From the July 12, 2005 Kirkus Reviews:
The West African spider-trickster god Anansi presides benignly over this ebullient partial sequel to Gaiman’s award-winning fantasy American Gods (2001).
In his earthly incarnation as agelessly spry “Mr. Nancy,” the god has died, been buried and mourned (in Florida), and has left (in England) an adult son called Fat Charlie-though he isn’t fat; he is in fact a former “boy who was half a god . . . broken into two by an old woman with a grudge.” His other “half” is Charlie’s hitherto unknown brother Spider, summoned via animistic magic, thereafter an affable quasi-double and provocateur who steals Charlie’s fiancé Rosie and stirs up trouble with Charlie’s blackhearted boss, “weasel”-like entrepeneur-embezzler Grahame Coats. These characters and several other part-human, part-animal ones mesh in dizzying comic intrigues that occur on two continents, in a primitive “place at the end of the world,” in dreams and on a conveniently remote, extradition-free Caribbean island. The key to Gaiman’s ingenious plot is the tale of how Spider (Anansi) tricked Tiger, gaining possession of the world’s vast web of stories and incurring the lasting wrath of a bloodthirsty mortal-perhaps immortal-enemy. Gaiman juggles several intersecting narratives expertly (though when speaking as omniscient narrator, he does tend to ramble), blithely echoing numerous creation myths and folklore motifs, Terry Southern’s antic farces, Evelyn Waugh’s comic contes cruel, and even-here and there-Muriel Spark’s whimsical supernaturalism. Everything comes together smashingly, in an extended dénouement that pits both brothers against all Tiger’s malevolent forms, resolves romantic complications satisfactorily and reasserts the power of stories and songs to represent, sustain and complete us. The result, though less dazzling than American Gods, is even more moving.
Intermittently lumpy and self-indulgent, but enormously entertaining throughout. And the Gaiman faithful-as hungry for stories as Tiger himself-will devour it gratefully.
Mostly repeated here for record purposes, although it has not been published on the Publishers Weekly website publicly as of July 18.
Note: PW reviews Anansi Boys under Fiction, rather than SF/Fantasy/Horror – read what you will into that:
If readers found the Sandman series creator’s last novel, AMERICAN GODS, hard to classify, they will be equally non-plussed and equally entertained by this brilliant mingling of the mundane and the fantastic. Fat Charlie Nancy leads a life of comfortable workaholism in London, with a stressful agenting job he doesn’t much like, and a pleasant fiancée, Rosie. When Charlie learns of the death of his estranged father in Florida, he attends the funeral and learns two facts that turn his well-ordered existence upside-down: that his father was a human form of Anansi, the African trickster god, and that he has a brother, Spider, who has inherited some of their father’s godlike abilities. Spider comes to visit Charlie and gets him fired from his job, steals his fiancée, and is instrumental in having him arrested for embezzlement and suspected of murder. When Charlie resorts to magic to get rid of Spider, who’s selfish and unthinking rather than evil, things begin to go very badly for just about everyone. Other characters including Charlie’s malevolent boss, Grahame Coats (“an albino ferret in an expensive suit”) witches, police and some of the folk from AMERICAN GODS are expertly woven into Gaiman’s rich myth, which plays off the African folk tales in which Anansi stars. But it’s Gaiman’s focus on Charlie and Charlie’s attempts to return to normalcy that make the story so winning along with gleeful, hurtling prose.