Alright, I know horror isn't everyone's craft beer, especially the HBO variety with plenty of gratuitous gore and sex (violence too, but mostly gore and sex). Basically, the story follows people attempting to survive the horrors of Jim Crow America. Throw in some magic and you have Lovecraft Country. The television adaptation sticks to the book very closely for material. Being a visual media, the show offers more gore, magic, and fantastic beasts than the book. In terms of the story, it sticks pretty damn close to Ruff's work. For pure heart-pounding thrills, the show easily beats out the book. The novel, however, is far subtler in its frights, making it far more horrifying.
I have a confession to make. I watched the show before reading the book. The show follows the book so closely there weren't any real surprises, although the ending slightly varies in action if not thematically. I still enjoyed the hell out of the book. Matt Ruff does amazingly well dramatizing all the little indignities, ginormous indignities, and downright hellishly dangerous situations Black people faced in the 1950s. Honestly, sometimes watching the news, I wonder how much things have really changed after reading this novel. The theme of oppression is also part and parcel of the story's speculative fiction aspect. Magic is just another privilege of the ruling class, in this case, white dudes, to dominate others. This theme is powerfully portrayed in the novel. It's lost a wee bit in the TV adaptation; it's still there but occasionally plays second fiddle to the cool monsters and gore.