14 September 2009

Book Review: Anansi Boys

Title: Anansi Boys
Author: Neil Gaiman
Published: 2006 Pages: 384
Genre: SFF
Rating: 4/5

Buy  |  Borrow  |  Accept  |  Avoid

Plot Synopsis

"Fat Charlie" Nancy is a wholly unremarkable person living a rather unremarkable life until his no-good father dies, who by the way was/is a god. Then he meets his brother, his charming, self-absorbed, magical brother, and suddenly Fat Charlie's life is full of cantakerous witches, assassin birds, angry gods, and embezzlement.

My Thoughts

I think I should have given this time to simmer. I don't mean the whole book; I mean the pieces. I picked up the 384 page book at 7pm Sunday night - the start of the Bears game, which I am really not interested in but the hubby likes it - because I was feeling guilty after my Sunday Salon post where I realized I had not read a book in 11 days. Instead of reading for an hour or so, I finished the entire book, closing up around 10:45. Now, my thoughts on this book are a jumbled mess, but hopefully writing this review will help!

Anansi Boys shares a character with American Gods: Mr. Nancy. First off, I loved American Gods. As I said in my review, "American Gods is an oddly non-philosophical story regarding a paradigm shift. What I mean is that the plot is a plot, not a theoretical monologue about the significance or the importance of the action, but a story that readers can philosophize about or not as they see fit. There is deep meaning and an almost but not quite subtle reflection on contemporary theology, but at its foundation, American Gods is a good story." I did not get this from Anansi Boys; it was almost the opposite. I liked, but was not overly fascinated with, the plotline (two unsimilar brothers and a complex father-son(s) relationship) or the characters (original and interesting but lacking depth). What I was fascinated with was the philosophy. Anansi Boys, more than anything else to me, is a discussion of the importance of stories to humans.

One of the primary threads throughout the novel is the conflict between Tiger and Anansi. Originally the stories told by humans were Tiger's, and "back then the tales were dark and evil, and filled with pain, and none of them ended happily". Then Anansi comes along and he steals the stories from Tiger through tricks and wit. When Tiger's stories were being told, humans lived just to survive, but with Anansi's humans began to think, to be more than instinct. I find the idea of stories directing human thought and behavior fascinating. I teach literature and film, which are primarily aimed at understanding how ideologies are communicated through print and visual media - in other words, how stories shape humanity.

Along with the philosophy of the book, I also loved the language, which to me was very Douglas Adams-esque. For instance the following:
It is a small world. You do not have to live in it particularly long to learn that for yourself. There is a theory that, in the whole world, there are only five hundred real people (the case, as it were; all the rest of the people in the world, the theory suggests, are extras) and what is more, they all know each other. And it's true, or true as far as it goes. In reality the world is made of thousands upon thousands of groups of about five hundred people, all of whom will spend their lives bumping into each other, trying to avoid each other, and discovering each other in the same unlikely teashop in Vancouver. There is an unavoidability to this process. It's not even coincidence. It's just the way the world work, with no regard for individuals or for propriety.
As always, writing a review really did help the chaotic mess inside my head. For a more clear perspective, read the other reviews! Or better yet, read the book!

Other Reviews


  1. I loved American Gods for all of its layers....figuring out the gods and what they represented, the new gods v the old gods. Not to mention the story. It remains one of my favorites.

    But Anansi Boys felt totally flat in comparison. I can understand Gaiman not wanting to write the same book, but I still felt it lacked something.

  2. softdrink - I'm with you on this. Maybe I should have put more time between the two novels.

  3. "What I was fascinated with was the philosophy. Anansi Boys, more than anything else to me, is a discussion of the importance of stories to humans. "

    Yes, exactly! That's what I loved the post about this book. And I hadn't thought of the language being Douglas Adam-esque, but that's a good comparison :)

  4. I've had this one sitting on my shelves for ages I really should get around to reading it!

  5. Nymeth - After I wrote my post, I was looking for other reviews, and I saw yours. All I could do was laugh at the similarity!

    Bart - I definitely recommend it. Have you read American Gods yet?

  6. Anasi Boys is my second favorite Gaiman book right after Stardust. I sat down to read a few pages after a book slump and bam read the whole thing. That doesn't usually happen with me.

  7. Pussreboots - I haven't read Stardust yet, but I've seen the movie. How similar are they?

  8. Hi, Trish - I loved Anansi Boys on audio!

    Would you mind not linking to my review on my old Today.com site? (Books and Movies) I moved to my own domain in April after some really horrible business practices on the part of Today.com, although they kept all my content. I just found out today that they have put an overlay ad on my old blog that links to a bunch of porn sites. I'd hate to send any traffic over there.

  9. Carrie - Not a problem! I totally missed the porn when I was rummaging around over there...shucks :)


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