“I think this is probably yours,” said Charlie.
Spider took the tongue from his brother, with an exaggerated thank you gesture, placed it into his mouth, pushed it in, and held it down. Charlie watched and waited. Soon Spider seemed satisfied—- he moved his mouth experimentally, pushing his tongue to one side and then to the other, as if he were preparing to shave a moustache, opening his mouth widely and waggling his tongue about. He closed his mouth and stood up. Finally, in a voice that was still a little wobbly around the edges, he said, “Nice hat.”(351)
Neil Gaiman’s comical novel features doppelganger brothers, sons of the West African god Anansi, and their problematic reconciliation.
Title: Anansi Boys
Author: Neil Gaiman
Quiet Charlie Nancy learns that his recently-deceased father was the African trickster god, Anansi. When Charlie tries to contact a hitherto unknown brother, his life takes some very strange turns.
This often-hilarious novel takes a simpler, more linear approach to storytelling than do Gaiman’s other adult works. Its themes also seem simpler: at times, deceptively so. Gaiman’s explanation for the significance of story-telling passing from the Tiger to the Spider may not be original, but it is ingenious, and the novel illustrates it effectively.
The fate of the story’s villains could not be more appropriate.
The conflicts resolve in often entertaining ways, but Gaiman resolves them often too easily. There’s a very funny encounter towards the ending that seems to be parodying this fact; this doesn’t keep it from being less than fully satisfying.
Originality: 4/6 As in much of Gaiman’s writing, the central conceits are old, but he handles them in an interesting manner. This feels like a lighter story from the same realities in which he set American Gods and The Sandman. Our old, magical beliefs have a basis in reality, and our beliefs in turn shape that reality.
Imagery: 5/6. This lacks the mind-bending, memorable imagery of many of Gaiman’s other works. Even so, he describes a believable world where many things lurk beyond the edges of consensus reality.
Characterization: 5/6 The characters are memorable; the principal human villain is perhaps too much a straw man. The true nature of Charlie and Spider’s relationship is predictable, but if much hinges on that relationship, nothing, really, hinges on that revelation being a surprise.
Emotional Response: 5/6 I found much to enjoy in this novel, and it made me laugh many times.
Editing: 6/6. Gaiman writes with a vivid sense of realities.
Overall score: 5/6
In total, Anansi Boys receives 34 out of 42