I’m well on my way toward completing my two challenges way ahead of schedule :  Spring Reading Thing 2010 and Once Upon A Time IV.    Anansi Boys is my fourth book in a list of five.

Author :  Neil Gaiman

First Edition’s Publication Date : January 1, 2005

First Edition’s Publisher :  Harper Collins

This Edition’s Publication Date :  January 22, 2008 (Paperback)

This Edition’s Publisher :  Harper Perennial

ISBN-10: 0061342394

ISBN-13: 978-0061342394

No. of pages :  368

The Story :

Fat Charlie’s (who really isn’t fat) humdrum, safe, comfortable life goes out of whack the moment he learns of his embarrassing father turning up his toes  on a karaoke stage.  Charlie Nancy had no idea his father was a god; neither the fact that he had a twin.  Now brother Spider, the hip, dashing, cool side of the family has turned up to say hello and is determined to stay.  Problem is, Spider has Charlie’s fiance all starry eyed with him and his boss, seething with murderous revenge.

Charlie just wants Spider to go away.  So he dabbles in some magic which backfires on them both.  Now, Spider and Charlie have to face the consequences and dredge their strengths from within.

The Review :

I have never read a Neil  Gaiman novel before… I mean one where he is the sole writer.  Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch was from a Gaiman-Pratchett tandem so I couldn’t tell where Gaiman was or Pratchett began as I’ve never read a Terry Pratchett either.  Now, I understand all the hype about Neil Gaiman.  He is an original, if not a very good mish-mash of perhaps a lot of  influences, who had morphed into a writer altogether of his own kind.  He has a unique way of writing which marries well with his peculiar imagination.

With Anansi Boys, Gaiman  takes the Caribbean folk god, Anansi and weaves his own creative legend around Anansi’s two sons.  The premise is simple, that of a man coming to terms with his lineage.  But Gaiman is a writer who is anything but simple.  So the fundamental premise is layered with lots of other threads: sibling rivalry, filial love, forgiveness, dualism, and self-actualization.

Gaiman here is not given to being serious, though.  His writing imposes a lot of humor, levity, charm, quirkiness and  of course that bit of surrealism that,  I think, marks his style.  Part of his forte here is his characters who he fashions into people we can like or at least pay sustained attention to.  You may not identify with them but somehow  he can make them interesting in their own way.  Take his lead, Fat Charlie, who is something like a push-over, rather passive and calm, painted as boring and yet you get to like him for what he is and how he is developed.  Even the cantankerous mom-in-law-to-be is an amusing figure who will, strangely, get on your good side as well.

To Read Or Not To Read :

Anansi Boys is strange and funny at the same time, but I suspect, with  the author’s piles of accolades, this is isn’t the best of his work.   Perhaps I should get hold of more of  his novels to experience him at his best.  But as an introduction to him, Anansi Boys doesn’t fail him, although it may not effectively goad some new readers to shell out for another one of his novels, unless they can tell from the book that the author has a lot more to offer.

Although this seems like a YA novel, the youngest readers who would probably appreciate this book fully would be in their late teens.  The more mature, the better of course because of a bit of complexity in Gaiman’s concepts and writing style.

On the whole, Anansi Boys is a rather enjoyable book.  Just be in the mood for some eccentricity and you’ll have a nice solo time with this one.

My Mark :  Very Good



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Author: Alicia Fields
Release Date: July 5, 2005
Publisher: Signet
ISBN-10: 0451215826
Pages: 282

The prettiest girl in the village is young and naïve Persephone, who lives a very sheltered life in Hellas, a small Greek isle, too small to matter to the rest of the world. Most of the boys in her village are in love with her but are too scared of her mother, Demeter, a man-hater who rejects all suitors for her daughter’s hand. But as fate would have it, lonely Hades spies Persephone and instantly sees her as the sunlight to his underground existence. Knowing no other way to win her, he abducts Persephone and as any love-struck swain does, tries to win her heart…

Love Underground is the myth of Persephone and Hades retold with a more realistic flavor, but with a tidy bit of it still sprinkled with magic.  The myth is a great story and Fields’ idea of humanizing it could have made it better.  But, she just doesn’t succeed.

The author tries to “de-myth” the characters by drawing them on a more humanistic plane, while still keeping a glimmer of mystique about them. Perhaps this attempt isn’t so easy for Fields as Persephone, Hades, Demeter, et al., end up flat, like comic book characters — well illustrated but without dimensions that stir empathy from those who are trying to get to know them.

That being so, there is a failure to inspire the romance it is supposed to have. It is that essential ingredient which could have transformed the work to a delightfully sweet story.

One thing Fields has done well, though, was keep one foot in the legend by being ambiguous about the characters’ deities. This was a nice touch, but sadly lost in a book floundering on ineffectual writing.

Regrettably, Love Underground is a literary disappointment.  I guess the book grew out of a good idea; but it withered on execution somewhere along the way. If you must read it, borrow or get a used copy on sale. Just don’t waste good money on a dime novel.

My Mark : In between UGH! and Mediocre — Poor