If I lived under a rock and had never heard of Neil Gaiman, the caption “God is dead. Meet the kids.” would still have tempted me to pick up Anansi Boys. As a fan, it was never really in doubt.
Anansi in African/West Indian folklore is a bit f a prankster, occupying a role similar to that of Loki in the Norse tradition (or even Brer Rabbit). He’s associated with spiders and storytelling – the spider’s web has always been a metaphor for the well-crafted tale. Gaiman fans will have already encountered Anansi in American Gods, but as a relatively minor character. In Anansi Boys he plays a much greater role – surprising, since he’s dead throughout.
Anyway, Anansi Boys is the story of Anansi’s son Fat Charlie, who discovers at his father’s funeral that not only is he the son of a God, but he has a brother (Spider) who he never knew about. Spider pays Charlie a visit and successfully ruins his life to the point that Charlie turns to a group of eccentric voodoo practitioners to get rid of him. In the process, he makes a bargain he is really, really going to regret.
Oh, and the police are after him for embezzlement.
This book is considerably lighter than American Gods, more *grown up* than Stardust, and far better than Neverwhere; and probably a good introduction to Gaiman’s work for those who haven’t yet read him. His prose in the scenes at the Beginning of the World is gorgeous, though the imagery itself isn’t that original. However, some of his best scenes are the lightest ones – Charlie’s aeroplane related woes and his nightclub debut.
Gaiman seems to like giving dead women important roles. Here, luckily, she’s a rather attractive ghost, instead of the rapidly decaying corpse we saw in American Gods. This actually says a lot about the difference in the mood of the two books. I’m not sure which I like better. I certainly had more fun reading this one.
My copy of the book includes lots of fun stuff like an interview with Gaiman (though people who read his journal won’t learn anything new) and proof of how terrible his handwriting is. All very endearing, of course, the man is adorable. Look at the picture on the inside of the front cover (or on the back of the book if you’re rich and got the hard cover version), and you’ll probably end up buying it simply because you want to add to the man’s (probably considerable) fortune.