Hannah Scribbles

Review: Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman (2005)

In Books/Authors, Pop Culture! on December 17, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because imitation is not my preferred form of flattery.

Neil Gaiman’s “Anansi Boys” begins, appropriately, with a song.

When “Fat Charlie” Nancy calls returns home for his estranged father’s funeral he learns not only that his dad was Anansi, a trickster god, but that he has a brother. Warned not to contact his god-brother, who takes after their father in both power and spirit, Charlie does what any curious human would do: the exact opposite.

Soon Charlie’s life, which is not so much enjoyable as free from discomfort, is coming apart from the seams. His brother Spider bends the laws of physics and embarrasses Charlie in new and terrible ways – mostly involving karaoke. When the boys’ bickering gets out of hand, Fat Charlie realizes the only way to solve some problems is to face the music.

Gaiman builds his mythology in small clips telling the story of Anansi, the trickster Spider whose song changed the world, and his sons. He starts in the Beginning when the first words became the songs of Creation, great and powerful melodies that shaped the hills and night sky.  Word by word, Gaiman weaves Anansi’s story with that of Fat Charlie and his trickster brother with such care that the book flows like poetry.

“Anansi Boys” is only my second Neil Gaiman novel (the first being “Good Omens,” co-authored by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett), but his whimsical storytelling and excellent characterizations have captured my attention. The Fat Charlie of “Anansi Boys” is a well-rounded character thrust into a situation he cannot control. He prefers to be dissatisfied than uncomfortable, and if that isn’t one of humanity’s greatest flaws then I don’t know what is.

Throughout the story, characters who do not know they are funny find themselves in infuriatingly silly circumstances as if to prove that life is about embracing its quirks. Gaiman’s song of love and ingenuity brings about everything purposefully without relying on two-dimensional characters for the plot’s sake. Told with straight-faced sincerity, “Anansi Boys” is both bizarre and hilarious.

It is not a song to be missed.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Funniest Moment:  the overnight cab ride

Favorite Character:  Daisy Day

Bonus:  If you liked the book, you’ll be happy to learn what Wikipedia tells me: Neil Gaiman is thinking about adapting “Anansi Boys” into a movie. It’s already a BBC radio play, however, so part of me wonders whether the visual adaptation is really necessary.

Have you read “Anansi Boys” – or another Neil Gaiman story?  If so, tell me why you loved/hated it!  Also, I really did use the Grammarly Plagiarism Checker for this article. So, comment below or find me on Twitter!

  1. I haven’t yet read a Neil Gaiman book that I didn’t like. My favorite part was the end. I was about to say exactly what it was about the ending that I like, but then I realized i might spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, so I’ll not do that 😛 Without going into specifics, though, it was the transcendental and abstract nature of the things that happen at the end, mixed with the mundane and ordinary aspects of everyday life that you get throughout the book, that really appealed to me.

    • Without spoiling anything for potential readers, I agree with your view of the ending. What Neil Gaiman book should I read next?

      • There are so many good ones to choose from! Since you just came from “Anansi Boys,” you might enjoy “American Gods.” If you’re interested in something a little different, though, “Neverwhere” or “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” are both very good (the latter is the better of the two, in my opinion.) “Coraline” is also amazing, if you like fiction targeted toward a younger audience (it’s a great read for adults as well.)

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