Off the Shelf

“Anansi Boys”

By Marcus Pan

Anansi BoysI read this book in a matter of days. Which is contrasted against the previous book I’ve read, Gnosis: The Secret of Solomon’s Temple Revealed, in a matter of weeks while it was much shorter. A really good book can easily go by in the time it takes to watch a movie based on it 2 or maybe 3 times, and you come out the other end much more satisfied than watching it portrayed shabbily on the screen.

Anansi Boys is a brilliant modern fairy tale, told from the aspects of hard luck Charlie Nancy, aka Fat Charlie, as he discovers secrets about himself and his family that were mostly just not noticed. It’s a fairy tale from our world and our time, rather than works like Stardust[1] which took place in a similar but different otherplace. The brilliance of Anansi Boys is that it takes place here and now – hidden just between the lines and just under the surface of reality, much like Neverwhere[2] did. By using such subtle phrases as “turned in a direction that shouldn’t have been there” he’ll slide neat links to reality by twisting it only just a little.

The flow of the story moves quickly and easily, making it a fast read and a satisfying read. Neil uses common vernacular and doesn’t run off much at the mouth with his descriptions so things tend to move at a fast smooth pace. The crux of the story is Fat Charlie’s engagement to Rosie, and the need to therefore tell and/or invite his father to the festivities much to his chagrin. Having been estranged from him for years, he tries anyway to find out he had recently passed away. The engagement invitation turns into a funeral invitation in the other direction.

After learning of his brother, unknown to him, it’s the arrival of him, Spider, that sets in motion a discovery process through which Fat Charlie discovers not only the roots of his strange and unusual family heritage and bloodline, but much about his own psyche itself. This leads us, as usual, to Neil’s strange made up places that have always been around, you just need to make weird turns and notice things you didn’t notice before to find your way to them.

I really enjoyed Anansi Boys more than any book I’ve read in some time. Neil’s capabilities of taking everyday occurrences and observations and twisting them, only just a little, to take us to places that delve deeper into our world and our selves is striking fun. There’s only a few that can do that – Douglas Adams,[3] Tom Robbins[4] – and Neil Gaiman’s way of doing it is so unexpected that you’ll stay up until 3am reading this book just like I did.

"Anansi Boys" by Neil Gaiman
Copyright © 2005 by Neil Gaiman
ISBN: 978-0-06-051518-8
[1] Stardust was covered in the Off the Shelf column in Legends #115.
[2] Neverwhere was also reviewed in Legends#115.
[3] Adams had a number of his books covered in Off the Shelf, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. These reviews were in #85, #86, #87 & #88 in order of the series.
[4] Tom Robbins’ Still Life With Woodpecker was reviewed in Legends #91.

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