Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman (2005)

Gaiman, like Tim Powers (reviewed elsewhere on this site), often writes about Ur-mythology, the underlying myths that ever culture seems to develop in some variation. Where Powers tends to develop cross-cultural parallels into a coherent whole, Gaiman delights in transporting ancient myth into the modern day. This was developed most fully perhaps in American Gods, but it is a trick utilized to splendid effect in Anansi Boys.

Gaiman returns to one of his favorite "characters," Anansi, the Ashanti spider-trickster god in Anansi Boys. Anansi, who often appears these days as an old black man in a sharp hat and yellow gloves, has died. (Sort of.) His son, Fat Charlie Nancy, unaware of his father's divine state learns about his heritage the hard way.

The book is a delirious romp across cultures, as well across the boundary between "reality" and "mythology," both in quotes since they both seem like rather flexible concepts in this book. Fat Charlie discovers love, a brother he didn't know he had and enemies of his father who have transferred their enmity. He gets into trouble, gets out of trouble, and gets into more trouble - all in the lovely prose of Neil Gaiman.

This is not a very serious book. It is much lighter in tone than most of Gaiman's work (with the notable exception of Good Omens), but that's not a bad thing at all. As Donald Wolfit said, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard." It's true in writing as well as in acting, and Gaiman shows that he can do funny fantasy as well as dark fantasy. And that's hard.

Overall Grade: B+

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