October 30, 2005

Endings that Leave You Wanting More

Endings that leave you thinking, gee, I wish there was MORE here...sometimes that's a good thing, and sometimes it's not so good.

I'll start with the good. This weekend I finished reading Neil Gaiman's new novel, Anansi Boys, which is a loose sequel to American Gods. And yes, I wished it didn't have to end. Gaiman is excellent at creating these alternate realities that I wish I could inhabit for more than just the length of the book. I started reading his work when I was in high school, and have tried to keep up with his work as much as possible ever since. Though I'm no longer in the habit of buying individual comics very often, I've gotten just as much enjoyment out of Gaiman's novels as I used to from going to the comic store every month and buying the latest issue of Sandman.

Anansi Boys is a really absorbing yarn, but of a quieter sort than you get from American Gods or Neverwhere. Fat Charlie Nancy, a sort of hapless yet likeable character, was always exceedingly mortified by his father's ridiculous behavior. But when his father dies, Fat Charlie discovers that old Mr. Nancy was really the Afro-Caribbean spider/trickster god, Anansi, and that he has a brother who goes by the name of Spider. Spider, however, inherited all the god-like faculties, and poor Fat Charlie seems to have lived out his life in most mundane fashion after moving from Florida to England as a child. But all hell breaks loose when Spider moves into Charlie's London flat, invading Charlie's space and stealing his fiancee. In this novel, magic creeps in, and before you know it you're looking in corners for tricky little spiders to wink at, and singing to yourself at odd moments for no real reason. Read it and find out why!

Last week I also read Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning, which, incidentally, got half-a-star higher rating than Anansi Boys. I have to disagree with that. Although I eventually got into this book somewhere in the middle, I found the beginning rather slow and the characters not as fully developed as I would have liked; moreover, the ending seemed rushed and abrupt.

In Guitar Girl, 17-year-old Molly Montgomery and her friends decide to start a girl band, mainly out of boredom. But when the rather repellently rude Dean and his silent, stoner-ish friend T sort of force their way into the band, things quickly change. Dean has lofty goals of fame and fortune, and though he forces them to do useful things like practice regularly, he also constantly badmouths Molly and the songs she writes. The author makes him a truly hateful character--until suddenly the heat of their hatred for each other causes them to develop a powerful attraction, or something like that. Meanwhile, they're being pushed around by a cute yet sleazy agent, and various band members suffer the usual tribulations of early fame and the rock-and-roll lifestyle.

It was the train-wreck aspect of things that got me more interested, sad to say, in the middle. Plus, by then, the characters were a little more developed. But they didn't have as much individuality or roundedness as they could have, to make this story more real instead of just a rock fantasy. And the end was little more than a "where are they now" epilogue, and not enough to really push the irony of the VH1-special in a way that might have been truly funny. I enjoyed it, but I was left wanting a lot more.

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