Thursday, February 16, 2006

Anansi And The Boys

As the founder of NaJuReMoNoMo I get to make the rules and they do not require any actual reporting on or about the book read. However, as a self-proclaimed Winner with three Oak Leaf Clusters, I fell a certain obligation to provide my bona fides. Here’s a little synopsis of the first of the four books I read in January.

Anansi Boys by Neil Giaman. This as a sequel to the Hugo Award winning American Gods. The oxymoronic phrase “instant classic” is thrown around a little too easily these days, but American Gods is definitely that. A weird, dark, rambling, and in places, intensely funny, look at mythology and human nature, American Gods is a book that makes you just sit and think for about a week after you finish it. Anansi Boys is less a true pick-up-the-pieces sequel and more of a little sidebar story. Much more humorous in tone than American Gods, and several hundred pages shorter, Anansi Boys is about the sad sack son of one of American Gods’s minor but intriguing diety characters.

Anansi is an African spider legend that serves as the seed kernel for a whole host of contemporary tales most people are totally unaware of. Everything from Song of the South to Bugs Bunny owes a debt to the tales of Anansi. In the book, Anansi’s son, Fat Charley, is lucky in the “bad luck is better than no luck at all” sense. He then finds out his dad has died under unusual circumstances and that he has a brother that he never knew about who seems to live a preternaturally charmed life.

Neil Gaiman uses obscure legends and fables to tell a tale that takes place in a magic realist modern London and Florida as well as in the dream world of forgotten myths. The laws of logic don’t really work here and that is part of the mystical charm.

Neil Gaiman is much better known for his comic book work like the Sandman series, but his written fiction carries a lot of that same blurry water-colored dark spirit. Anansi Boys is a slight book that is charming and doesn’t require any knowledge of the epic events of American Gods other than an awareness that forgotten gods still live and die. Pick it up, but be prepared to be both baffled and amused.

11 comments:

J.Po said...

I got nothin' for you on the post, yello, but I do like the new picture...

Claude said...

I'm digging Gaiman's stuff. I'll have to check out these two. I rather enjoyed Good Omens, which he wrote with Terry Pratchett.

yellojkt said...

I only made it halfway through Good Omens, but I think it's got a lot more Pratchett DNA than Gaiman. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Lab Cat said...

I haven't read any Neil Gaiman. Any recommendations which I should start with?

yellojkt said...

I'm not the one to ask since I've read none of his other stuff, but you can't go wrong with American Gods. I've started Neverwhere a couple of times but it was just too slow and dark for my tastes.

Adouble said...

I wasn't as big of a fan of American Gods as some people since I thought it was basically a novelization of Sandman:Brief Lives. That might not be a particularly apt description, but did find a lot of the central conceits reused. I would strongly recommend Sandman:Season of Mists.

Karen said...

I generally don't go near this kind of fiction, but my daughter might like it. It was for her that I read Wicked as my token novel in January. She has always enjoyed fantasy fiction, from Redwall and Lord of the Rings onward. I'll tell her about this book. (Anansi stories were pretty popular in kid lit when she was picture-book age.)

===
Is it strange that posting your photo, which presumably looks like nobody else in the world and should positively identify you, in fact is less compromising to your anonymity than your name, which you probably share with other people. Simply because we keep lots of written records in our culture, and we don't have an easy way to index images. But that will change, and in the future you won't be able to post your photo on your blog and remain anonymous. In the future, nobody will be anonymous.

Michele said...

What a wonderfully written review. I have never read Gaiman, although I do know many people who adore his work.

yellojkt said...

karen,

My surreptitious updating of my blog photo has not gone unnoticed, fortunately to largely positive reaction. Your point is fascinating and one I have thought about a lot, particularly since I have links to my Flickr site promiscuously scattered like adverbs throughout my site. Like most things in my life I will blog about it eventually.

And I am very pleased to have my very first comment from Michele. Her site has brought me a lot of readers and it its very flattering that she reads mine occassionally too.

Courtney said...

Anansi Boys was a great book, as was American Gods, its predescessor. I don't really read a lot of "science fiction", although I'm hesitant to lump Gaiman into that category because his writing is so much more. The Sandman series was one of the most engaging stories I've ever read. I need to pick up more of his work.

Oh, and if you want a quickie, creepy read, pick up his children's novel Coraline. Excellent, excellent, excellent, and Dave McKean does the pen and ink drawings that are scattered through.

Adouble said...

I thought I'd mention if you like Gaiman, you might want to check out the Sandman script written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. It's at wordplayer.com, and it is pretty darn good (and free).