Gaiman follows up the success of his modern-day, mythical fantasy American Gods with the equally mythical and darkly comic gem Anansi Boys. Charles "Fat Charlie" Nancy leads a normal, ordinary, even boring existence. Strapped to a London office job he's less than thrilled with, his approaching wedding with his fiancé Rosie is the only thing he has to look forward to in life. One day Charlie calls the U.S. to invite his estranged father to the wedding and finds out he just died. After jetting off to Florida for the funeral he not only discovers a brother he didn't know he had, he also learns his father is the West African trickster god known as Anansi. Charlie’s brother Spider, who possesses a wide array of magical powers almost equal Anansi’s, later visits poor Charlie in London and spins Charlie’s life out of control. Spider takes over Charlie’s life and gets him fired, sleeps with his fiancée and even gets him arrested for involvement in white collar crime Charlie had nothing to do with. When Spider refuses to leave Charlie decides to fight back by getting assistance from other gods, some of whom are not so fond of Anansi. And that's when the real trouble begins. The other gods lead the brothers into adventures that are at times scary, and others downright hysterical. At first Charlie is completely overwhelmed by this new world, but he is, in the end, Anansi's son and shows just as much flair for trickery as his brother.
With its quirky myths and inventive fantasy fans of Gaiman will be thrilled with AB. But Gaiman writes this time with a fuller sense of character. American Gods held such a large cast it sometimes got a little distracting. But here focusing on a smaller handful gives Gaiman the room to really breathe life into these amazing characters. His writing is also funnier, sillier and readable in that special way that looks so much easier than it really is.
The end result is fantasy that is funny, readable and extremely entertaining. I wondered sometimes, though, if just being entertaining is enough. Particularly now as I pen my own crappy submission for Nanowrimo, I wonder if we need to ask more of writers and more of ourselves when we write. Perhaps after grad school and reviewing various books for awhile it's hard for me to sit down and just plain enjoy a good read. But I can't help but feel that Gaiman is capable of just a little more in terms of a story that will really, really move his readers on a deeper emotional level. Don't get me wrong....he's earned his status as a popular and respected writer and I'd love to have his career. But if AB was a meal at my favorite eatery, I came away from the table still just the tiniest bit hungry.