Anansi Boys Review – Metro (Toronto)

From the October 3rd Metro:

Neil Gaiman is such an accomplished and astonishing writer that putting his name on the front cover of a book is like printing money.

The drawback of this, according to the 44-year-old native of Porchester, England, is that he now has to spend a great deal of time being his own harshest critic.

“When I was a young man and I wrote a short story and it was accepted, I would be thrilled because nobody knew who I was and if they wanted to print the short story it was because they really liked it,” Gaiman says.

“Now, I’m Neil Gaiman. Which means if I do a short story for an anthology that’s asked for one, I can turn in the most terrible piece of garbage and they’d still print it because they can put my name on the cover.”

There is a plus side to having sold hundreds of thousands of critically acclaimed books, though.

“(It’s) lovely having an audience,” says the author of the bestselling novels American Gods, Neverwhere and Coraline and the seminal Sandman comic book series. “That’s the best bit – that there’s people out there who want to read what I want to write.”

Anyone who fits into this category will be highly pleased with his latest effort, Anansi Boys.

The book, which touches on the relationships between humans and gods, and more so those between family members, is at times funny, creepy, witty, clever and, above all, is outstandingly well written.

Anansi Boys centres around mild-mannered Fat Charlie Nancy, who, upon hearing about the death of his father, finds out not only was dear old dad the trickster god Anansi, but that he has a long-lost brother named Spider.

Once the brothers are reunited, Fat Charlie quickly discovers that the trickster blood runs much more thickly in his sibling and ends up wrapped up in a web of trouble.

The new novel definitely has a lighter tone than Gaiman’s last few, something he says was very challenging.

“I found out very rapidly why a lot of comedy writers work in pairs,” he says. “That’s why it was very easy doing Good Omens with Terry Pratchett – you can tell in a second if something’s funny or not because the other guy laughs.

“When it’s just you, you have to go by your own tastes.”

But the humour, black as it sometimes is, shines through.

“I think it’s funny,” Gaiman says. “I hope so. And I hope it’s more than that.

“I wanted to write something that was funny, but was also scary, was a screwball comedy, but also had magic in it and weirdness and that also got to say things that were big and honest about families and people.”

Mission accomplished.
–Jonathan P. Kuehlein