This was a superfun experiment in re-reading a book and its sequel in the correct order for the first time. As I mentioned in my “American Gods” re-read review, the first time around, I read “Anansi Boys” first, and it was nevertheless a totally delicious ride untainted by any sort of tyrannical adherence to an orderly timeline. I think Gaiman would approve.
This time around, I read them in order, although I’m keeping with this personal tradition by learning too late that there’s a short story that fits somewhere between the two books, and I haven’t gotten to that yet. And I have to say that after “American Gods,” “Anansi Boys” feels a little paler. Instead of being a delightful surprise followed by another even more delightful surprise, “Anansi Boys” feels more like a mellow denouement after the outstanding climax of “American Gods.” It’s not by any means a worse book, it’s just much, much calmer, and more intimate, with just enough adventure to keep things tense.
Which is kind of fitting, and not a complaint. This one is about family dynamic, and personal growth, so the intimacy absolutely serves the story. Also, I’m a total sucker for bubble-worlds, the kind of storytelling in which a handful of seemingly unrelated storylines all come together at the turn and come to a head together. It’ll get me every time.
I realize I haven’t said anything about the actual story here. In brief, Fat Charlie Nancy, the son of Mr. Nancy who we met in “American Gods,” is a bumbling, middling sort of sad sack, meandering his way down the middle of the road through life. When his father dies (and if I had read these in order, I could have anticipated how little of a finality death means in this universe), he learns that he has a brother of whom he has no memory. When he reaches out to his brother, Spider, his world explodes in a fantastic display of magical realism. Super Gaiman-y. Super delicious. Jump in on these, for real, though.
I’ve got that short story (“The Monarch of the Glen”) queued up from my local library, so I can finally complete the cycle. I can’t wait. But I’ll have to, because I’m reading “It” now, which is about six million pages long (of awesomeness), so get. off. my. back.