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Anansi Boys
Neil Gaiman
William Morrow, 335 pages

Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is the author of one of the most critically acclaimed comic books of the decade, the Sandman series from DC Comics. He is also the author of a collection of short stories, Angels and Visitations, and the co-author (with Terry Pratchett) of Good Omens. His first anthology was The Sandman Book of Dreams, edited with Ed Kramer. He is the creator and author of the BBC series "Neverwhere," which inspired his novel of the same name. Born in England, he now lives in Minnesota.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Mirrormask: The Illustrated Film Script of the Motion Picture
SF Site Review: The Sandman: Endless Nights
SF Site Review: Coraline
SF Site Review: A Walking Tour of the Shambles
SF Site Review: American Gods
SF Site Review: Stardust
SF Site Review: Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions
SF Site Review: Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions
SF Site Review: Neverwhere
SF Site Review: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
SF Site Review: The Sandman: Book of Dreams

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

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Anansi Boys "All stories are Anansi's". So says Neil Gaiman in his latest novel, Anansi Boys. But if this be so, then Neil Gaiman himself is possibly one of the "Anansi boys", part of the bloodline, because he is an extraordinary storyteller. What more needs to be said but that this was the book with the distinction (shared by very few) of having debuted on #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list as it was released.

By this stage in his career, Gaiman is in the enviable position of being a Household Name and legions of fans out there not only buy his books as soon as they hit the shelves but pre-order them in droves in the months prior to that. Contraband pre-publication copies even manage to turn up on Ebay. Gaiman is certainly one of those writers whose work I will buy without so much as having set eyes on it, simply because I know he'll tell a rollicking good tale.

He does so in Anansi Boys, certainly -- this is a book that obviously enjoyed being written. There's a sense of fun about it that's infectious. However, it is also more nebulous than any other Gaiman book I've read, and seems to want to be a number of different things without quite being any of them. The thread that joins these somewhat disparate parts is the inimitable Gaiman humour and wit -- and the book brims with that. If ever they make a movie of this they may have to give that lime of Fat Charlie's a line in the credits. But the novel fractures a little as a straight narrative voice and is interspersed with chatty storyteller-to-reader asides disguised as "and this too is an Anansi story" moments which look a little like padding to me, especially since much of what the asides convey is already found in the body of the novel, in more subtle and more sophisticated ways. And then there's the strange glimpses of what the novel apparently really wanted to be, something darker and stranger and much less frothy and giggly as, for instance, the lime incident appears to point to. There are bits of a crime novel in here, a coming-of-age story, a high-jinks comedy, not to mention a contemporary retelling of an ancient set of legends complete with some fairly grisly moments involving Fat Charlie's brother Spider which I will not divulge here for fear of sowing spoilers where they shouldn't go.

However, having said all that, it's still Neil Gaiman, it's yet another enchanting bit of word-wizardry by one of the premier wordsmiths of our times, and it's still a damned fine read. It's just that, for this reader, it feels a little like having walked out of the ocean that was American Gods and somehow finding myself cooling my toes in a paddling pool.

I look forward to the next one, as always.

Copyright © 2005 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves". When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Following her successful two-volume fantasy series, Changer of Days, her latest novel, Jin-shei, is due out from Harper San Francisco in the spring of 2004.


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