Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

I think this book, in tone, is sort of a half-way point between American Gods, which tended to the serious, and Good Omens, which is hilarious. So, Anansi Boys is funny, but not a comedy.

We start out with Fat Charlie Nancy, who hasn't, actually, been fat since he was fourteen. But his father gave him the name, and when his father names things, they tend to stay named. Fat Charlie is living in England, working a very boring job at the Grahame Coats Agency, as an accountant. He's marrying Rosie, whom he loves, and waging a cold war with Rosie's mother, on account of the Incident of the Wax Fruit.

He's really rather displeased with the state of his life, but he's so stuck in it that he doesn't realize that he's actually displeased with it.

And then, his father ups and dies singing karaoke in a bar in Florida. Just...drops dead in the middle of what was, by all accounts, a rousing rendition of What's New Pussycat? (also, consequently, taking down the tube top of a drunken, blonde tourist on his way down) Which a) solves the problem of convincing Rosie that they should under *no* circumstances invite him to the wedding (the Incident of President's Day, and all the humiliation that Fat Charlie recalls from his youth), and b) sends Fat Charlie back to Florida for the funeral.

Fat Charlie arrives, crashes the wrong funeral, and discovers that he has actually managed to miss his father's funeral, but is just in time to fill in the grave himself, because that's what Mrs. Higgler (an old neighbor), believes that Fat Charlie really, deep down, *wants* to do. After that, she takes him to her house, mistaking the sweat and rain rolling down his face for tears (he assures her he's not upset, but what does he know?)

At her place, over dinner, Fat Charlie discovers two things. One, his father was a god, and two, he has a brother named Spider. Fat Charlie, being sensible, believes that the women are all either nuts or playing a prank. But, it does stick in his head that, should he ever want to meet his brother, all he needs to do is tell a spider and the spider will pass the message on.

Back in London, kind of drunk because Rosie, who refuses to sleep with him, showed up late to take a shower (the water is off in her building), and consequently he'd finished off the bottle of wine and most of the pizza he'd bought for the both of them himself. Rosie finds a spider in the shower, and insists that Fat Charlie relocate him to the outside. Which he does, and in his drunken state, tells the spider to tell Spider that his brother says hi, and that he should stop by some time.

To Fat Charlie's immense surprise, when he wakes up the next morning, his brother Spider has shown up. He apologises for not coming by sooner, but,

'Things came up.

'What kind of things?

'Things. They came up. That's what things do. They come up. I can't be expected to keep track of them all.'

So, Spider shows up, discovers their father is dead, and decides to hang for a bit. He takes Fat Charlie out to mourn their father with wine, women and song. Which leaves Fat Charlie a bit worse for the weather the next morning, and so Spider, being the helpful sort, goes into work for him. Spider, being all godlike (he got all the god stuff from their father), simply tells people that he *is* Fat Charlie, and they believe him.

Spider also, trying to be helpful, meets Rosie, and decides that he can have that. So he does. She, of course, thinks that he's Fat Charlie. And Fat Charlie, well, his brother's a god. So Fat Charlie gets told to go see a movie, which he does, for like, 12 hours, and then he can't, literally *can't*, make it home. When he finally does, he sees Spider canoodling Rosie.

Next day he demands Spider leave. Spider, being Spider, doesn't. So Fat Charlie flies back to Florida to find out from the old ladies how to get rid of Spider.

'Don't you start going all British on me. I know what I'm sayin'. You and him, you both cut from the same cloth. I remember your father sayin' to me, Callyanne, my boys, they stupider than-- you know, it don't matter what he actually said, but the point is, he said it about both of you.'

So Fat Charlie goes to the EndBeginningEnd of the World, and meets some of the gods. He asks them for help, but all of them are too afraid of his father, until he meets the Bird Woman. She bargains to help him. She gives him her word, in exchange for Anansi's bloodline (which, for those who missed it, is Spider and Fat Charlie. The stupid comment makes more sense now, yeah?)

Fat Charlie flies back to England, and discovers that Spider has decided he's in love with Rosie, that Fat Charlie is suspected of embezzling millions (that actually, isn't entirely Spider's fault), and that the girl he met at his father's 'wake' is actually a Detective, who arrests him. Fat Charlie discovers that jail is nothing so exciting as on tv:

'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...'

Both Spider and Charlie are being stalked by birds, and attacked. Spider breaks into the prison cell where Charlie is being held, and then zaps them out, so they can talk. Charlie tells Spider what he'd done, and why:

'"So you met the Bird Woman, and ... ?"

"She offered to make you go away. And, um. Well, I took her up on it."

"That," said Spider, with a movie-star smile, "was really stupid."

"I didn't tell her to hurt you."

"What did you think she was going to do to get rid of me? Write me a stiff letter?"

"I don't know. I didn't think. I was upset."

"Great. Well, if she has her way, you'll be upset, and I'll be dead. You could have just asked me to leave, you know."

"I did!"

"Er. What did I say?"'

'"No. I mean there's something wrong with the Bird Woman trying to hurt us."

"Yup. It's wrong. It's a very, very bad thing to do. Do you want to tell her, or shall I?"'

Spider is taken by the birds, and Fat Charlie has to track down Mrs. Higgler, who has the feather the Bird Woman gave him, so he can trade it back for Spider. Mrs. Higgler has gone to Saint Andrews island, which is where Fat Charlie shows up. And, through myriad coincidences, that's where everything comes to a head, and Fat Charlie acquires a lime.

'"You're no help," he told the lime. This was unfair. It was only a lime; there was nothing special about it at all. It was doing the best it could.'

Also, you know, the plot gets solved. All that stuff. :)


  1. Ha! Your book reviews are FAR more entertaining than mine! Hehehee...thanks for sharing! Now i can go to bed with the adventures of Fat Charlie on my mind.:)

  2. I listened to this a few years back whilst driving to scotland. I enjoyed it very much.

  3. Susanne,

    You just need to read more entertaining books. ;)

    You read good, educational stuff, but your fiction tends to be serious too. Read more funny things, and your reviews will be more entertaining!

  4. Slice,

    It's an excellent book, really. I imagine it would make a car trip better!


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