Monday, March 30, 2009

Anansi Boys; Neil Gaiman (2005)

Charlie Nancy has found out his father has died, and has to sort out the funeral arrangements. After the funeral, Charlie has to sort out his father’s affects, and finds out that his father was a God – Anansi the trickster god, no less – and that he has a brother whom has inherited his father’s abilities. After Charlie’s brother arrives for a visit, Charlie’s life is dramatically turned upside down, and Charlie needs to sort out the problems that his brother has wrought on him.

The first thing that I will say is that I enjoyed reading “Anansi Boys”. It’s got an original central idea – what if the traditional gods were alive today? How would they act? How would they influence the world in which we live? The writing is decent, and I enjoyed the occasional attempt at humour, too – it’s not a comedy by any means, but does raise a smile or two.

My enjoyment of the book expressed, there are more than a few problems with this book, which do spoil my enjoyment greatly. While the first book in the series, “American Gods” utilised a plethora of gods from a variety of mythologies, and looked at the effects they had on society as a whole, this book mainly concentrates on one god, his two sons, and a few individuals whom are acquainted with the god in question. Occasionally, another god might pop up to help progress the story, but there is quite a lack of gods at work. In fact, the story feels somewhat, well, pedestrian. With all of the things that a god might get up to in today’s society, Gaiman has his going on a nightclub crawl, charming women, and doing other similar mundane acts. Surely a god or demi-god would come up with some better ideas, especially a trickster god?

Another problem is that the book is riddled with coincidences, all of which are required to progress the book forward. In particular, the convergence of all of the main characters on a small island through a variety of different reasons needs a great deal more explanation than what was given, and strains credulity, but there are many other coincidences that were introduced. Yes, you could probably resolve one or two coincidences with some hand-waving, saying “Gods are at work, you know, don’t question it at all.” However, the coincidences are never explained, nor examined, not even an attempt to distract the reader with a theological question regarding the coincidences, which would have been somewhat appropriate given the storyline. They just happen, and we are meant to believe this. Or perhaps gloss over it.

“Anansi boys” is an enjoyable book, but it’s a disappointment in quite a few ways, and doesn’t bear a close examination afterwards. It’s an interesting and entertaining idea, certainly, and the writing enjoyable enough, but huge coincidences and a failure to realise the potential of the central concept does detract from the story greatly. 3/5.

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