Coraline selected for Book Club

Coraline has been chosen for the Mayor’s Book Club by Springfield, Illinois Mayor Tim Davlin. The Lincoln Library has more information on the program on their website, and will have “book chats” at their branches on Wednesday, November 9, 2005, and Monday, November 14, 2005.

The State Journal-Register will be publishing reader submitted reviews; more info is available on their website

Anansi Boys Review – The Age (Melbourne, Australia)
From the 22 October Age:

There is a problem with “genre”. All enveloping terms such as crime or science fiction are anathema to many. They’re not serious fiction. Regardless of the grudging acceptance by the literary world of James Ellroy or William Gibson, commercial classification remains a stigma.

The worst one of all is that horrific appellation fantasy, a world definitely for dweebs or, at best, “young adults”.

Sadly, this is the realm that Neil Gaiman finds himself in again and again. But then Gaiman is something of a shape shifter at the best of times. He writes children’s books, graphic novels or comics (which are more adult than a lot of mainstream fodder; his Sandman series has become a cornerstone of that genre) and dabbles in film (the soon to be released MirrorMask). But it is as a novelist that Gaiman is at his strongest.

Gaiman’s last novel, the epic American Gods, told the story of the fate of the “old” gods, who found themselves imported to the new world of America via ship loads of immigrants. Set in the United States of today, their relevance has gradually faded. The “new” gods are high tech, the internet and the television. The old gods of Welsh and Nordic mythology are reduced to pan-handling or petty crime, whoring and begging for survival. American Gods was infused with an element of melancholy, a nostalgia for more “romantic” belief systems.

Gaiman’s latest offering has many of the same elements, but he has replaced nostalgia with a kind of ribald British humour. His central character, Fat Charlie, isn’t even fat. He’s just a fairly dull bookkeeper in a boring job, engaged to a woman whose mother gives him hell. His father gave him the nickname “fat” and it stuck.

There was a reason for that. Unbeknown to Charlie, his father was a god; indeed, the god of trickery, Anansi.

Anansi’s tricks don’t end when he dies early in the book. His death reveals that Fat Charlie has a brother who has inherited Anansi’s god-like powers and is, accordingly, something of a lazy but charming swindler. Meeting his brother turns Charlie’s world upside down and inside out.

Gaiman’s London is very like the city portrayed in the novels of Will Self or Martin Amis – in other words, essentially boring. The city comes to life in the exploits of its myriad characters. Gaiman goes a bit further than his contemporaries in finding ways to escape the urban horror of a grey city.

As the usually timid Charlie explodes someway into the book: “In the last two weeks I’ve been arrested, I’ve lost my fiancee and my job, I’ve watched my semi-imaginary brother get eaten by a wall of birds in Piccadilly Circus, I’ve flown back and forth across the Atlantic like some kind of lunatic trans-Atlantic ping-pong ball, and today I got up in front of an audience and I, and I sang because my psycho ex-boss had a gun barrel against the stomach of the girl I’m having dinner with.”

But at that stage the story is only just getting going. Gaiman manages to explore the world of timeless deities and also the complex nature of familial and romantic relationships. Charlie is delighted to find his brother, Spider, at first. The two then bicker like crazy until Spider is attacked by Tiger, the ferocious entity of Caribbean mythology and Charlie is forced to accept his own powers of persuasion.

Anansi Boys is a rollicking adventure with a powerful sense of humanity infusing every page.

It may be dubbed fantasy but in its timeless delight in telling a well-rounded yarn of Gods and average folk in a less than average situation, Gaiman proves himself an equal to the Trickster God.
— Ashley Crawford

Anansi Boys Review – The Dallas Morning News

From the October 16th Dallas Morning News:

A few years ago I gave a friend one of Neil Gaiman’s novels.

“What kind of book is it?” he asked. I was dumbfounded how to reply and just insisted he read it.

Mr. Gaiman’s novels aren’t easy to catalog.

He writes about everything from ancient empires buried beneath the streets of London (Neverwhere, 1996) to modern folks who sell their souls for fame and fortune (American Gods, 2001).

His stories usually have a bit of fantasy, mystery and history blended into a sprightly tale. That’s certainly the case with his latest book, Anansi Boys.

It’s the story of a young man named Charlie, who works in a London investment office and has his life planned out. But then his father dies, and Charlie flies to Florida for the funeral and reconnects with his past.

The demise of the father he never liked opens the door to a new world of revelation and revolution. Charlie finds out that not only was his father a god – yes, that’s what I said – but that he has a brother, too.

Like American Gods, Anansi Boys explores the uneasy relationship between mankind and our gods.

“Human beings do not like being pushed around by gods,” Mr. Gaiman writes. “They may seem to, on the surface, but somewhere on the inside underneath it all, they sense it and they resent it.”

That’s certainly the case for Charlie, who was embarrassed by his father’s endless pranks and quickly feels less than brotherly love for his newfound sibling, Spider. Especially after Spider seduces Charlie’s fiancée, and gets Charlie fired and put in jail. Suddenly having a brother isn’t such a good thing.

But how to get rid of him? The old adage “be careful what you wish for” turns out to be painfully true.

Mr. Gaiman promises that Anansi Boys is the kind of book that will make you smile. He says it’s the first “funny” book he’s written since he teamed up with Terry Pratchett in 1990 to publish Good Omens.

And, yes, there’s plenty of humor in the new novel but also a few scary bits to keep the reader on edge. Running through his tale are African fables about the mythical Anansi, an animal trickster whose stories later appeared in some of Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus stories.

Mr. Gaiman had early success with his Sandman comics, which used as many pictures as words. But his latest work is not spare in writing – his ideas have never been.
–Steve Brown

Anansi Boys Review – Daily Oklahoman

From the October 16th The Daily Oklahoman

Neil Gaiman’s new novel follows up on the premise of his Hugo and Nebula Award-winning American Gods: What if ancient gods are around, living in the world today, interacting with people without revealing their identities?

Anansi Boys focuses on the sons of Anansi, the trickster god, who drops dead
singing karaoke o
night in Florida.

“Fat Charlie” Nancy works for a scummy talent agent in London he doesn’t particularly like. Charlie is engaged to the charming Rosie, whose mother doesn’t like him.

Rosie insists on inviting Charlie’s father to their wedding. But Charlie hasn’t seen or talked to his father in years. Growing up, Charlie felt his father went out of his way to embarrass him, even saddling him with the name “Fat Charlie.” Even though Charlie was no longer fat, the name stuck.

When Charlie calls an acquaintance of his father’s, Charlie learns his father has recently died. Charlie returns to Florida for the funeral. The little old ladies there (who may have dark secrets) reveal to Charlie that his father was a god. Charlie doesn’t believe this, but when they reveal that Charlie has a brother — whom he can contact by talking to a spider — Charlie takes them up on it.

When his brother, Spider, shows up on his doorstep, Charlie’s world turns upside-down. Spider has inherited some of his father’s abilities and goes about bending reality to suit his needs, including having Charlie’s fiancee fall in love with Spider, whom she believes is Charlie.

When Charlie turns to magic to get his life in order, the results aren’t good for either of Anansi’s boys, who may have to learn how to get along after all.

Anansi Boys is slighter and funnier than American Gods and a faster read. Gaiman, who created and wrote the innovative graphic novel series Sandman, explores themes of story and culture, along with family and changing relationships, in a clever, quick-witted book.
— Matthew Price

Anansi Boys Review – California Aggie (University of California – Davis)

From the October 13th California Aggie:

Reading best-selling author Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys is like listening to a master storyteller spin a farfetched yarn. He possesses such convincing skill that even with his fantastical subject matter, the audience can’t help but think that what he says just might be possible.

Gaiman jazzes a familiar troubled-sibling-reunion scenario up by making the main characters the sons of Anansi, an African trickster god who has played so many pranks on people that he is almost as hated as he is loved.

Demigod brothers Fat Charlie, a relatively powerless character, and his more gifted sibling Spider end up on the run from supernatural foes. They are hunted by the outlandish antagonist that comes in the form of a bird-vomiting woman, while depending on their wits for survival in the face of adversity.

This bizarre premise alone makes the book worth reading. But, the tight plot that is miraculously as neat as a spider’s web, Gaiman’s witty unfolding of the story and likable main characters are big draws too. Gaiman’s treatment of dysfunctional family relationships is tender and sincere, giving the book an emotional core that grounds the zaniness.

The only thing that would make Anansi Boys better is more gods. Only Anansi gets any thorough treatment in the book, while other gods play thankless villain roles.

In his earlier American Gods, Gaiman gave us deities from several pantheons, letting us peer into their lives to the point where we felt part of them. In Anansi Boys, we get only cursory glances of the intriguing beings introduced.

Gaiman, however, cannot pack everything into one book and Anansi Boys is an impressive work for something that could have been half-baked fluff.

Here’s hoping Gaiman will continue to bring the gods into our lives.
–Carmen Lau

Anansi Boys Review – TODAY (Singapore)

From the October 13th TODAY:

Do parents exist solely to embarrass their children?

Fat Charlie Nancy thinks so, especially when his father dies, in what Fat Charlie feels is the most embarrassing manner possible, just months before Fat Charlie’s wedding. So Fat Charlie flies all the way to Florida to arrange his father’s funeral, and learns, to his surprise, that he has a brother called Spider.

And that old Mr Nancy was, in fact, a god named Anansi.

Therein begins Fat Charlie’s journey to find out more about his heritage and family.

When Spider makes a mess of his brother’s life, Fat Charlie is forced to take extreme measures to get his life back in order.

Neil Gaiman’s new novel, Anansi Boys, is about a lot of things.

It’s about Anansi the Trickster, the Spider from the folk tales. It is about gods, and the belief – or lack of – in a world beyond ours. At heart, it is about familial relationships, as Fat Charlie and Spider come to terms with their unusual lineage and learn to make peace with each other.

Gaiman fans will be familiar with Mr Nancy from American Gods, and will not be disappointed with his appearance here.

Despite lacking the intensity of American Gods, Anansi Boys more than compensates for its light-hearted, quirky style. It is a book that can make people laugh and feel warm and fuzzy.

And it is credit to Gaiman’s penmanship that he has managed to imbue the novel with a certain quality that even people who can’t carry off green fedoras with style will appreciate.
–Tan Jun-Lei

Anansi Boys Review – Wilkes Barre Times Leader (Pennsylvania)

From the October 12th The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader:

Meet Fat Charlie Nancy.

Fat Charlie has a tedious job, a nice fiancee, a rather-less-then-nice mother-in-law-to-be and a father who he would swear was nothing but an embarrassment.

But that was yesterday- before dear ‘ol dad keeled over. Died. Fell off the stage in the middle of his last karaoke.

Now an old friend of the family insists Fat Charlie has a brother he doesn’t remember, and with Spider (Fat Charlie’s mysterious brother) in town and back in Fat Charlie’s life for the first time (and having more fun than Charlie ever did), suddenly nothing is what it seemed before.

With no transition at all, Spider is dating Fat Charlie’s fiancee, Fat Charlie is under suspicion of embezzling from his job, and his lazy, mischievous father turns out to have been the legendary Anansi – the old African god known for his powers of storytelling and quick wits.

A god even the other gods mistrusted and “had issues” with.

In this enjoyable text, readers see Fat Charlie take matters into his own hands and fight to take his life back from Spider (who seems to have some interesting powers of his own), and back from Anansi’s enemies and anyone and everyone (mortal or not) who stands in his way.

(But now, knowing who he is, and who his father was – does he really want his old life back?)

Growing up and coming to terms with one’s family has never been so entertaining.

Neil Gaiman has spent his whole career as a writer writing stories about stories. His genre-breaking, award-winning comic book series for DC Comics, Sandman, plus his novels Neverwhere, Coraline and American Gods all bring a delightfully literate yet accessible twist to storytelling in the printed form.

American Gods was one of last year’s New York Times fiction bestsellers and, like Anansi Boys, dealt with old gods in the modern world and what happens when the beliefs that nourish a god begin to disappear.

Anansi Boys (now number one on the NYT Bestse
ng Fiction list) makes an incredible read and is smile-provoking and thought-provoking. This is one book you will be offering to loan to friends, even if it’s just to have someone to discus it with afterwards. And if you are unlucky like me, you’ll end up hounding them to get it back.

–Scott Werbin