bilquis, you man-eater, you).
In the end, the war begins. Old Gods and new Gods begin killing each other. But....
I'm not giving anything else away at this point. There are more than enough twists and WTF moments to keep you going and you really need to go along for the ride. Then watch the show. Or watch the show, then read the book because, already there are differences which are significant.
Enjoy them both ..... and think about what you worship.