Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Review by R.S. Gibson
With Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman combines the depth of his more serious American Gods with a comedic sensibility reminiscent of his earlier Good Omens. Frothy comedy and silly supernatural slapstick are woven seamlessly around a tale of a dysfunctional magical family.
Fat Charlie's father was not like other fathers, but then, fathers never are, are they? Still, Fat Charlie's father pushes the envelope. Fat Charlie—a nickname given by his father that he can't get rid of—is about to get married when he gets the message that his father has died. From that moment, his carefully balanced life in London—a job at a theatrical agency, a fiancée with a fussy mother who doesn't like him—starts to unravel in a manner that only Neil Gaiman could conceive of. Gaiman is a very daring writer, who goes for broke from the first page. But he does so in such a witty, matter of fact manner that the reader can't help but be charmed.
As Charlie finds out more about his father, he also meets the brother he never knew. He discovers that his father was Anansi, the Trickster god—and his brother Spider seems to have gotten all the magic. Charlie wants only to get married to the girl he loves and live a relatively normal life. But his brother, his father, and family friends don't make it an easy task. Gaiman cleverly complicates matters with crime fiction, slapstick comedy, supernatural plotting and mythic storytelling styles. He does this effortlessly, with a light hand so sure that he can slip from a tale of corporate misdeeds to a Caribbean romance via ghosts and gods. It sounds complicated, but the storytelling makes it simple.
Gaiman demonstrates the full range of his skills as a writer with Anansi Boys. He is constantly, remarkably entertaining and humorous, even when he's taking on the serious subject of father-son dynamics and the permeation of ancient mythologies into the modern world. Gaiman masterfully weaves a number of narrative styles in a manner so seamless as to make the novel almost absurdly easy to read. The character arcs are complicated but clear. There are so many of them it seems a bit crowded at times, but every character, major and minor, gets precisely the right amount of attention and detail. The humor is reminiscent of Terry Pratchett and I would recommend it for any fans of light-hearted fantasy fiction.
Anansi Boys on Audiobook. Review by Violet Kane
I first picked up the audiobook of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys with high expectations. After listening to George Guidall's reading of Gaiman's American Gods, I became convinced that it is, perhaps, the best audiobook ever made—and I worried that a different narrator could not possibly capture the vast dimensions of Gaiman's storytelling.
Having listened to Lenny Henry's reading of Anansi Boys, I could not imagine this story any other way. Henry's flair for oral storytelling brings definition, pathos and humor to this instant Gaiman classic. The narrator is also quite skilled at accents—at times, he skillfully signals character changes with subtle intonations; for other characters, his accents are so fully rounded that some listeners may be surprised to hear such a variety of voices come from a single narrator.
This audiobook also has the benefit of relative brevity. This, of course, is a consequence of the length of Gaiman's novel. But for those of us who enjoy unabridged audiobooks, shorter novels are a welcome change of pace. As much as I adored Guidall's reading of American Gods, the unabridged audiobook became a lifestyle for two weeks. Certainly nothing to complain about with a story like American Gods, but the relative brevity of Anansi Boys—which is eight CDs long—makes it a perfect choice for "reading" on the average car or plane trip. It should take under a week for the daily audiobook listener.
I highly recommend this audiobook, both as an introduction to books on CD, and as an introduction to Gaiman's storytelling.
R.S. Gibson works by day to support himself and his growing book collection. By night he dreams of a career in comics. He is a long time fan of alternative reality fiction.
Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.