It begins, as most things begin, with a song.
Fat Charlie Nancy’s normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn’t know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother. Now brother Spider’s on his doorstep – about to make Fat Charlie’s life more interesting…and a lot more dangerous.
The follow-up to his ambitious American Gods novel, Anansi Boys isn’t so much a sequel to that novel, as it is a companion piece of sorts. It takes place after the events of American Gods, but outside of the tie-in with Mr. Nancy, Anansi Boys is its own story. Meaning, you don’t have to read American Gods first to understand and enjoy Anansi Boys for itself.
If I were to choose between the two, though, I would have to concur that I found myself enjoying Anansi Boys a bit more than I did the previous novel. It’s a rather engaging comedy of errors; we find our main protagonist, Charlie Nancy, an unambitious Londoner who’s resigned himself to his rut of a life, engaged to marry an uptight lady and working for a talent agency whose boss is embezzling the clients. After flying to America to attend his father’s funeral, he learns that his father was actually the incarnation of the West African spider god, Anansi, and while Charlie didn’t inherit any of the powers that come with being a god, he learns–for the first time–that he has a brother that did receive these powers. And he could summon him by way of sending a spider-gram. Which he does, one night whilst drunk. And when his long-lost brother–Spider–shows up for an impromptu family reunion…well, do I even need to say “wackiness ensues”? Well, it does. In spades. You’ll have to read it for yourselves.
It took a while for me to read Anansi Boys after reading American Gods. It wasn’t because I wasn’t able to acquire it–it was included with American Gods in an omnibus edition that I bought from Barnes & Noble a few years ago–it’s just that I find Neil Gaiman to be one of those writers that I have to take in individual doses. This is due to his style of writing that effortlessly blurs together fantasy and reality, into kind of a whimsical fever dream of sorts. It makes my head swim at times, even if it’s one of his more accessible pieces. This is very much a good thing, but too much of it back-to-back, and…well, I’m afraid to think what it will do to my brain, either short-term or long-term.
But, otherwise, if you’re looking for something that’s a good blend of humor, fantasy, and explores some of the more obscure mythologies of various cultures, then you should check out Anansi Boys. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it, myself.