fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Neil Gaiman Anansi BoysAnansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman+ Lenny Henry = Twice the Entertainment

I like Neil Gaiman’s style — his writing is easy, intelligent, well-edited, dryly humorous, and just plain charming.

Anansi Boys is no exception, and it’s especially charming in audio format, thanks to Lenny Henry, an English stand-up comedian whose deep rich voice and character comedy is absolutely perfect for this novel which is based on the African/Caribbean mythology of the trickster spider god Anansi (introduced in American Gods). Henry’s voices are brilliant (especially the old Caribbean women) and he had me literally smiling nearly all the way through the story. Actually, if it weren’t for Lenny Henry, I’d have to say that I probably would only give this novel 3.5 stars instead of 4.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThat’s because this is not Gaiman’s tightest work. It’s about Fat Charlie, a Floridian turned Englishman, who was leading a rather dull life as an honest accountant until the brother he didn’t know he had turns up and he finds out that they are both the sons of the god Anansi. This is all very entertaining, especially for a Floridian who enjoyed Charlie’s travels to places I know, and Gaiman tells his humorous story with the usual charm:

Fat Charlie tried to remember what people did in prison to pass the time, but all he could come up with was keeping secret diaries and hiding things in their bottoms. He had nothing to write on, and felt that a definite measure of how well one was getting on in life was not having to hide things in one’s bottom…

Nothing happened. Nothing continued to happen. More Nothing. The Return of Nothing. Son of Nothing. Nothing Rides Again. Nothing and Abbott and Costello meet the Wolfman…

But at the end there were some things I still didn’t understand: what exactly was the origin of Spider (I can’t say as much as I’d like to about this because I don’t want to spoil it), why weren’t the other gods (and even Anansi himself) more fully characterized? The scenes involving the god-world were sketchy — we really get only a minimal understanding of Tiger, Anansi’s eternal enemy — and Charlie’s sudden understanding and acceptance of his powers happens too fast. And then there were some oddities that just didn’t seem to fit in — like the ghost of one of Charlie’s boss’s clients.

But, even with these minor disappointments, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this novel because Neil Gaiman wrote it and Lenny Henry read it. Recommended in audio format.

Anansi Boys — (2005) Publisher: God is dead. Meet the kids. 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 to 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 — he is able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and baffle the devil. Exciting, scary, and deeply funny, Anansi Boys is a kaleidoscope journey deep into myth, a wild adventure, and a fierce and unstoppable farce, as Neil Gaiman shows us where gods come from, and how to survive your family.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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