Friday, July 17, 2009

Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman

Here's the review of a book I read recently which I thoroughly enjoyed, interrupted by fits of laughter at times.

Fat Charlie Nancy led a quiet life in England until he found out his dad was a god and that he had a brother he never knew about who inherited his dad's mischievous powers. When he invites his brother, Spider, to come to town for a reunion of sorts, Fat Charlie finds himself tangled in a web from which he can hardly extricate himself.

Neil Gaiman's humor is paramount to the story, and he pins down such humorous characters throughout the narrative, starting with Anansi himself and going to Fat Charlie, Rosie's mother, Graham Coates, Spider, Daisy, the old ladies from Florida, and a complete set of minor characters who add flavor to the punch. While thickly British humor throughout much of it, the humor is lasting and fresh, not relying on cheap tricks but rather the content itself: the pantheon of mischievous animal gods and their dealings with the main characters. I realized partway through the reading that each character has an affinity in his or her actions and thoughts to one of the animal gods. Gaiman's humor is multilayered and deeply intelligent, offering instantaneously satisfying humor along with ironic, dramatic, and thematic humor that extends well beyond one page. One example is Mr. Graham Coates's use of platitudes and cliches, which almost entirely consume his speech patterns, and including his favorite made-up word: absitively.

I'd recommend the book to anyone looking for a good laugh with some interesting speculative narrative thrown into the works.

Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman. HarperCollins. 2005. 416 pp. $7.99 (PB).


  1. The premise of the story reminds me of a myth I learned about in elementary school which I can't remember very well now. But that's beside the point. I've heard of Gaiman's work, but I've never read any of his stuff. I don't know why I'm reluctant to dive in. Is the 'Anansi Boys' a good beginning?

  2. Anansi Boys is funny but not intentionally so. It's not meant to be a humor book, you just end up loving it so much because the characters are so robust and wonderful. It's a good intro to his work, I'm reading Stardust right now.

    I'm Fat Charlie Nancy!!!!

  3. I love the character names and I love made-up words, so I'll put it on my reading list.