I’m going to preface this particular review with some exciting news for my long time readers. I’ve been regularly updating this blog since February (though in a post Skyrim world, my blogging has slowed down slightly cause my addiction can only be called immense), and for the first time in years, I’ve finally found something I love. My ability to turn my insatiable appetite for popular culture into something productive (i.e. thoughtful and entertaining analysis) has given me more direction and stability in my daily routine than I’ve had in ages. A couple of months ago, I realized I wanted to try and do this for a living. I’ve been applying for jobs here and there but with my lack of professional journalism experience, I hadn’t heard from anyone. Well, recently I got in touch with an upstart music journalism site called baeblemusic.com who were looking for an editorial intern. Thanks to some networking and hopefully what they perceived as my potential as a writer, I got the job. So, next semester, I’m going to be in NYC as an editorial intern helping to review albums, going to concerts in the city and writing about them, and helping with artist interviews and recording sessions. It should be a blast and the time I’ve spent writing for this blog has helped me hone my crafts as a writer, and it unearthed my hidden passion for entertainment journalism. Thanks for reading everyone, and I hope you’ll keep up with me once I’m a real professional writer.

I’ve already reviewed one Neil Gaiman novel for this blog, 2001’s American God‘s, and I plan on covering the entire Sandman series at some point in the future (since it’s my favorite book series of all time). With American Gods, Sandman, Good Omens (co-written with Terry Pratchett), Stardust, and his children’s book Coraline, Neil Gaiman has certified his position as one of the most imaginative and consistently entertaining voices in the modern fantasy market. If George R. R. Martin is the pessimistic and brooding epic in the vein of a tortured Tolkien, Gaiman is the clever and energetic younger brother who delights in the mischief and comedy of fantasy and myth. 2005’s Anansi Boys is Mr. Gaiman’s last adult novel (he’s written some children’s books in the interim), and while it may lack the sweepingly mythic tone of American Gods (even though both books share a universe and some ancillary characters), it is once again Gaiman’s wit and playfulness that pushes Anansi Boys beyond so much of the trite and cliche drivel that is produced in the fantasy realm. The book may say all stories are Anansi stories, but this a madcap comic tale that could only come from the brilliant mind of Neil Gaiman.

“Fat” Charlie Nancy (who is anything but) is a mild-mannered temp in London. African-American (and originally from Florida), “Fat” Charlie moved to England when his mother divorced his lay-about prankster of a father. Decades later, “Fat” Charlie is on the verge of marrying the woman of his dreams, Rosie, and life may not be exciting, but that’s just the way “Fat” Charlie likes it. Then, Charlie’s father (who hasn’t seen in years) dies in a karaoke bar in Florida, and at his father’s funeral, “Fat” Charlie Nancy discovers that his dad was in fact the spider and trickster god of myth, Anansi. To add to his confusion, it turns out “Fat” Charlie has a long-lost brother he never knew that inherited their dad’s godlike powers and that his brother can be summoned by whispering to a spider. Well, one day Spider shows up on “Fat” Charlie’s door, and after an epic night of boozing and dancing in memory of their father, Spider pretends to be “Fat” Charlie in order to steal Rosie, and with the further complications of a serial killer and vengeful gods, “Fat” Charlie’s life will never be the same again.

While Gaiman has always maintained a comic tone in his books, none (except for potentially Good Omens) could ever explicitly be called comedies. Anansi Boys is pure madcap and screwball comedy gold. Outside of the George Carlin joke books like Napalm and Silly Putty, I can’t remember the last time a book made me laugh out loud as many times as Anansi Boys. I exclusively read this at work, and I’m fairly certain I was confusing my customers with my seemingly random outbursts of hyena-esque laughter. While telling an almost painfully accurate tale of family (in all its awkwardness and pain), Gaiman still manages to inject more life and joie de vivre into these characters than you would find in any 30 minute sitcom. Whether our heroes are escaping a horde of flamingos, discussing embarrassing high school memories involving President’s Day, or Gaiman’s re-interpretation of a beloved Anansi tale, the humor never lets up, and even the book’s darkest moments (of which there are plenty) show a sparkling wit and creativity that most author’s would die for.

While this isn’t my favorite Gaiman story (that award goes to his A Midsummer Night’s Dream issue of Sandman), it is still a fun and wildly imaginative tale from one of the most talented writers working today. I have read all of his novels now (except for Neverwhere), and I have simply come to the conclusion that the man can do no wrong. From the moment he wrote his first story in Sandman that featured Death, he’s just been on a roll. For all fans of fantasy, his books are simply must read as his only contemporary that comes close to matching his spirit and passion is George R. R. Martin (though they are diametrically opposed in tone and style). With brisk pacing that still manages to capture a certain enthusiastic love of myths and the nature of storytelling, Gaiman’s works remain a bastion of intellectual but accessible fantasy, and Anansi Boys is no different.

Final Score: A-

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