David Colton reviewed Anansi Boys in the September 21st USAToday, while Michael Maiello’s review of the novel appeared in the September 21st Forbes: both reviews were positive. The SFFWorld review by Rob H Bedfold has also been posted.
From the September 18th Star Tribune:
Google “Neil” — just the first name, spelled that way — and the first hit is for the writer Neil Gaiman.
It’s a testament to Gaiman’s big presence on the Internet, where he was an early adopter of the blog as a way of bypassing traditional media, and where he regularly stokes his massive cult audience with anecdotes from home and abroad, responses to fans’ questions, shout-outs to friends and musicians he admires, and, it seems, pretty much anything else that strikes his fancy.
Gaiman started the blog during the long tour to promote his 2001 novel American Gods, the big work that introduced him to a wider audience beyond the one he had cultivated as the longtime writer of the influential 1990s comic book series The Sandman.
Anansi Boys, Gaiman’s first adult novel since American Gods, is drawn from the earlier book. But where American Gods purposely was a “big book” — nearly epic, filled with grand themes and wide-open landscapes and bespeaking a clash of titanic, totemistic forces for the soul of America — Anansi Boys is comedic, family-centered, romantic and told on a much smaller scale.
The central conceit is the same: The old gods of Norse, Irish, African and other mythologies live among us today, carried over in immigrant folklore and appearing to us as benign, if eccentric, elderly humans.
Anansi — the trickster man-spider from West African legends who migrated to the Americas on the tongues of slaves — was a secondary character in “American Gods.” Here, he and his family occupy the stage’s entirety.
Anansi’s human son, Charlie Nancy — nicknamed Fat Charlie — knows nothing about his father’s true god nature. He thinks his dad’s last name is Nancy and that he hasn’t been much of a father, and of course he’s partly right — in the way family members always are partly right about each other. And for that reason (and related ones) Charlie is estranged from his dad and living in London.
But he is called back to his hometown in Florida on the news that his father has died. After the funeral, he is told by an old neighbor lady, a close family friend, that he has a brother he never knew. One day, quite magically, Charlie’s brother, Spider, appears, and it’s clear from the start that Spider isn’t anything like Charlie: He is confident and smooth with ladies, wears clothes Charlie could never pull off and doesn’t seem to care overmuch about anything.
The heart of the novel is the story of the brothers and how (rather predictably, if you want to know the truth) they learn from each other and grow, discovering more about themselves the more they learn about the other.
The structure is classic Gaiman: A likable everyman dupe (Charlie) is slowly drawn into a shadowy, fantastical otherworld he never knew existed, one that exists “a candle flame’s thickness away” from our own, and which, once entered, shows the dupe how truly wrong his own view of reality is.
It was the same thing in American Gods and in an earlier novel, Neverwhere, and if I didn’t find the routine so charming, I’d probably complain. Gaiman is witty and engaging, but his power is more as a storyteller than as a stylist, and I think what his fans find so appealing about his stories is that they are comforting, no matter how scary, like a good bedtime tale. And like those kinds of stories, Gaiman’s tales have discrete beginnings and ends, with plenty of good and evil (and combinations of the two) — and, if not a happy ending, then a satisfying one that leaves a sense of a journey conducted, of lands seen and things accomplished.
What’s lovely about Gaiman’s works — their essential strength, really — is his ability to lure a reader into those otherworlds — be it a fantastical underground London Neverwhere) or the mythological godlands of his recent books.
“There are myth-places. They exist, each in their own way,” he writes.
One senses he might actually believe it. Or, at the very least, believes that our world wouldn’t be worth much if we couldn’t, just for a while at least, believe in other ones.
I am assuming the mention in the September 19th Grand Rapids Press was a review; unfortunately, it only appeared in the print edition.
And this is a call out, of sorts.
If anyone has attended one of the stops on the Anansi Boys tour and would be willing to share your experiences with the rest of us, please drop me a note with a link to your weblog or journal entry.
Many thanks in advance.