Monday, June 01, 2009

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Reading books by Neil Gaiman is pure pleasure, because he's got such a sly sense of humor, and writes like a member of the Monty Python team of script writers that you can't help but appreciate the glimpse into the way the man must think when he sits down to the computer to create his masterful works.
I've been a fan since first reading his graphic novel "Death" series, in which a goth teenage girl is the embodiment of Death. Somehow all that dramatic teenage girl angst melded with the serious function of helping mortal creatures pass to create a very credible face for such an awe-inspiring function. Death had just the right amount of gravitas and snark to make you wish that she really was the grim reaper.

Following that series, I read Gaiman's "Stardust" and "Coraline," childrens books that, in the tradition of Roald Dahl and Ruyard Kipling, are wonderful reads for adults as well. I was also thrilled to learn that Gaiman is a master of the short story after reading his short story anthologies, like "Fragile Things."

The year American Gods came out, the literary fiction world was all abuzz about it, as new fans became devotees of his work. This novel, like all of his fiction, begins with a myth or legend of some type and riffs off into humor and modern dilemmas that keep the reader fascinated, amused and caught up in the swiftly flowing plot. Though there was a bit too much grotesque darkness about American Gods, Gaiman never lets the reader dwell on the horror, he keeps the protagonist moving at lightening speed.

So it was with joy that I welcomed a copy of Anansi Boys into my TBR collection, hoping that it would be a kind of sequel and still a separate story that doesn't retread American Gods.
I shouldn't have worried, Gaiman takes the African legend of Anansi the spider god and turns it on it's head with a modern interpretation of what would happen if Anansi's son was split into two boys, one full of mischief and magic, the other fearful and ordinary, an accountant with a past and parents he doesn't understand. We follow Fat Charlie through his life, his love and his eventual awakening and a reunion with his brother/other half that is amazing, funny and wise.
Gaimans zingy plot and hilarious dialog is in place here, as is his ability to mix the profound with the comic in such a way that you're not aware of the moral you're learning until it unfolds like a flower at the end.
I highly recommend this book to all who love Gaimans previous works, and those who just want an interesting beach read. Gaiman's a sure thing for a good time.

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