I've come to recognize that one of the main reasons I enjoyed this book so much was that I listened to the audiobook, performed by comedian Lenny Henry, whose background as a Brit of Caribbean descent made him the perfect choice to bring the characters to life. A lot of audiobooks aren't very good, but this one way great, and really brings out the fact that Anansi stories are meant to be heard.
It's recognizable Gaiman stuff, with the fish-out-of-water narrator in a modern fantasy world, with the author sxploring the history and the form of the mythic story, but there's a level of deprecating humor in this book that is lacking in other works by Gaiman.
One can catch snips of wit in any of his books. Any good book must include some humor: an author might as futilely try to excise pain or desire from life as humor. Gaiman has never placed any such artificial limits on his work; indeed, the only limits on his books are those he, himself cannot overcome.
Previously, his humor was only an occasional element, but there was apparently something in the writing of this particular book which finally allowed him to unleash his sense of the comic as a whole entity. The text swims and bobs with the ridiculous, the unfortunate, and the clever.
After reading 'Good Omens', written by Gaiman and Prachett, I was told that without Prachett, it would have retained none of the humor. I now begin to wonder whether if Pratchett added anything at all. Indeed, this work of Gaiman's overshadows that earlier work in both degrees and shades of the insightful and entertaining.
With the focus on Anansi and stories, the book provides an amusing analysis of storytelling itself, so that anyone who studies the nature and classification of tales will find certain asides and references particularly amusing. It is rare these days that an author will write a piece of fiction which explores on a subtextual level a concept or idea fundamental to the work itself. I have come to wish that more authors could gain the audacity that Gaiman found here.
There is a degree to which this story matches Gaiman's usual monomythic progression from naive outsider to coy insider, which at the outset was my greatest difficulty with the work. The inevitability and redundancy of this trope makes me wish for Gaiman's more eccentric and perverse moments. However, I found in the clever and skilled text a story worth experiencing, and one which matches or exceeds Gaiman's other attempts in the modern fantasy genre.
The story is not as epic or dire as Gaiman's tend to be, and without that there is a loss of urgency in the story. This is not really a deficiency, however, as the playful humor could not cohabitate comfortably with an ever-steepening plot curve.
The work fits into Gaiman's usual mode, exploring the myths and psychologies that most interest him. It may lose some of his fans in that it is less dark and brooding, less hopeless, but this could hardly be counted a loss. Any reader who wants more of the same can re-read his old works. the rest of us may appreciate seeing a master storyteller exploring his form in a new and engaging way.My Fantasy Book Suggestions