In Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman continues with an interesting (if not somewhat minor) character from his earlier (and very highly recommended) novel, American Gods.
Anansi the spider god is a trickster — and certainly not the traditional European diety. As Anansi creates lore, the original dweller of the earth also creates this world.
Fat Charlie is not fat — but as he notes, any nickname his father give, sticks. His father…. Well, the stories Charlie tells paint quite a picture. Rosie insists Charlie invite his father to their pending nuptials and, despite his best effort, he can’t: his father’s sudden and spectacular demise at a local karaoke bar is, as with all of his stunts, now legend.
Charlie's encounter with the neighborhood ladies provide him with a surprise: he has a brother. The second surprise comes from Mrs. Higgler, who tells him (almost furtively) that to contact his brother, “Tell a spider.” And anyone who has told a spider anything knows that just spells trouble. (Ask Charlotte.)
Reality is not what it seems when his brother Spider appears — not that Charlie’s reality is a thrill a minute. Easily embarrassed, he won’t even sing to himself in case someone hears him. He takes the safe route with his career, his relationships, his home, everything in his life. An accountant by trade, he works at a respectable firm, makes enough money, suffers indignities quietly and figures that he’ll move on when the time is right.
Spider changes all of that.
When Charlie has had enough, the neighborhood ladies give him advice and help him make a change.
But it’s too late. Nothing is the same. It may be at least in part because of Spider, but it’s more than just Spider. Charlie is not himself. Neither is Rosie. Come to think of it, neither is Daisy, a person Charlie and Spider met by chance and whose involvement in the fray is as much a blessing as a curse. And Spider — well, a sudden fear of birds is the least of his worries. Throw in a hidden room, an angry and vengeful duppy, false passports, ruthless rich, a dark wine cellar and a lime, and life is never the same.
Anyone who’s willing to fully suspend their disbelief and go for a great ride will never regret reading this incredibly fun book.
American Gods is not a necessary preamble, but it will introduce to the reader Gaiman’s ability to make sense out of what would remain the absurd in another writer’s hands. One cannot get tired of the playful and masterful use of language, story and character in Gaiman’s books.
Then, when you read Good Omens (and you will), you will recognize the very enjoyable and successful voice of an excellent contemporary author whose work you will follow for the rest of your life.