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The 12th Book: Anansi Boys

by C. Ross Jam on December 17, 2008

Anansi Boys Cover.png As miserable as American Gods was, Anansi Boys is completely delightful. Easily the best Neil Gaiman book I’ve read so far.

Somewhat of a sequel to American Gods, Anansi Boys features Mr. Nancy, essentially Anansi The Spider of African myth, and his estranged son Fat Charlie Nancy. Anansi is one of the classic trickster gods, continuously spinning wondrous tales, and conniving the other primal gods of the African plains. Mr. Nancy is always the life of the party. Fat Charlie is the antithesis of his father, being a bit of an English schlub, destined for a henpecked marriage courtesy of an overbearing mother-in-law. In fact Fat Charlie hates Mr. Nancy for the myriad ways his father found to embarrass him over the years.

Mr. Nancy nominally dies, Charlie attends the funeral, and with a bit of folk wisdom from Mr. Nancy’s old-time neighbors, accidentally conjures up his long lost brother, Spider. Spider got the entertaining side of his father’s personality, not to mention the magical abilities of the gods. A night of drunken revelry with Spider ensues, and then an entertaining caper breaks out. Caught up in an embezzlement scheme that devolves into a comedy of errors, Charlie eventually comes to terms with his father’s world and finds his true mate.

Sighs!

Actually it’s not as treacly as I’ve written and the key for me was the light humorous touch Gaiman brought, befitting a trickster god’s tale. Anansi Boys is really funny in spots and never overbearingly dark, despite quite a bit of evildoing and violence.

One other thing that struck me was that some of the characters were, get this, black and this was just matter of fact. Racial differences weren’t leveraged as a literary device, or used as a crutch for urban “street cred” as in many science fiction books. Or I was just too dense to notice. In any event, I found it refreshing.

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