Thursday, July 30, 2015

Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman

This week I'm reading another book from Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys, which some people may see as a sequel or spin-off to American Gods. I read American Gods a few years back, and I may decide to reread it again for the blog at some future point. (Listen, the to-read pile keeps getting bigger and bigger! There's just too many books to read and not enough time!) Anyway, after my introduction to both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman through Good Omens, I have since become a fan of both their works, although Gaiman certainly has less of a library to go through than the voluminous works of Pratchett.

Anansi Boys is set in the modern day and begins with the death of Fat Charlie Nancy's father, the incredibly flamboyant Mr. Nancy. It is eventually revealed that Mr. Nancy was in fact the west African trickster spider god, Anansi, and Charlie has a long lost brother named Spider. Things get a little more complicated as Charlie deals with the loss of his father and reconnects with his brother, throwing Charlie into a world of gods and magic that he had always assumed never existed.

Because it deals with the themes of gods and hidden magic, (although hidden magic is practically a constant in anything Gaiman writes), this book is similar to, and yet at the same time remains distinct from American Gods. Much like American Gods and Neverwhere, we have a fairly normal protagonist who lives an uninteresting life, is suddenly exposed to a secret world filled with magic and belief that tenuously coexists with our own, and then there is some crisis which our hero then has to resolve. Certainly, this could get very boring if the books were all the same, but Gaiman manages to make them all very interesting, and I think it's because he's very good at creating characters. Characters we love, characters we hate, characters we may have run into in our own lives at one point or another, and most importantly characters we remember. The formula may be essentially the same, but the elements that Gaiman includes, and the characters he creates make the stories much more interesting.

I will say that there are some things you have to infer for yourself from the book, although I suppose that's better than having everything explained for you by the author. I rather liked this book, even from the beginning, so it's kind of hard for me to say anything beyond it was good. For whatever reason these sorts of stories really appeal to me and they become my favorites. There's not really much I can do about it.

If you're a fan of Gaiman already and haven't read this, then you'll definitely enjoy it. If you haven't read Gaiman yet, this is just as good a book to start on as any of his others. Although it shares some things in common with American Gods, Anansi Boys stands firmly on its own without having to read anything else.

- Kalpar

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