Top positive review
Boys Will Be Boys
on 23 January 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed Neil Gaiman's "American Gods"; a semi-epic tale of what could happen if the old gods; those of folklore and religion were to meet in one huge battle for supremacy against the new gods; those of TV and computer games. Although perhaps not his best work - "Neverwhere" still counts as my favourite Gaiman - it was a decent enough read based around a highly interesting premise.
One of the old gods featured in that novel was Anansi, the spider god. He was a trickster with seemingly a million stories and as many practical jokes. He was very much the comic relief in quite a serious tale, so when I realise that Gaiman's latest was to called "Anansi Boys", I figured that it could well be a sequel of sorts and, if it was about Anansi, it could be good for a laugh as well.
Fat Charlie Nancy hasn't had a great life. The main cause of this, he feels, is his father; at every step of life, his father has seemingly taken every opportunity he can to embarrass Fat Charlie. To add insult to injury, his father has just dropped dead in humiliating circumstances, at least for Charlie. As a result of this, Fat Charlie finds out a couple of things he didn't know about his father; firstly, he was Anansi the spider god and second, Fat Charlie has a brother he never knew about.
As a result of this news, Fat Charlie's life is about to undergo some major changes. For one thing, his brother suddenly wants to be a part of his life. Whereas Fat Charlie is unsuccessful in more or less everything he does, his brother is the epitome of cool. He manages to upset Fat Charlie's boss, steal his fiancée and land him under police suspicion. Suddenly, from being settled, if not content, Fat Charlie's life is changeable and uncertain.
Gaiman swiftly takes us into a world where anything can happen and where the gods play with people for their own profit and amusement. But our world can also have an effect on the gods and we see not only how Fat Charlie comes to terms with being the son of a god and what powers his breeding may grant him, but also how Spider discovers that being the son of a god doesn't necessarily mean that everything will go your way. We also get to see the lives and misbehaviours of everyone affected by them; from Charlie's boss and his fiancée to some old friends of his father.
No matter who is the character in the forefront at any given moment in time, though, "Anansi Boys" is an awful lot of fun. Whilst perhaps not as ridiculous or as funny as Gaiman's effort with Terry Pratchett in "Good Omens", it's still highly amusing. Despite the book frequently involving the world of the gods, much of it is largely based in a world that would be recognisable to any of us, which makes events seem more ridiculous and, thus, funnier. Well, that's how it seemed to me, at least.
It's not all a laugh a minute, as there are some dark undertones and not every character is a comic foil. In between the humour, there is time for a story of murder and revenge and even a romantic sub plot. But most of the time, the story exists, much like Anansi's stories, mostly to entertain and amuse and this it does very well indeed.
Another point in Gaiman's favour here is that this is in no way a sequel to his earlier "American Gods", involving nothing more than a few recurring characters. Indeed, having read it may be a disappointment as if you're read that book, you may actually be disappointed that this isn't similar. All Gaiman is done here is take a character he likes and have a lot of fun with him, little more than that. Whilst this is a disappointment for anyone expecting a semi-epic tale like before, if you're the kind of person who reads to be entertained or who has enjoyed something like Gaiman and Pratchett's "Good Omens", this is the perfect read for you. It may not be the perfect comic novel and it may not even be Gaiman's best comic novel, but it's definitely worth a look.
No matter where you buy, though, you get your money's worth. Whilst the first read of "Anansi Boys" will be the best, as you simply don't know what to expect and, even if you think you do, you soon discover how wrong you are, it doesn't fail to amuse on a second reading, either. Every book loses a little second time around and this is no different, but there's still plenty here to amuse and entertain more than once, which makes it definitely worth buying.
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