If there had been any lingering doubt or uncertainty about Neil Gaiman being my favorite living author before, this book put all that to rest. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Neil Gaiman writes the stories that I wish all stories could be. I don’t mean that I wish all stories were the same genre, or tone, or style, or whatever. I mean that I wish all stories could find the perfect balance of Gaiman’s stories, which are rich, beautiful, and full to the brim with subtext, with flashes and glimmers of something beyond the the wildly entertaining stories he tells.
Among other things, Gaiman’s works are about story, storytelling, humanity, the mystery of the divine, and our need for more than the mundane and the mediocre to be truly alive. Yet, he never uses simple one to one relationships that tip his hand. You can’t read Gaiman and say: Well, I’d have to say that Gaiman is definitely… an athiest, or a Christian, or a new ager, or whatever. Instead, he uses myths and stories that humans have told for centuries as subtext, which leads toward a greater depth and beauty in his already superb writing.
No book does this more than Anansi Boys. A quasi-sequel to American Gods, this story follows in the wake of the death of Mr. Nancy, a character you’ll know if you’ve read American Gods. His estranged son, Fat Charlie Nancy, has no idea that his father is a god, until his father’s death leads him into the discovery that he has a brother he never knew about. In contacting his brother, Spider, Charlie’s world is turned upside down, and there are no guarantees that everyone is going to make it through the adventure alive.
Rooted in the oldest stories known to man, stories growing from Africa into tales that even exist in various forms in Americana, Anansi Boys is about the ways that we are shaped by the stories we tell and the stories we believe, by the songs we sing and the words we dream up, and by the risks we take the and things we love.
Also, it’s entirely possible that after reading this book, you’ll think twice the next time you’re about to kill a spider.
Really though, go read some Neil Gaiman as soon as you can.