"Daisy looked up at him with the kind of expression that Jesus might have given someone who had just explained that he was probably allergic to bread and fishes, so could he possibly do him a quick chicken salad..." - Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman is the story of Fat Charlie and Spider, children of the trickster god Anansi who originates from West African folklore. In present day Florida, Anansi goes by the name of Mr. Nancy and by general consensus, is a very charming man. However right at the beginning of the story Mr. Nancy dies due to a heart attack and hence turns the life of Fat Charlie upside down.
Fat Charlie is not actually fat and is the most anti-hero protagonist I’ve read. Before his brother Spider walks into his life (and for quite some time even after) he is, to summarise in a word, boring. Not necessarily because nothing interesting happens in his life but also because he doesn’t seem to want more from his life.
One day, upon discovering that he has a god brother, he decides to reach out and like most stories, this is where everything goes to hell. His brother slowly takes over his life like a case of evil twins. Spider, his brother, is the epitome of cool. He is the literal opposite of everything Fat Charlie has wanted to be.
The story is simple- When Spider refuses to give up control of Fat Charlie’s life he is forced to take desperate measures and ends up making a bad deal.
The other characters, especially the female leads are realistically sketched out, both different and strong characters in their own ways. The antagonist is Grahame Coats, who is the epitome of all things evil. Apart from these there are 4-5 more characters and that’s about it. It avoids making the book overly complex and ending up with underdeveloped extra characters.
Despite the story being straight forward, it has been carried out wonderfully. While written as a spinoff of American Gods, it is best to not read this book as such. Neither is it necessary to have any knowledge about American Gods as it simply shares one character with it. It is much lighter and doesn’t carry the undertones of a larger than life story. It is a delightfully funny book; I laughed aloud to be the vary glances at public transport more than once. And the humour of the book isn’t in one-liners or jokes but is intricately woven into the writing style.
The pace is consistent, although it feels a bit slow towards the end when everything falls together. Some parts of the story are easy to predict and yet there are pieces which would’ve been impossible to guess and yet when revealed, it would seem that nothing else could possibly make sense.
While the mythology blends together with Gaiman’s imagination with ease, there is a certain hopping between different realms, the extent to which magic powers are applicable and so on that is a bit confusing.
I would however recommend this book for those older than 13 years of age (so don’t gift this to your 8 year old cousin) because of certain scenes and language. Also, if modern take on mythologies or magical realism or long theories about songs and stories don’t appeal you, this is not your cup of tea. I would recommend this book for a good laugh and very satisfying writing, with an above average plot. Also, the chances of stumbling upon the phrase 'post menopausal mafia' in any other book is highly unlikely.