Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review: Anansi Boys

Book cover, Anansi Boys, a fantasy novelImage via WikipediaAnansi Boys by Neil Gaiman is a companion novel to American Gods.  Fat Charlie Nancy's father dies suddenly, and when Charlie goes back to Florida for the funeral, he finds out that he has a brother he never knew about, Spider.  He's also told that his father was the god Anansi, the keeper of all the stories, and that Spider got all the magic in the family.  Chaos ensues- Spider wreaks havoc on Charlie's life, upsetting his romantic relationship, his career, his police record and his home.  But this all serves to help Charlie come into his own, and as the two brothers confront each other and some common enemies, they do as Anansi would have wanted and learn to tell their own stories.
I thoroughly enjoy Neil Gaiman's novels.  I loved American Gods and The Graveyard Book and also really liked Stardust.  He writes so elegantly.  He's got panache.  I think even if you are not a fantasy fan, if you started reading a book by him, you'd have difficulty putting it down.  If you are familiar with the American Midwest and haven't read American Gods, you are missing out on a fantastic experience.  Have you ever read a book and thought, "Ohmigoodness, this author has lived my life.  He knows everything I did as a child and has the exact same memories I do!"?  Well... if you're from the Midwest, that is the exact reaction you will have to American GodsThe House on the Rock plays a major part in the book, that's all I have to say.
But back to Anansi Gods.  I can't be sure, but I think if you live in Florida and have some Caribbean blood in you, then you might have that same affinity for this book that I had for American Gods
I really enjoyed the intricacy of this novel.  I loved how complex the familial relationships were.  I have siblings myself and I could definitely understand the intensity of the love/hate feelings that existed.  Yes, I love my brother and sister.  But I also take out a lot of anger and frustration and all sorts of other emotions on them that I never would on anyone else.  And I know they see the serious flaws in my nature and personality better than anyone else.  It's scary when someone knows you that well, and knows how to push those buttons to get you really angry.  But at the same time... it's impossible not to stand up for someone who knows you so well.  Gaiman gets that.  And he writes it into his story.
I don't know if this is really allowed, but I think I would have liked this story much better if Spider was not so...cruel.  Yes, he's the cool, fun, suave brother who lives dangerously and has the tough guy act down.  But he's just not a nice person.  And so I could never really warm to him.  Maybe dangerous, mean guys are supposed to seem very vulnerable and deep, but I honestly just wanted to throw a glass of red wine at Spider while he was wearing a white shirt for much of this book.  If I had to choose between the two brothers, I'd choose Charlie.  But he was a bit dull and "go ahead, walk all over me, I won't do anything to stand up for myself," which I didn't much care for, either.  Frankly, I didn't much care for any of the characters except for one fabulous former dancer who gets fed up with someone and decides to take matters into her own hands.
As a matter of preference, characters can really make a story for me.  I no doubt will get around to telling you all exactly why once I get back on track with my "How important is ____ to you?" Sunday Salon posts.  Plot is important, too, but is secondary to likable characters.  I didn't love any of the characters in this book, so I didn't love it the way I loved American Gods.  I did thoroughly enjoy the plot, though, and the writing was superb.  The story is deceptively simple.  Gaiman uses pretty short sentences and I don't remember him using big, hard-to-understand words that required context clues to decipher.  He tells the story simply and elegantly- the way that Anansi would probably tell it.  I am not sure why, but this book more than any of Gaiman's others really reminded me of Terry Pratchett.  The simple language, the disparate story lines all snowballing together to the avalanche of an ending, and the really satisfied feeling you get when you finish the book.  So while the characters didn't resonate as much with me as did some of Gaiman's other creations (Oh, Shadow and Bod, how I miss you!), I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading this book and I think it's one I'll appreciate more once I have time to reflect back on the story and all it contained within it.

27 comments:

  1. I am forced to conclude I am not a Neil Gaiman fan! I read this for book club and just didn't like it at all. :(

    ReplyDelete
  2. I really need to read American Gods. I started it ages ago and didn't get very far into it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. To be honest, I wasn't as crazy about American Gods as everyone else seemed to be. I did like Neverwhere though, so I have this book sitting around too. Haven't convinced myself to read it yet because I'm not sure I'll like it.

    Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have only read 1 book, Aww Stardust. ANd listened to Graveyard, but...oh I do wanna try this one too but dunno

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm a Gaiman fan. I've read Stardust, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, Coraline, American Gods and this one and I agree about some of the fantastic characters he's created. I really liked this one though because it was so playful. Where American Gods was serious, Anansi Boys was tongue-in-cheek. It gave a good balance to the overall story. Great review!

    ReplyDelete
  6. See, I couldn't connect with any of the characters in American Gods, so it's the only Gaiman book I've read that I couldn't stand. Since then, all the children's and YA fiction of his I've read I've enjoyed, and I'm now listening to and enjoying Good Omens on audio. I've yet to try his adult fiction again because American Gods really scared me off, but my friend Karen loves this book and keeps pushing me to try it, saying it's very, very different from American Gods.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Note to self - read more by Neil Gaiman. Like, now!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I totally get what you mean about the characters. I really liked the folks in this book (except for Graham Coates, who I liked to hate), but I've read a lot of other books that would've been soooooo much better if I'd just managed to connect with the characters.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I also read and enjoyed Stardust and Graveyard Book and want to read something else by him, but haven't been able to decide which one. This does sound like one I might like. Decisions, decisions...

    ReplyDelete
  10. I can understand where you're coming from with Charlie and Spider, but maybe it shows the polar opposite-ness of siblings. How one is so... good and the other not. My favorite characters had to be the women in Florida. They were so fabulous and vibrant. I loved reading about them!

    I have to agree with Avid Reader as well. This one was so much lighter than American Gods. Where AG was grey, AB was orange and yellow if not a little red.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I don't need to like or connect with the characters in order to love a book but, like you, Anansi Boys was not my favourite Gaiman novel. I did, however, love its focus on storytelling and appreciate the Pratchett comparison.

    Have you read Neverwhere? I love Neevrwhere and it is a close-run contest between it and American Gods for the place of my favourite Gaiman novel. I do hold an affinity with London though, which fully endears it to me.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I loved this one, but I think the awesome audio version made it even more magical. :D

    ReplyDelete
  13. I loved Anansi Boys like crazy, and I'm sure I reread it more often than American Gods, though part of that is just down to length and simplicity. I got fed up with Spider, but I felt like it was all part of that British thing, you know, how they love and find hugely amusing stories where people's lives go completely to hell. So I was okay with it, especially once Fat Charlie got himself sorted out, because I figured he could handle Spider after that. :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. American Gods is on my tbr list. I've read Anansi Boys which I did like as I did all the other Gaimen books I've read. My only problem with it was the same one you had, the characters were not likable but one and yes anyone who's read it knows which one. Proof that Gaiman is awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm ashamed to admit that I have yet to read anything by Neil Gaiman.. I can't wait to read my first book by him though :) He seems so well-loved in the book blogging community.

    ReplyDelete
  16. American Gods is probably my favourite book by Gaiman. It was so different from anything I'd read before. I just love the way he can combine the ancient with the modern so seamlessly and enchant you with his words. Like you Anansi Boys didn't blow me away, but I still thought it was pretty good.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for the review, Aarti. I'm going to be reading American Gods once I finish Hesse's Steppenwolf, so if I enjoy it I'll try this one at some stage as it's the companion one. I've just finished my first part- Gaiman novel, Good Omens, review coming up soon, and I really enjoyed that one.

    ReplyDelete
  18. American Gods was my first and only Gaiman. I read it and loved it to pieces, but haven't gotten around to reading any of his others, except for Good Omens, which I also loved. I agree that Gaiman has a style that is just so easy to read and connect with and I am now looking forward to reading this book, which I also have on my shelves. It does sound as though this will be another success with me, and I am so glad that you liked it! Isn't it weird that you can have such a positive experience with a book without really liking any of the characters all that much? I think that's the sign of an amazing author.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I didn't realise that American Gods and this book were connected. Will have to ensure that I read them in the write order when I do get around to reading them!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hehe 'I honestly just wanted to throw a glass of red wine at Spider while he was wearing a white shirt'. Awesomely captured reaction.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I always fall into the camp of those who like the humor, no news there. What spurs me to comment is how you pin down a niggling feeling I had when I read this one--yes! It reminds me of Pratchett!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I have this on my shelf but didn't know it was a companion book for American Gods, which I loved. I'm reading The Graveyard Book at the moment, and am enjoying it although I think I prefer Gaiman's adult fantasy...

    ReplyDelete
  23. How many reviews have I read of this book and I'm just now realizing it's a companion to American Gods? Good to know. I actually have American Gods on the shelf but haven't read it yet. My last Gaiman was Neverwhere and I wasn't as thrilled with it as I hoped. Though I did love Stardust and hope to read Graveyard Book one day, too.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I loved American Gods but I still haven't gotten around to reading Anasazi Boys or Stardust, both of which are in my bookcase. Hmm. Must remedy that.

    Thank you for the warning about Spider! I like my evil with some redeeming quality.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I've read the first few chapters of American Gods so far - it's definitely a book that grabs you by the throat at the beginning and then punches you in the stomach a few times - I can see why some commenters didn't like it/gave up on it - but I really want to find out how this one unfolds (How can you resist a character named Shadow Moon, nickname Puppy? And a book that has not only won the Hugo and Nebula SF awards, but the Bram Stoker one, too).

    ReplyDelete
  26. I would love to get the audio to this. I recently listened to Neverwhere and find Gaiman's words in his voice delightful. And have been wanting to get this sequel to American Gods after enjoying it a few months ago. Hope you are well. :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. The only Gaiman I've read is Coraline, and I really enjoyed it. Glad you enjoyed this book, barring the cruel spider...

    I really must change my Gaiman reading habit, which is non-existent at the moment.

    ReplyDelete

I read every comment posted on this blog, even if it sometimes takes me a while to respond. Thank you for taking the time and effort to comment here! Unless you are spamming me, in which case, thanks for nothing.