Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book #24: "Anansi Boys" by Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys is a spin-off of American Gods, my favorite of Neil Gaiman's books. It follows the two sons of the spider-god Mr. Nancy from the earlier book--twins, one of whom (Spider) has magical powers and leads a life of excess and opulence, the other (Fat Charlie) a sad-sack loser working a bad job and living a painfully mediocre life. The two meet after their father's death, and Spider decides to become a part of Fat Charlie's life, throwing it completely into chaos. He gets Fat Charlie into all kinds of trouble with his job, his girlfriend, and just about everyone he knows, leading Fat Charlie to think of ways to get rid of his magical brother.

If all that sounds cut-and-dry and not very enthusiastic, it's just because I didn't have very strong feelings towards the book. While I loved the bizarre and engaging story of American Gods, all the charm of that book seems to have vanished in this one. I found all of the characters to be shallow and quickly written; each only seemed to have one or two broad traits that never changed through the course of the story. There just didn't seem to be any depth at all, except maybe for the character of Charlie. But even he was such a sad, pathetic loser that I didn't really care for anything that happened to him. Spider, who I think was supposed to be charming and roguish, only came off as obnoxious and stupidly cruel to me. The boss and the girlfriend were bizarre additions; the boss is the villain but seems like a joke, and the girlfriend made so little an impression on me that I was surprised when she showed up again later in the story--I'd actually forgotten that she existed and thought she would just disappear into the background like any minor character.

Sometimes I think I just don't get Neil Gaiman. His stories can be amazing and intricate (like in Neverwhere or American Gods), or they can just fall flat and boring (like in Anansi Boys or Good Omens). Of course, this is just a personal opinion, but I don't share the opinion of my friends that everything he touches is gold. He repeats the plot of Ordinary Person Finds Himself in Extraordinary World over and over again, and for me, it works as often as it fails. I often find myself not even liking the protagonists of his books; it's the stories or the minor characters that win me over. So picking a new book of his is a crapshoot for me, I know I'll either love it or be completely underwhelmed.

This one landed on the latter side for me, and I just didn't like it very much. But I know I'll pick up more of his work, because he's a brilliantly imaginative writer and I want to read what new, bizarre universe he'll come up with next. So, despite the disappointment, I'm not giving up on him just yet.


The Caustic Critic said...

AGREED so hard. I wanted very badly to like Anansi Boys because I loved American Gods, but I had the same problems you did.

I loved Stardust and Coraline, if you haven't already, you should try them.

(I like to blame the failure of Good Omens on Terry Pratchett and his overwhelming quirkiliciousness.)

Figgy said...

Oh! I forgot to mention how much I loved Coraline. I also really liked the story in Stardust, but I didn't like some parts of it. It's always kind of a mix with him; there's great parts in a book followed by some that I kind of hate.

Good Omens...blech. It tried way too hard to be Douglas Adams, and didn't quite get there.