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Anansi BoysDo I need to introduce Neil Gaiman, Rock Star amongst Speculative Fiction writers? Thought so...
Anyway, here is Anansi Boys, his follow-on offering to the Hugo-Award-winning novel 'American Gods'. Not exactly a sequel (it could also play beforehand for all we know), but definitely in the same universe, written in a similar style, and with one character (the eponymous Anansi of the title) in common. And a similar topic – it's a tough lot to be the son of a God...

This edition (Hardback 1st) contains the story itself, an interview with Neil, an extra 'out-take' chapter, the original hand-written notebooks, and book-group discussion questions. Basically the film and the extra disc, but all in one neat hardback format ;-P

The book is about Anansi's sons, with 'Fat Charlie' Nancy, an exile American living in London, taking the lead. You see, his father called him Fat Charlie, and what Anansi names keeps that name. He's embarrassing, like any proper parent, only more so...
Anyway, Fat Charlie is engaged to Rosie, who's mother cannot stand him. And he doesn't want his father to come to the wedding – he's sure he would embarrass him beyond measure. When Rosie 'convinces' him to invite him nevertheless Charlie discovers that his father has just died (on a Karaoke stage – how embarrassing!).


At the funeral he learns that his father was a God, and that he has a brother he cannot remember, and is told to talk to a spider to reach him (you see, Anansi is the Spider god, a trickster as good as any). Fat Charlie does not believe any of this, but when he's back at home (and drunk at the time) he talks to a spider. With the result that Spider, his brother, shows up in his life, and starts turning it upside down...

This is an enjoyable read – Charlie is cringeworthily afraid of being embarrassed (and is, thus, constantly embarrassed...), and develops as he learns of his decent, and what this means for him. Spider is an annoying brat, and develops towards being human. And the story sometimes stutters, sometimes drives along. It's not American Gods, it's missing depth and complexity, but it's a very good second take on a similar setup.
The parts with the Gods in their parallel universe (which, obviously, is a part of ours we just cannot see) work well in the story, they integrate neatly, and chime in with the overall setup. Other bits, like the Ghost story feel tacked on and unnecessary. And not all characters are as well developed and treated as Fat Charlie and Spider – Grahame Coats does not work for me, and other 2nd row characters remain resolutely 1 or 2D, without clear motivations to their actions, and without logical/understandable developments.

Still, the book has its moments – eg: “Daisy looked up at him with the kind of expression that Jesus might have given someone who had just explained that he was probably allergic to bread and fishes, so could He possibly do him a quick chicken salad?...”. Priceless image, IMHO.

What else? If you like Gaiman, American Gods style, then you will like this offering (and I would expect most people to be able to enjoy this), I see no real reason not to recommend this, even if it's not his best work.

Oh, and thanks for the dedication Neil. I'm one of the 'glancing acquaintance' ones ;-)


More Neil Gaiman


Title: Anansi Boys
Author: Neil Gaiman
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net
Publisher:  Headline
Publisher URL: http://www.reviewbooks.co.uk
Publication Date: 2005
Review Date: 100201
ISBN: 0755305078
Pages: 344
Format: Hardback
Topic: Parallel Universe
Topic: Horror

 

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