'The Anansi Boys' and 'Coraline' by Neil Gaiman

'The Anansi Boys' and 'Coraline' by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is establishing a niche as a specialist in the bizarre, and 'Anansi Boys' is no exception. Set in the present, it features Charlie Nancy, an ordinary and rather hapless young man who travels from England to Florida for the funeral of his long-estranged father. He is told that his father may have been the spider god Anansi – a deity of the trickster kind. Furthermore, he discovers that he has a previously unsuspected brother, Spider, who seems to have inherited their father's abilities. When Spider arrives at his London home and begins to play havoc with Charlie's work and love life, Charlie returns to Florida to find an occult way of ridding himself of this troublesome sibling, and that's when events begin to slide out of control.

Well-written, original, intriguing, often amusing, occasionally dark and a tad horrific but basically warm-hearted and likeable, this is an entertaining read which deserves the praise it has received.
'Coraline' is a different kind of story altogether. Only a novella of around 40,000 words, this is a fairy tale intended for children. Not some twee, sugar-coated tale to send them quietly off the sleep, more like a Grimm one which will have them looking nervously under their beds.

Coraline is a contemporary young girl who has just moved with her parents into a newly-converted flat within a large old house. She is intelligent and self-confident and loves exploring. Her personality has some amusingly realistic touches, for instance she turns her nose up at her father's "recipes" (which sound very tasty), preferring to eat microwave chips and pizza instead. She finds an old door which leads nowhere, opening onto a brick wall created during the conversion work. She can't help being fascinated by it, however, and one day opens it to find an empty corridor. At the end of that is a replica of her flat, and even a close replica of her parents, but something is terribly wrong. To survive and to save her parents, Coraline has to call on all of her wits and courage.

Despite the dark and horrifying elements, this is an optimistic story of bravery and determination triumphing over evil. Neil Gaiman is a versatile as well as talented author.

(This entry is cross-posted from my science-fiction & fantasy blog.)