“It begins, as most things begin, with a song.”
Some children revere their fathers like gods, Fat Charlie Nancy sure didn’t, this despite his father actually being one. You see Mr. Nansi, made Charlie the butt of his many practical jokes – that is until he and his mother up-and moved away from the impecunious god. Now living in England as an adult Fat Charlie Nancy is engaged to be married and has a solid job working for a talent agent. His only problem is his future mother-in-law, who despite Charlie’s every attempt, still treats Charlie like a maliflous odor. It is very unfortuate therfore when a phone call reveals that Charlie’s father is dead. Even in death Mr. Nancy can embarass his son. In this case it is in the way he’s died. It seems Mr. Nancy died while on stage, in a karaoke bar, with his hands on another bar patron’s breasts. It is only when Fat Charlie returns to America for the funeral that he learns he may not be the only orphan that his father has left. Apparently all these years Fat Charlie has had a brother he’s not known about! A brother named… “Spider”?!? Spider, along with inheriting his father’s easy charm also got his father’s ‘special gifts’?!? When Charlie and Spider eventually do meet Spider decides to move into Charlie’s flat. This is followed by him framing Charlie for embezzlement and stealing his fiance. Fat Charlie’s only recourse is to fight dieties with dieties. So it’s off to America again where he’ll get an arachnivorous avian ally in the fight against his brother.
If you liked American Gods you’ll like Anansi Boys too, I know I sure did, and for much the same reason – and perhaps for one more. I’d always thought American Gods was inspired by Douglas Adams’ Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul; given that both novels feature the Norse god Odin walking the streets of modern world and being a bit out of sorts about the fact I think that’s a pretty safe assumption. Need more proof? Gaiman, in his early career actually wrote a book about Adams, entitled Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy it was part biography of Adams, part biography of his most famous novel. With Anansi Boys though, Gaiman proves himself truly and fully the worthy heir to Douglas Adams legacy. Gaiman writes as cleverly as Adams did, and now with Anansi Boys he starts making the jokes Adams could have made – something for the most part absent from American Gods. Though not aiming for all out hilarity, as Adams often did, Gaiman makes Anansi Boys quite, quite funny, and in ways that can only be described as Adamsonian. Both Gaiman novels are set in the same universe as each other but one needn’t read American Gods first to enjoy and follow Anansi Boys.
Lenny Henry, the narrator, is an English television actor and comedian. He’s an absolute delight to listen to. When I heard George Guidall’s reading of American Gods back in 2001 I was floored, so I was disappointed when I found out that he wouldn’t be reading Anansi Boys. But imagine my delight when I was floored again by Lenny Henry’s reading of Anansi Boys – Guidall and Henry’s reading styles couldn’t be more different, but they are both of that oh-so-stunning quality you hate to stop listening even for a minute. I pity those who sat down and read the paperbook version of Anansi Boys, they’ve really missed something special. Harper Audio has used light accenting of music here and there. It is quite wonderful.
Posted by Jesse Willis