I won’t be revealing much by telling you the starting point of the plot, since it’s in every review and on the back cover of the book. Fat Charlie Nancy, a wimpy, average guy, hears that his father has just died. And on top of that, it turns out that his father was a god – the trickster god Anansi. And Charlie has a brother that he didn’t know about. Charlie’s life is turned upside down, and he spends the rest of the book trying to right it up again.

This contrast between ordinary man and powerful gods sets the tone of the book: it’s a mixture of the mythical and the ordinary. On the one hand, people struggle with crappy jobs and unpleasant mother-in-laws – and at the same time they are persecuted by vindictive gods and go on dreamlike quests. The kind of book that reviewers inevitably describe as surreal. (Inevitably, I will do the same.)

One thing that the reviewers all agree on – and so do I – is that it’s a very funny book. Possibly too funny in places – the humour is too obvious, as if he was constantly grinning and winking at me. Despite this, I found the first half of the book slow going. I got to hear more than I wanted about Charlie’s drab life and his perpetual embarrassment about things.

In the second half (or thereabouts) the story comes more to life, and it starts to feel more like a Gaiman book: an unstoppable flow of surreal events takes off, pulling the characters with it, until everyone is spat out on the other side.

The plot was rather predictable and simple, and lacked the sense of mystery that Gaiman is usually able to create – the feeling that there is more to the world than we see. The mystery in this book is very clearly limited to Charlie and his brother, and that’s only because they are sons of a god. For everybody else, the world really is an ordinary predictable place.

The book does have some excellent scenes, where Gaiman lets loose his imagination and conjures up gods and ghosts and tigers. But these scenes don’t quite mesh with the rest of the book. All the various genres that Gaiman mixes in – slapstick, fantasy, crime, folk tale – never mix into one whole.

On the whole, not a bad book at all. Gaiman hasn’t written a single bad book. But it’s not as good as his other works. “Lightweight” is a word that comes to mind. Worth reading, but I won’t be going back to it again and again the way I do with Neverwhere or Stardust.