is a 2005 novel by Neil Gaiman
, set in the same fictional universe
as his earlier American Gods
, although not a direct sequel to that story — more of a Lighter and Softer
spinoff, and it was conceived earlier. The protagonist is the nice but unambitious and chronically unlucky Charles Nancy — nicknamed 'Fat Charlie' by his father at age 10 and dogged by the name ever since, despite not actually being fat — who's somewhat nonplussed to be told that his recently deceased father was the African trickster god Anansi. Oh, and the reason Fat Charlie doesn't have his dad's godlike powers is that they went to the brother he never knew existed, who he can contact by giving a message to a spider. Not believing a word of this, Fat Charlie nevertheless gets drunk and tells a spider to invite his brother to come for a visit.
Within a couple of days of Spider turning up, Fat Charlie has lost his job and fiancée, and is also wanted by the police. Willing to do anything to make his brother go away again, he finds a way to contact the other gods and makes a deal. And then things start to really go wrong.Lenny Henry
has voiced Fat Charlie for both the audiobook and a BBC Radio adaptation. A film version allegedly fell through because the studio
wanted a predominantly white cast
(despite the characters' Caribbean heritage being central to the mythic elements of the story), and Neil Gaiman steadfastly refused. However, he eventually resumed working on an adaptation, which has recently been rescued from Development Hell
by production company Red, who will produce a mini-series for BBC based on the book.
This book provides examples of:
- A Mythology Is True: While it is part of the same universe as American Gods, this story deals exclusively with West African and Carribean mythology.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Fat Charlie's father even dies in an embarrassing way.
- Animal Motifs: Grahame Coats' is a weasel. He even takes that form when he gets sealed away with Tiger.
- Animorphism: Grahame Coats by the end of the novel.
- Babies Ever After: For Charlie anyway. Spider hasn't gotten there yet.
- Big Damn Heroes: A wholly unexpected role for venomous spiders.
- Maeve Livingstone might also qualify
- Butt Monkey: Fat Charlie though it wears off by the end.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Fat Charlie does this to Mrs. Higgler.
- Cliché Storm: Any attempt to converse with Grahame Coats results in this; he seems to think an abundance of well-worn un-witticisms make him seem far smarter than even a single original thought ever could. When he takes Rosie and her mother hostage, it even describes how delighted he is to have whole new vistas of clichés open to him that he never would have gotten to pull out otherwise.
- Closet Sublet: When Spider comes to visit, he stays in Fat Charlie's closet. Kind of. The closet door actually opens up into a ridiculously big room somewhere tropical.
- Continuity Nod: Spider takes his coffee "dark as night and sweet as sin," just like the Slavic deities in American Gods.
- The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: The fate of the former dictator of the Caribbean island where the second half of the novel is set. After ruling with an iron fist for decades, he died by "falling out of bed". His fall was apparently hard enough to break a number of bones, and he didn't survive despite all of his bodyguards being in his room during this time, who did everything they could to "help" him.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Grahame Coats
- Compelling Voice: Spider's even works on computers, though it's apparently more a matter of lies than orders.
- Creepy Crows: The Bird Woman, one of many people who are still upset at Anansi's antics.
- Dark-Skinned Blond: Lion.
- Dating What Mommy Hates: Part of Rosie's reason for dating, and eventually becoming engaged to Fat Charlie.
- Deadpan Snarker: Charlie and Spider.
- Demonic Possession: Grahame Coats by Tiger, starts subtly after he kills Maeve.
- Divine Parentage: Charlie and Spider are the sons of the god Anansi.
- Double Standard: Rape, Divine on Mortal: Spider uses his supernatural powers to convince Rosie that he's her fiance and has sex with her when she believes he's someone else. They end up together in the end. Of course, all he really did was tell him he was Fat Charlie. She slept with him entirely for his own qualities. She does feel confused and conflicted about it when she finds out the truth, especially since she really did fall in love with him, and his feelings of guilt about the matter are what drives him to confess.
- Enfant Terrible: Charlie, before Spider is split off from him.
- Fake Brit: Charlie is said to have spent years trying to overcome his American accent to sound British.
- Faking the Dead: In one of the stories about Anansi, he pretends to be dead after requesting that he be buried in a vegetable garden so that he can sneak out of his grave and eat all of the food (while his family slowly starves). In the main story, Anansi has "died" so that people will stop taking him for granted. He intends to come back to life in about 20 or 25 years.
- Feathered Fiend: The Bird Woman, who's got a bone to pick with Anansi's bloodline.
- Fat Charlie has a dream about Anansi, who goes off on a tangent about starfish.
- Happens again when Fat Charlie goes to the cliffs at the end of the world to find someone to deal with Spider. He meets Monkey, who says two things that later prove to be portentous.
Monkey: Who are you? What are you? You seem like half a thing.
Monkey: (On learning that Anansi is dead) Dead there. Maybe.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Two of them. In a strange way it kind of fits with the text because, well, they're gods.
- Full-Name Basis: Grahame Coats is always referred to by his full name in the narrative.
- Fruit of The Loon: A lime becomes a very important plot element.
- Giant Spider: A rare, rare friendly example.
- Hell-Bent for Leather: Spider is almost always seen in a black and scarlet leather jacket.
- Hijacked by Jesus: Anansi really liked stealing other peoples' fables and myths, or at least claiming they were based on his antics.
- Informed Attribute: Fat Charlie was never actually fat or even very chubby but merely a little bit pudgy. By the time the story started, he hasn't been like that for years but the nickname stuck anyway.
- Inhuman Resources: Grahame Coats fires his employees just before they qualify for the severance package; Fat Charlie is unusual in this regard, as Coats found him so useful that he's been employed for an unprecedented two years. This ends up biting Coats in the ass; when he tries to pin his embezzlement on Fat Charlie, his employee turnover rate is all the evidence the police need to put together the fact that the embezzlement predates even Fat Charlie.
- In Which a Trope Is Described
- It's a Costume Party, I Swear: When he was little, Mr. Nancy told Charlie that President's Day meant you actually dressed up as your favorite President. Hilarity ensued, for Nancy, at least, when Charlie, not wanting to be just another Lincoln, Washington, or Kennedy, went as Taft.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- Mr. Nancy tends to swing wildly between the two.
- Kavorka Man: Mr. Nancy and Spider.
- Ladykiller in Love: Spider with Rosie, leading to some confusion on his part, as this usually doesn't happen to him.
- Laser-Guided Karma: After an incident with his cab driver, Fat Charlie finds himself forced to carry a lime everywhere, because word got around about the man with the lime and everyone demanded to see it.
- Lighter and Softer: Compared to American Gods, this is almost pure comedy. It's as good, though.
- Little Bit Beastly
- The gods of the animal pantheon all have characteristics of the animals they're based on, such as tails, whiskers — and extra nipples.
- Anansi himself is either this or a Funny Animal, whichever he needs. It's all in how you tell the story.
- Magical Camera: Early in the book, Spider passes into a photograph to travel to the location it shows. He later mentions he can go to any location he's seen, including by picture.
- Magic Music: It was used to create the world, apparently, and it's also one of Anansi's powers, usually resulting in some sort of Reality Warp. Once Charlie Nancy embraces his heritage, he can use this power as well.
- Malicious Misnaming: Fat Charlie, no matter how hard he tries, can't escape from it until he realizes his powers.
- Myopic Architecture: A police specialist bemoans Grahame Coats' security arrangements, pointing out that he installed a wonderfully secure door, then hung a lock on it that the specialist picked effortlessly. His exact words are that a five-year-old could jimmy it with a spoon handle. The specialist probably got it open by sneezing at it.
- Never My Fault: Grahame Coats. He even finds a way to blame Maeve (The woman he murdered) for his unhappiness. Eventually he decides Charlie/Spider is to blame for uncovering his shady dealings.
- Nice Hat:
- Mr Nancy's lime-green fedora.
- Which goes on to belong to Charlie Nancy, instead, and is nice enough to vanquish his old nickname, to boot.
- The Nicknamer: Mr. Nancy is a supernaturally good example; when he nicknames something or someone, everyone else automatically starts using the nickname even if they've never been told it before.
- No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: Generally Spider considers his ability to make people believe or do what he wants them to a good way to have fun with people, but when he starts to get emotionally close to someone he feels a lot more conflicted about it.
- Grahame Coats as well. After he runs to the island, he gets dangerously bored.
- No Name Given: Is Rosie's mother ever referred to as anything other than Rosie's mother or Mrs. Noah? (Her name is Eutheria Noah, but it's only mentioned once, and it states that no one ever used her name but her husband, and he's dead now.)
- Non Indicative Name: Fat Charlie was never fat. Between the ages of ten and fourteen he was slightly pudgy, but the nickname got created and stuck.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Grahame Coats killing Maeve Livingstone. He goes downhill from there.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: right up to the point when Fat Charlie figures out his powers. From the next sentence, the narration and the other characters just call him 'Charlie'.
- Pants-Positive Safety: Grahame Coats sticks a few unsheathed knives through his belt. He later receives a Groin Attack, causing him to fall down and stab himself badly in the thigh and bleed out.
- Performance Anxiety: Charles Nancy has it so bad, he passes out when he gets up on stage to perform earlier in the novel.
- Physical God: Mr. Nancy, Spider and the rest of the animal pantheon. Fat Charlie too, eventually.
- Race Lift: Averted; executives wanted to recast the leads as white for the film, despite the fact that most are black, and African heritage is something of a plot point for the eponymous brothers. Gaiman shut 'em down.
- Rascally Rabbit: It is mentioned that some trickster rabbit stories were initially Anansi's.
The story of the Tar-Baby, the one they tell about Bre'r Rabbit? That was Anansi's story first. Some people thinks he was a rabbit. But that's their mistake. He wasn't a rabbit. He was a spider.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Parodied. Mrs. Nancy writes to Fat Charlie from China that their Chinese food is terrible, and she'll be wanting the real Chinese food after she gets back home.
- Reality Warper: Spider. He claims all one has to do is "Show Reality who's boss".
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Daisy, although she's outnumbered by many unreasonable ones.
- Sand In My Eyes: "I'm not crying. It's the rain on my face." Mrs. Higgler isn't fooled.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: What happens to Tiger and Grahame Coats.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Charlie's the nicer, uninteresting, and mundane brother, while Spider is all charm, swagger, and magic. They both even out later on in the book.
- Sink-or-Swim Mentor: Mr Nancy after a fashion. When his son was first split he commented that if he couldn't fix it himself he (Fat Charlie/Spider) was no son of his(Nancy's).
- Sins of Our Fathers: The people at the Cliffs at the end of the world refuse to help Fat Charlie because Anansi had done most of them wrong at some point. Especially the Bird Woman and Tiger.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Grahame Coats.
- Smug Snake: Grahame Coats.
- Split at Birth: Not quite at birth, but at such a young enough age that Fat Charlie didn't know he had a brother. Because technically, Spider isn't Fat Charlie's brother; he's an aspect of Fat Charlie's own personality who got split off and sent away by an angry old woman who knew some magic.
- Starfish Character: They even explicitly refer to it by the old trope name.
- Stealth Pun: Daisy was named Daisy because at the time of her birth, her parents owned a tandem (a bicycle built for two).
- The Trickster: Anansi, ever so much. So was Charlie, until he got split. Then Spider got all the tricksiness and Charlie was left as the responsible one.
- Twin Threesome Fantasy: Grahame Coats has one of these about Maeve Livingston and her hypothetical identical naked twin sister, Maeve II.
- Undignified Death: It doesn't succeed, but at one point the Bird Woman tries to kill Spider with a flock of flamingos.
- Anansi too. Heart attack on stage while singing karaoke, falling over and ripping the tube-top off of a blonde tourist from Michigan in the fall? He did it on purpose. It was hilarious.
- Villainous Breakdown: Grahame Coats has a slow and subtle one starting with him killing Maeve, allowing Tiger to step in. Characters note later how he appears to have lost it.
- We Need a Diversion: Provided by Mrs Noah and her astonishingly bony bum.
- The Yardies: Referenced after Fat Charlie is arrested, as he notes that his neighbors now believe he is one of these.