ANANSI BOYS by Neil Gaiman
Harper Torch, 2005, 400 pages, ISBN: 0-06-051519-8, Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
There’s a certain satisfaction for a reader when she moves on from knowing a single work in an author’s bibliography to knowing two, and so on and so forth. So while I had a number of other books on my table, I couldn’t forgo the opportunity to read Anansi Boys immediately following American Gods, especially since someone was kind enough to lend it to me the very weekend I finished the first novel.
The first thing I noticed about Anansi Boys was that the narrative better resembled what I had first expected from American Gods. It was a little more free flowing, occasionally addressing the reader rather than having everything squarely within the head of the main character (not that I disliked that in American Gods. On the contrary, it was quite appropriate). It moved a little more quickly and took much less time to read. But, then again, there weren’t as many characters and events to keep track of. Anansi Boys is a more contained novel, and it was nice to read something slightly different in Gaiman’s style.
While not a sequel to American Gods, this novel does deal with a character from that story. Well, more or less; it actually deals with his descendants.
Fat Charlie Nancy has never been especially enamored of his father’s behavior, so when his fiancee suggests that they invite him to the wedding, Charlie immediately resists the idea. She convinces him, however, and when he finally makes the call to Florida, he learns that his father has died. But that isn’t all. After the funeral, he learns two other surprising things over which Charlie is skeptical: his father was a god, and he has a brother.
Until then Charlie has been living a normal life. He has never done anything extraordinary and never expected to. But once he finally meets his brother, it seems that nothing will remain the same. And in the process of trying to figure out how to return his life to the way it was before, a number of unfortunate things begin to happen.
As with American Gods, I find it somewhat difficult to summarize further without getting too much into the story itself, so I’ll leave off there and just say — I really enjoyed this novel. I don’t think there were any characters that I inherently disliked. Even the antagonists were interesting because of their bizarre quirks and how unlikely it seemed that they would be stopped. The events take the reader to many different places, to the dreamscape of the animal gods and plenty of earthly locations, and its exciting to see how Gaiman chooses to describe them all and give them personalities of their own.
This is one of those stories that weaves together exceptionally well at the end; one where most of the peripheral characters come back to do important things, too, and you’re glad they did because you really liked them (or at least had a marginal interest in their stories…). So I can honestly say that I was satisfied with the ending, and with all the events that led up to it. There are so many moments I could list as examples, but I’ll leave that for other readers to enjoy on their own.