Spitzit’s House

Where serious topics come to relax

Book Review – Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Published in 2005, Anansi Boys spins a web (pun definitely intended) about a shy Londoner, Fat Charlie, whose father dies and he later finds out his old man was actually a god, and that he has a long lost brother that evidently inherited all the cool genetic god powers from their old man.

I had never read a Neil Gaiman book prior to this one, and he has definitely gained a new fan in me. Actually, I take that back…when I was reading the synopsis of this book, it obviously struck my interest, so as is my normal procedure, I wanted to know what else he had written. That is when I noticed The Sandman graphic novel series and Stardust. I was a pretty big fan of the Sandman back in the late 80s early 90s. I never was much of one for comic books or graphic novels, except for this one; and to this day it is the only one I have ever read and enjoyed. I did not read the Stardust novel, but I did see the movie with my kids which starred Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer,  and absolutely loved it…I will read the book as well, I promise.

Anyway, with Anansi Boys I figured I was on to something good, so….

Fat Charlie, he is the main character of this story. He’s quiet, painfully shy, everything embarrasses him, and he is not fat…anymore. I like this guy because he reminds me of me when I was a kid.  Fat Charlie was born in the States, Florida to be exact, then he moved to London as a child with his mother when she left his father. All of the memories of dad are pretty much the things that life-long scars are made of. Not that his father was abusive or anything, but evidently he was quite the jokester and took great pleasure in the embarrassment and humiliation of others…including Fat Charlie. For starters, his dad is the one that nicknamed him “Fat Charlie”, and when his dad nicknamed something, it stuck…forever.

Fat Charlie is engaged to Rosie, who doesn’t put out until after marriage…or so she says. Additionally, Rosie wants to invite Fat Charlie’s father to the wedding much to his chagrin. Perfectly content in his miserable little existence, Fat Charlie receives word from the States that his father has died. After attending the funeral in Florida, Fat Charlie learns from one of the old neighbors that his father was in fact a god, Anansi the trickster spider god to be exact…oh, and that he has a brother as well. Of course, being the realist that he is, Fat Charlie is little overwhelmed by all of this crazy talk of gods and brothers and him being the stupid child.

But it doesn’t take long for him to summon up his brother, Spider, and sure enough he is the charismatic, good looking, and charming King of Cool! After just one night of fun and mourning for their father, Spider is messing up Fat Charlie’s job, horn-dogging on his once abstinent fiancee, and basically tipping over the boat that was once Fat Charlie’s miserable but predictably comfortable little life. So Fat Charlie turns to the group of “island lady” neighbors back in Florida to help him get rid of Spider. What he gets is a ticket to the end of the world..or the beginning of the word depending on who you ask. There he encounters many of the other gods, but gets little help from them, because apparently his old man has played a few too many tricks over the years and managed to piss off the whole god neighborhood.

One thing leads to another, and Fat Charlie unintentionally brings the wrath of his father’s old enemy down on his brother and himself, finds out his his boss is a villainous crook, and that he is not such a puss after all. Funny how stressful times will drive a person to do things they never thought possible of themselves and change their life forever.

Neil Gaiman is truly a wonderful story-teller with a great but twisted sense of humor which is what I loved most about the book. Gaiman also seems to have a real talent for taking brutal violence and making it funny. No matter how gruesome the death, the character never really dies to the reader if their ghost hangs around to haunt the story and continue the humor.

After reading the book, I did a little research and sure enough Anansi is or was a real spider-god of West African and Caribbean mythology or folklore, and he did own the right to all stories according to legend and was a cunning little trickster of a spider. Once you start to read about Anansi, then you may begin to see what he represents and what this book in turn represents in some fashion or another. I also learned that there is a movie adaption of this book in the works, so I will be eager to see how that goes.

Gaiman, you are a genius and I am completely envious of your writing talent. You encompass a style and grace that is rare and appealing to readers of all genres. It is not often that a book can make me laugh out loud. I definitely recommend this book to anyone and I look forward to reading Gaiman’s other “stories”.

This is my conceited opinion, and I am sticking with it…until a massive flock of crazed birds tries to peck my eyeballs out.

October 10, 2008 - Posted by | Book Reviews | , , , , , ,

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