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109 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some stories are better heard than read
I have a comment on the CD version because, frankly, it was much more magical and interesting than the written work by itself. Anansi stories were made to tell around a fire at night, or out on the trail to pass the time, or, ever so quietly, while casting in a line to fish.

They are stories for people who do things, not just read things.

You can't...
Published on August 26, 2006 by Jack E. Holt, III

versus
28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not Gaiman's best
The problem with reading Neil Gaiman books is that he has awfully big shoes to fill - namely, his own. I'm a squealing fangirl for Sandman, and I loved Neverwhere and American Gods, but was totally underwhelmed with Stardust and Coraline. Somewhere in the middle of those two emotions comes Anansi Boys.

For the first, oh, fifty to sixty percent, I felt like...
Published on May 10, 2006 by S. Grauschopf


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109 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some stories are better heard than read, August 26, 2006
By 
This review is from: Anansi Boys (Paperback)
I have a comment on the CD version because, frankly, it was much more magical and interesting than the written work by itself. Anansi stories were made to tell around a fire at night, or out on the trail to pass the time, or, ever so quietly, while casting in a line to fish.

They are stories for people who do things, not just read things.

You can't read "Evil-doers beware!" and not think it's all a bit silly. But when you hear it around the fire, and thrill to the sound in your own blood, it doesn't sound silly at all. THAT's the power of stories told instead of read.

More importantly, Lenny Henry's voice captures every character as a unique creation. At first, the island accents are a little hard to follow, but then you get into the spirit of the thing. I know Lenny Henry as a comedian. I think the best comedians are observers and Henry has clearly observed a lot.

I enjoyed Mrs. Higler and Graham Coates the best, I suppose. Mrs. Higler is the voice of every well-meaning-but-meddling old woman who ever lived. Graham Coates is a fat weasel of a man who wants to be a big man. We've all met their type before. Lenny Henry takes us into their hearts with just a little bit of pacing and a fake accent or two.

Truthfully, though, I liked the stories BEHIND the stories, the original African tales worked into the novel, most of all. I played them for the toughest audience in the world-- my five-year old son. My son listened to the Anansi stories with a smile on his face that could outshine the sun. At the end of the tar-baby story he laughed and asked for more.

(Unfortunately, some of the book is a little too intense for young kids. So, I'm probably going to spend a fortune on e-bay to find some tapes Lenny Henry made of Mother Goose Tales. If they're half as good as Gaiman's & Henry's tale, it'll be worth it.)

I saw that a lot of people didn't like the book and all of those reviews compared this book unfavorably with American Gods. I suppose that's so. American Gods is a dark ride through the landscape and the psyche. It's magic at it's most threatening. A tale of terrors long-forgotten. A tiger tale. And those have their place.

If that's the only type of tale you like -- then neither this book nor this recording are for you.

But if there's a little "flexibility" in how you view the world. . . if you like to hear someone new tell an old story. . . if you think Br'er Rabbit and Bugs Bunny are zen philosophers in disguise. . . .

Well, then, this might be the best story you've ever heard.
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198 of 213 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, September 26, 2005
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Anansi Boys: A Novel (Hardcover)
good and ill together. That line from Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends Well captures the essence of Neil Gaiman's latest creation, Anansi Boys.

Charlie Nancy is one of life's more passive characters. He is perpetually embarrassed by those around him. He grew up in Florida embarrassed by his father who had an eye for the ladies, never seemed to have a job, and who bestowed upon Charlie the nickname "Fat Charlie". It is a name that stuck to Charlie like glue and has followed him everywhere he goes, even to England where he now lives and works. More than anything else, Fat Charlie is embarrassed by himself. His life is an endless stream of self-conscious needless apologies for his life. As one would expect from a character like Charlie he is timid in front of his boss and can't seem to convince his fiancé that there is nothing wrong with consummating their relationship prior to their marriage. The word perpetually frustrated comes to mind here.

As the story opens, Fat Charlie is back in Florida for the funeral of his father. Charlie no doubt hopes his dad's death, which occurred while singing a song in a Karaoke bar much to Charlie's embarrassment, will put an end to his own state of perpetual embarrassment. That is the closure Charlie seeks. But the old ladies who made up his Dad's circle of friends tell Fat Charlie that their father was something of a god, in fact a spider god. They also tell Fat Charlie he has a brother. Fat Charlie, of course, will have none of this nonsense and returns to England.

Of course, life is never so simple for any character drawn by Neil Gaiman. It turns out Fat Charlie does have a brother, Spider, who is everything Charlie is not. Spider is personable, charming, glib, and has the ability to charm the pants off just about anyone he desires. As the name Spider implies, Charlie is soon drawn into the parallel world inhabited by Spider a world of small gods and vengeful animals. Fat Charlie is introduced to a whole new universe of characters and his ability to distinguish between fact and fantasy grows increasingly thin.

Anansi Boys worked on two levels for me. First, I actually grew attached to the character of Fat Charlie. I was surprised that I developed such empathy for Fat Charlie. Generally, I do not find `passive' characters all that attractive, but, as the book wore on I felt myself rooting for him. Second, Anansi Boy is, at its heart a story about a dysfunctional (but very funny) family and explores how its members try to reach some accommodation with their past and their present relationships. This is not meant to imply that the book is weighed down with ponderous statements on the meaning of life or families; far from it. The great success of Gaiman's writing in my opinion is that he can handle a topic with both humor and sensitivity. The story does not bog down in `deep thoughts'. Gaiman spins his yarn and leaves it up to the reader to read between the laughs. I found the conclusion to be particularly well done.

Anansi Boys, like the spiders that form its conceptual heart, draws you inexorably into its web until you cannot get out. Fortunately, Gaiman has spun such a fine yarn that you don't mind being ensnared at all. This was a book worth reading.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's all in how you sing your song, April 8, 2006
By 
Brian Welsch (Spartanburg, SC United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Anansi Boys: A Novel (Hardcover)
Anansi Boys started off a little slowly, I thought. Fat Charlie was such a drab anti-hero, but I found myself wondering how this guy was going to become interesting, because I genuinely liked the character despite his awkwardness. Neil Gaiman does a fantastic job pacing this story. We get sucked into the eccentricities of Charlie's brother, Spider, right along with Charlie. I found myself getting frustrated with Spider, much as I imagine Charlie was.

By the second half of the story, you could see the brothers' relationship changing. They were feeding off each other in a way, taking on characteristics of each other. Brilliantly done.

An interesting addition to the book was the 2 or 3 fables about Anansi that were spaced out in the first half of the tale. It made for a great lead-in to the interaction at the beginning/end of the world. I especially liked the scene with Tiger and the weasel. More so than in American Gods and Neverwhere, I felt Neil's writing was up to the task of his creativity. Definitely recommended to anyone with an imagination.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spiderboys!, January 22, 2008
This review is from: Anansi Boys (Paperback)
You think your dad is embarrassing? Well, at least he isn't an African trickster god -- now that would be nothing but trouble.

But it's what you'd expect of Neil Gaiman, who is best known for his witty, slightly wonky brand of dark fantasy -- and his ability to spin up the most absurd stories in an entertaining fashion. And "Anansi Boys" features Gaiman getting in touch with his lighter, playful more humorous side, in a sort-of-sequel to his smash hit "American Gods."

Fat Charlie's dad has always been weird -- brass bands for the terminally ill, nicknames that stick, and much more. But even away from his dad, Charlie isn't happy. Then he gets the news that his dad died during a karaoke song; when he goes to the funeral, an old neighbor tells him that Daddy was really Anansi the spider god. Even worse, Charlie finds out he has a brother.

Spider is everything Charlie isn't -- charming, debonair, witty, and magical. Soon he has not only taken over Fat Charlie's house, but his fiancee as well, distracting Fat Charlie from his boss's attempts to frame him. Determined to get rid of Spider, Fat Charlie enlists the Bird Woman's help -- but soon finds that his pact will only get them in deeper trouble with the ancient gods.

Trickster gods -- like Anansi, Loki, Kokopelli, or even a bit of Hermes -- are always the most entertaining part of old myths and legends. They're unpredictable, unmistakable, get all the best lines, and perpetually wild'n'crazy -- and they are also the worst kinds of dads you could imagine. They probably wouldn't make wonderful brothers, either.

So of course, Gaiman goes to town with "Anansi Boys," by simply forming a story around that idea: what if a trickster god had two kids, who were nothing alike, but suddenly had to deal with one another? Gaiman also sprinkles it liberally with corporate intrigue, romance, and the old Anansi legends (which he inserts periodically). Don't expect the darker overtones of "American Gods," because this is a very different story.

With this lighter tone, Gaiman sounds a lot like his pal Terry Pratchett, right down to wry humor and on-the-spot comic timing. And the dialogue is pure gold: "There are three things, and three things only, that can lift the pain of mortality and ease the ravages of life. These things are wine, women and song." "Curry's nice too." Gaiman seems to be having a lot of fun in this book.

And nowhere is the fun more clear than in Spider and Fat Charlie. They're like yin and yang -- one brother is charming, conscienceless and self-consciously divine in his attitude, and the other is nervy, awkward and painfully mundane. Spider's charm leaps out from the page, while Fat Charlie is sort of Gaiman's "Charlie Brown." Don't worry, Fat Charlie improves as the book goes on.

Everyone gets annoyed by their siblings and embarrassed by their dad, but the "Anansi Boys" have a life more complex than most. Lighter than most Neil Gaiman books, but hilarious, dark and perpetually clever.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Reader meets Excellent Writer, December 12, 2006
By 
This review is from: Anansi Boys (MP3 CD)
I am very picky about the audiobooks I'll listen to on my long commute. I've opened up books that I was very much looking forward to "reading," only to throw box and all against the rear window of the car after ten minutes of some boob murdering the prose. So when I find one I like, that means I like it a lot.

Commedian Lenny Henry's rich voice and delightfully accented character readings really bring Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys to life. Henry floats easily between an Americanized urban accent, thick British types, a hilarious cabal of little old black ladies in the wilds of Florida, and a number of Caribbean voices. His voice can be light enough that the females don't sound ridiculous.

Revisiting a character from American Gods, but zooming in on a more focused set of players, this is the story of "Fat Charlie" Nancy, an easily embarrassed, buttoned-down accountant in London with a dead-end job and a nice finacée. He makes a call to a family friend in Florida to invite his debonair, estranged father to the wedding, but finds his father has just died. After the funeral Charlie learns his father was the god Anansi, and that he had another son, Spider, that Charlie didn't know about. Not really believing any of it, he summons Spider, who quickly turns Charlie's life inside-out. Ancient animosities and modern crimes merge in Gaiman's fast-moving narrative. His sense of humor does not fly in your face -- you have to be paying attention and thinking things through -- but the comedy is rich and rewarding, in that restrained way the English are so bloody good at.

Several times listening to this I've laughed out loud, and kept chortling for another mile or so at some turn of phrase or quirk of character, or one of Henry's particular voices. I can recommend this wholeheartedly to anyone who enjoys Gaiman's sense of whimsy and storytelling.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gaiman is his own worst competition., October 5, 2006
By 
frumiousb "frumiousb" (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Anansi Boys (Mass Market Paperback)
I think that if Anansi Boys had not been written by Neil Gaiman, I would have been inclined to give it a much higher rating. To be clear-- I enjoyed it; I laughed out loud; I was interested the whole time to see what would happen next as the book continued.

It is unfortunate for me that the book suffered a little bit by comparison to Gaiman's other work. When I compared it to Neverwhere and American Gods, the enjoyment got just a little bit paler. I liked it, but I did not love it. It somehow felt like much more of a toss off than either of those two great books.

This said, I would still recommend the book to Gaiman fans and non-Gaiman fans alike. You should be aware that it is not a sequel to American Gods, just sort of set in the same universe. Even if I do not like it quite as much as is other books, it has a really nice Tim Powers flavor to it which gives it some punch.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Audio CD's, April 1, 2006
By 
This review is from: Anansi Boys (Paperback)
I'm not reviewing the book, or the author but only the audio tape. I have not read this book, but have read other Neil Gaiman stories. I didn't think I would ever listen to anything better than Jim Dale's narrative of Harry Potter, but I was wrong. Lenny Henry is fabulous!! I can't say this is a good read since I've only listened. It is a wonderful audio tape. (assuming you enjoy fantasy) Lenny Henry should win a Grammy for this. I didn't put it away half way through the book, in fact I couldn't wait for the right moment to start listening again. This is not a heavy story like "American Gods" or Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings", it is more like "Stardust" with less mythology and more fantasy. I found it light hearted yet absorbing.
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28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not Gaiman's best, May 10, 2006
This review is from: Anansi Boys: A Novel (Hardcover)
The problem with reading Neil Gaiman books is that he has awfully big shoes to fill - namely, his own. I'm a squealing fangirl for Sandman, and I loved Neverwhere and American Gods, but was totally underwhelmed with Stardust and Coraline. Somewhere in the middle of those two emotions comes Anansi Boys.

For the first, oh, fifty to sixty percent, I felt like Anasi Boys was going to be a big letdown. Then somewhere along the line, I didn't want to stop reading. It wasn't that I loved it all of a sudden, but I really wanted to find out what happened next.

I have the feeling that if this book weren't written by Neil Gaiman, I'd have loved it a lot more. As it is - I enjoyed it, but I am still a bit disappointed. I think something about the characterization was just not deep enough to win my heart. And it's a shame, because I could see the shining pinnacle of story that this book wanted to be, but it just didn't reach it. It was like the skinny kid who is trying so darned hard to ring the bell at the carnival with a big hammer, but just can't get the oomph behind it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Fantasy With Family Message, April 22, 2008
By 
This review is from: Anansi Boys (Mass Market Paperback)
Neil Gaiman has the uncanny ability to take supernatural things and make them part of the day-to-day life that so many of us stumble through. With his keen insights, warmth, and wit, Gaiman shares those words - supernatural and everyday - in a manner that is delightfully hypnotic.

ANANSI BOYS is an off-shoot of sorts of AMERICAN GODS but succeeds terrifically on its own. Anansi is the spider god, the trickster god, of certain cultures in Africa, and it only seems just that Gaiman spins his tale with a lot of sleight-of-hand twists and turns that may catch even his veteran readers off guard.

I had a blast with this book. The story and characters were solidly built and presented, but I had the additional joy of listening to the novel on audiobook in my car. The narrator, Lenny Henry, is an absolute godsend to this book (no pun intended). His voice characterizations are spot-on and every character he brings to life is unique and separate. Henry is the master of understated British inflection and Caribbean sing-song dialect, as well as male and female voices. I hung on his every word, and there are plenty of characters for Henry to showcase.

The story revolves around Fat Charlie Nancy, who didn't know he was the son of the trickster god, Anansi. Fat Charlie had known his upbringing had always been different because his father wasn't like anyone else he'd ever met.

The way that Gaiman starts the story drew me in immediately. It's just the story of a guy, the kind of guy you've probably met over and over again throughout your life. Fat Charlie doesn't take chances and doesn't live a big life. He does just enough to get by, but not enough to attract success or ire.

However, on the eve of his wedding, he learns that his father - from whom he's been estranged - has died. I liked the way that Fat Charlie didn't know how he was supposed to react to that news. Not only that, he didn't know how he felt. It wasn't like he was going to miss the father that was never around.

At the funeral, weirdness steps in. One of the old women he'd known as a child hands him a shovel and tells him that he has to bury his father. I was rocked by this because I didn't know what I would have done. Fat Charlie thinks about it a moment, then rolls his sleeves up and gets to work.

Afterwards, the old woman and Fat Charlie start talking about family. She reveals that Fat Charlie has a brother - Spider - that he apparently has forgotten. The way Gaiman works in his twists and turns is awesome. He'll just hit you between the eyes with them, let you know they're there, then turn whatever you were thinking on its head and surprise you again.

When Fat Charlie gets curious and calls out to his brother, Spider shows up. And that's when things get really weird. Magic seeps into the book, and its stealthily trailed by menace. Both of those additions continue to grow until the fate of the world literally hangs in the balance.

Gaiman is an absolute master of showing interpersonal relationships that we all have. He knows the good parts and the bad, and he dishes on both. His dialogue shines, and his humor ranges from deadpan to over-the-top that left me howling out loud. Best of all, this is a book that you can share with your kids on long drives. The story is simple and the characters are unique. There's no objectionable material, and the problems of family can be understood by kids as well as adults.

One of the best parts of the book is the integration of the Anansi legends among the story. I enjoyed listening to those tales, so much like many other folk legends I've heard.

ANANSI BOYS is a great book about family with a hint of fantasy, or maybe it's a fantasy novel with a great message about families. Either way, it's a delightful tale that will keep you and possibly your family entertained for hours whether on the page or in the CD player. Best of all, it's a story that I'm planning to read or listen to again because it's going to be a perennial favorite of mine.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ever-Widening Range of Neil Gaiman, January 13, 2006
This review is from: Anansi Boys: A Novel (Hardcover)
Ever since I read "The Monarch of the Glen" (found in LEGENDS II) based in the American Gods world, I've loved Gaiman as a writer. I had always known of him as a comic book writer, and had previously written him off as nothing more than that. I had always thought writers of comic books inferior to "real" writers. Why, I don't exactly know. Perhaps the American mentality of comic books being a lesser form of literature has slowly seeped into me over time. Now I know better. After I read "Monarch of the Glen" I picked up AMERICAN GODS and soon after that CORALINE, plus between those two books I read Gaiman's numerous short stories and poems in anthologies I also bought over time. What I got from these books and stories were this: Gaiman is capable of anything, whether it's erotica to children's stories, he can do it with excellence, and he has writing awards to prove just that.

Anansi Boys is, in many ways, a novel that shows just how wide Gaiman's range is. It's a story of self-discovery, of brotherly-love, of earning the love of ones father, plus, to add to those more dramatic themes, it's a story of simple humor, some childhood fantasy as well as some adult fantasy, mischief and mayhem, and gods and monsters. All of this, squeezed nicely into three-hundred pages.

Anansi Boys is about two brothers, one named Charlie Nancy (or Fat Charlie, as everyone else, to his chagrin, call him), the other named Spider. Fat Charlie is nervous and easily embarrassed. Spider just isn't. In fact, the only thing they truly have in common is the fact that their father is the spider god Anansi, a trickster who owns the stories of the world. So, obviously, when these two meet, bad things happen. Spider begins to steal Charlie's life from Charlie, including his fiancee and his job, and Charlie, since he's the less gifted of the two, can't do anything about it. But he finds a way, one that causes chaos and makes Charlie realize just how rash he had been, and must correct his mistakes. During this time, Charlie must avoid police, a crazy, embezzling, cliche dropping boss, and a future-mother-in-law who chooses only to hate everyone her daughter finds an interest in. And, of course, the animal gods themselves.

The odd thing is that, though this book contains so much, it never gets overwhelming. Every separate element of the story is presented slowly, with enough time for you to digest before the next element comes in. In fact, the fantasy elements of the story don't come in until about one-hundred pages in, yet it maintains interest with humor as we follow Charlie around in his mundane life.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's a quick, satisfying read, one most people can take down in two or three days. It's funny enough to actually make you laugh out loud (no cliche intended). So, if you're a fan of Gaiman in any way, then pick this up. It's one of the better fantasy books of last year.
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Anansi Boys
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (Mass Market Paperback - September 26, 2006)
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