When Fat Charlie’s dad named something, it stuck. Like calling Fat Charlie “Fat Charlie.” Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can’t shake that name, one of the many embarrassing “gifts” his father bestowed — before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie’s life.
Mr. Nancy left Fat Charlie things. Things like the tall, good-looking stranger who appears on Charlie’s doorstep, who appears to be the brother he never knew. A brother as different from Charlie as night is from day, a brother who’s going to show Charlie how to lighten up and have a little fun … just like Dear Old Dad. And all of a sudden, life starts getting very interesting for Fat Charlie.
Because, you see, Charlie’s dad wasn’t just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god. Anansi is the spirit of rebellion, able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and baffle the devil. Some said he could cheat even Death himself.
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Anansi Boys was the last published piece of full length Gaiman for me to explore. It just never really appealed that much to me, despite my ever growing love for American Gods, to my unenlightened self I always figured it would be American Gods-lite. Emphasis on the lite. I figured it would be a bit of a lark, characters running around the country having a lovely time. It’s been getting some hype lately though, and so I decided to get stuck in. I shouldn’t have been surprised that I was transported almost immediately back into the world of AG that I love so much. I also shouldn’t have been surprised that it was a mite darker than I had anticipated.
It’s Mr Gaiman’s fault that I fully believe that one day, my life will be turned upside down and I will be whisked away from the arguable monotony that is “everyday life” for some fantastic adventure. He just writes it so well that it all seems totally plausible. And sure, his characters are kind of miserable for a while, but it all tends to work out in the end – Shadow’s hanging on the World Tree excepted, but even that had a happy ending. And while I usually keep Stardust and Neverwhere completely separate from American Gods and Anansi Boys in my head, reading this book I couldn’t help but think of poor Richard Mayhew and Fat Charlie commiserating over being locked out of the life that was once theirs.
But let’s take a look at the story. You’ve got Fat Charlie, his embarrassing and now deceased(?) father and you’ve got his brother. His reflection? His brother. A part of his soul manifested separately from himself? His brother. I don’t know, now you see what it’s like reading his book for the first time. So the family dynamics are a bit off from the norm as is the way the characters play with reality. The whole story is like one big crazy trip that ends up with everyone reuniting (is that the right word?) in the Caribbean. There’s also a weird murder plot and ghosts running around all this, as well as Fat Charlie’s trips to the ‘behind the scenes’ God place. Typical Gaiman, especially in the world of American Gods.
Am I selling it? I’m not sure. But I will say that I was pleasantly surprised.