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Review: Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys (1 Viewer)

kenewbie

Senior Member
The latest novel from Gaiman (published 2005) is, according to the author, a comedy. We follow the unfortunately nicknamed Fat Charlie on an adventure which starts with the discovery that he is the son of a god. The setting is typical Gaiman, a quirky reality occupied by gods, monsters and magic.

I must admit that I did not realize the book was intended as comedy until I read a short interview with the author in the back of it. I've never been a big fan of Gaiman's humor, I didn't like Good Omens much, but I figured that was because of the heavy influence Pratchett had on it. It seems I was wrong.

To me, Gaiman is at his best when he allows his stories to be darker and more mysterious, like in American Gods and Sandman. Anansi Boys does not come close to the depth of either of those. Comedy can be serious business, but the novel never tries to tackle anything of substance, and we are left with a flat story that fails to engage me.

In what has almost become a trademark, the protagonist of the story is passive for the first 100-150 pages of the novel. It is annoying. I have no trouble with using that as a way of introducing the reader to an unknown world, showing it through the eyes of someone who knows as little as the reader. But in every novel? I realized this somewhere around page 20, which ment I knew I had to sit around for another 100 pages of Fat Charlie being a ball in a pinball machine, before the road to resolving was even embarked upon.

And Gaiman does something you rarely see in published novels by big authors, he actually starts to make excuses for bad plot developments. Towards the end of the book, in a highly unlikely fashion, all the main characters of the book have an accidental rendezvous on an island which none of them have any connection to. It did not seem at all probably, even in Gaiman's universe. The fact that he started the third act of the book by explaining that "the world is a small place, consisting only of 50 or so real people, where the rest are extras" only helped to bring the improbability of the event to my attention.

So, Anansi Boys is, in this readers opinion, the definitive weak point of Neil Gaiman's career as an author. If you loved Good Omens you might find it funny, but be advised that the comedy is much more understated. Neither of his two attempts at comedy has worked for me, and I would recommend that anyone who has never read Gaiman start with either American Gods or Sandman. They are better books by leaps and bounds.

k
 

JoannaMac

Senior Member
Good review. I enjoyed Anansi Boys more than you, but I think you're right in saying that if you want the best of Gaiman, try American Gods or Sandman.
 

wmd

Senior Member
I also enjoyed Anansi Boys and Good Omens... I don't think Gaiman's comedy is meant to be a haha funny, but I really dont read his books looking for a laugh.

I am reading Neverwhere right now and so far I like it better than Anansi Boys... American Gods is the best of what I read so far... still have not read Stardust. I think I might wait until after I see the movie, because when I read the book first the movie always dissapoints.

Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, but I think you really have to be into his kind of writing to enjoy it.
 

kenewbie

Senior Member
It's good when review mention a bit about wher ethe book is set and what issues and/or events are significant.

I mentioned that the MC is the son of a god and that the setting is a world of "magical reality". Also, the very significant event of the characters all getting together on an island for the third act. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone, so I try to keep the details of the plot to a minimum and rather write about how the book works and how it doesn't.

I'd like to add something about the meaning and depth of the work, but I found none.

k
 

Linton Robinson

Senior Member
I meant SETTING. For instance, is it in Anasi country? Having a third act is a significant event of the book?

You tell us nothing except your opinion. That is NOT a review. It's a rant.
 

kenewbie

Senior Member
I meant SETTING. For instance, is it in Anasi country? Having a third act is a significant event of the book?

You tell us nothing except your opinion. That is NOT a review. It's a rant.

First off, the characters move around between a whole lot of areas, a few of those are other-dimension-type-places without any names. The book never spends a minute describing scenery outside of locations like houses and bars. The SETTING is a world of magical reality, anything more specific than that is simply useless information. It is not set in a city or a village or a country, it is set in a different reality.

I never claimed that having a third act was a significant event. I said that the MC discovers that he is the son of a god, that is significant. Also, the fact that all the main characters meet up (through unlikely means) on an island, in the third act, is significant. It is how the whole thing is resolved.

So I have named the two most significant events there is, what starts the story, and what resolves it.

Granted, I give a lot of opinion. But your claim that I give nothing but opinion is just plain bullshit. Allow me to give a list of facts from the original post:

- The MC is named Fat Charlie.
- He discovers that he is the son of a god.
- The story takes place in an alternate, magical reality.
- This reality is typical of Gaiman, he has used it in many books.
- The author himself classifies this book as comedy.
- The comedy is more understated than the in-your-face jokes of Good Omens.
- The MC is passive during the entire first act of the book.
- The book is resolved by an accidental meeting of the entire cast in the third act.

If you want to point out that I omitted something important, that's fine. I am sure it is possible to write a much better review. But stay to facts, don't put words in my mouth or deliberately misread something just to fuel your arguments.

k
 

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