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Anansi Boys

Question: Neil Gaiman is:
a) an alien;
b) a mythical creature in human form;
c) a god;
d) a literary genius;
e) a very close friend of Tori Amos;
f) a, b, and c only;
g) d and e only;
h) all of the above;
i) none of the above.

(That's how one of my favorite law school professors makes his multiple choice exams.)

Anyway, Anansi Boys is Gaiman's latest novel, although this review is three years late (the book came out in 2005). This more or less follows a similar reality with his earlier novel American Gods. The basic premise is that what if gods could be incarnated in human form? What happens to any offspring they might produce? And Gaiman shows us three possible answers as to what their children might be. They could be: a) half-human, half-god; b) either full human or full god; or c) both human and god at the same time. Anyway, that's delving too deep in the philosophy of Neil Gaiman's mythical universe. I'm sure all the author wants us to do is enjoy reading.

I commend the author on his willingness to break new ground, as he draws his characters this time from world mythology, specifically the folk tales of Ghana's Ashanti tribe. Western literary mythology should no longer be limited to Greek or Norse tales. This is already the new millennium, and it should be the duty of all human beings to familiarize themselves with the mythology of the rest of the planet.

And true to form, Neil Gaiman delivers an amazing read, which for me is much better crafted than American Gods. Of course, this is Gaiman's second take using the same reality, and with a four-year gap between the two novels, obviously Anansi Boys has already perfected the formula.

I wouldn't even try to attempt to write about Neil Gaiman's mythology, as that in itself can already be a full thesis for a Comparative LIterature major. Besides, words can barely describe the richness, and the strangeness, of Gaiman's universe. If a writer's word choice were like his or her literary DNA, then Neil Gaiman's genetic code would stand out like a gigantic, mutant sea monster. Only Gaiman can write like Gaiman, and if you haven't been introduced to his writing yet, this book would be a good book to start with.

Aside from the strangely beautiful universe spun by the author, this book's selling point would probably be its humor, as it is written in a noticeably more comical tone than American Gods. Humorous storytelling is definitely the most effective approach when telling a tale of gods and mortals, and Gaiman exploits this with great results.

Again, a salute to a great writer, whose works will still be read a hundred years from now. So to all you readers out there, start reading this book (if you haven't read it yet), as we all eagerly await the next book from "the rock star of literature" (it's probably the hair).

Rating: Four stars.


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