Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Neil Gaiman – Anansi Boys

Gaiman's American Gods was one of the best books I read last year, and probably one of my all time favorite novels full stop. I was very much looking forward to Anansi Boys, which is a sort of sequel to American Gods.

None of the characters from the earlier book appear in this one, save for a few cameos by the title character Anansi (the African trickster god, transplanted to modern day America). The protagonist is Anansi's son Charlie, who knows nothing of his father's divinity until his (Anansi's) untimely death. While the premise sounds fairly typical for a fantasy novel, the style is actually that of a broad comedy. It resembles Good Omens more than any other Gaiman novel, and indeed it has a very Pratchettesque style.

The setup is a pretty good one, and the book starts out with a lot of promise. Gaiman writes with a wry laid back tone, one that sounds a little like a updated Anansi story. I imagined it being related by some old black dude from the American south-east. Unfortunately it doesn't remain so charming all the way through. The voice of the author gradually deteriorates into what I can only describe as 'generic Terry Pratchett', complete with footnotes. The plot doesn't end up being all that interesting either, becoming more predictable as it goes on, and by the end it reminded me of nothing more than a boring Adam Sandler movie, with all the humour and plot events being telegraphed well in advance.

Having said that Gaiman is of course a pretty clever guy and there are plenty of laughs to be found right up to the end of the story. I particularly liked the way that he never explicitly states that almost all the characters are black, it's only hinted at by the way that every now and again it explicitly mentions that a minor character is white. However the actual emotional content of the story is rather flimsy. In particular the romances were eye-rollingly cliched and unconvincing. Not to mention rather creepy in some respects.

It's not as bad as I might have made it sound, I don't regret buying or taking the time to read it, but it's far below my expectations for Gaiman, as he's normally brilliant.


Joel said...

Will have to give it a read sometime!

(currently reading Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton)

Jon said...

Don't get too excited, it's a real disappointment when compared to American Gods.

Bob said...

So many books and so little time!

I'm slowly reading my way through all of Phillip K Dick's work (some cool ideas)
(also reading Judas Unchained)