I don’t think I ever wrote a review of American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. But I wish I had. It was pretty good minus one weird part. Plus, if I had I could compare Anansi Boys to it with some degree of success.
But I didn’t, so I can’t.
There are totem gods. These aren’t like Thor or Zeus or something like that, but more primal- the gods who represent all of something or another. Like the chinese zodiac creatures. There’s horse, monkey, rat, tiger, etc. Each totem god represents all of the living creatures that it’s shaped like, has control over them, and represents all the ideals of them. So tiger is terrible and aggressive, bird is flighty and yet vicious.
Anansi is the spider god. The trickster god. He stole all the stories that were created with the world and made them his own, so everybody hates him – especially tiger, because once all mankind was afraid of the night, and tiger was in control.
Just as in American Gods, the main character is the child of a god. Of Anansi, to be precise. A half-god, you could say. He just doesn’t know it. And it’s just as well since he’s happy living as a normal human being.
But what happens when an old woman splits the Anansi boy in two as a child? Are they both half god? Or is it that one is all god and one is all human? And when old Anansi dies mysteriously, what will it mean for the Anansi boys?
Anansi boys was a pretty good read. Easy to read, interesting story, and pretty good characters. I actually thought it was a little too easy to read – to the point of lacking depth. This book runs more like a comic book than a novel. I don’t know that it’s good or bad that way. And, while Gaiman is skilled as a writer (far more than me, that’s for sure) his true strengths are in his creativity and ability to tell stories. This means that unless he spends a lot more time on his novels than he does on his comics we end up with a book that is fun to read rather than one that has greater meaning and depth and therefore feels more rewarding.
Not that it’s bad, it’s just who he is and how he writes. And even if it isn’t ‘meaningful’ it sure is fun – which ought to be why you pick it up in the first place. The story runs like a spiderweb connecting characters again and again as time goes on, drawing them to the inevitable center where it all comes together and we see who will make it out of old Anansi’s story.
We’ll give er a 2.5 on a scale of -5 to 5