Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys (Harper Collins 2006)

I've never actually heard an audio book before, so I was quite intrigued by the prospect of reviewing Anansi Boys. I decided it would be perfect to put the contents of the eight CDs on my iPod and listen to all ten hours of an unabridged reading as I crossed the country. If you don't know Gaiman's book, do take a look at Cat Eldridge's review.

Charles Nancy finds out, not under the best of circumstances, that his father is a god. Not just any god, mind you, but Anansi. Yes, that Anansi, the one with all the stories, the sometime spider, sometime man, and always trickster, god. He also finds out that he has a brother, Spider, a brother he had completely forgotten about. As the pull-quote on the CD packaging says, "God is dead. Meet the kids."

It's a bit of a misnomer to call this a reading; it's really a performance. Lenny Henry reads the novel, and performs all the voices, and I do mean all of them. From the very distinct Caribbean dialects to the modified London standard, he does the voices, and, he does them superbly well. It's difficult sometimes to believe that they're all from the mind and hand of a single author, and performed by a single actor (to call Henry an actor is to understate his talents; he's a stand-up comedian, and a writer as well).

Gaiman manages to create a completely modern, completely new, Anansi tale, but one that's truly kin to the greater oral tradition. Anansi Boys is an extremely fast-paced, funny book, and Lenny's delivery really adds to to the story; he manages to deliver exceedingly funny lines so smoothly, with such perfect timing that there's sometimes a beat before you really realize what was just said. It can't be easy to bring that kind of fine comic timing to material you didn't write, but he manages. It's an amazing performance of a delightful book, and well-worth having even if you have read the book.

[Lisa L. Spangenberg]