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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Smoke and Mirrors

Author: Neil Gaiman
Challenge: Short Story Challenge
Rating: 4.5/5

I'm developing kind of a crush on Neil Gaiman. This is the third piece of his writing that I've read in a short period of time, and I loved it. Smoke and Mirrors is enjoyable for totally different reasons than American Gods or Anansi Boys, being that it is a collection of short stories. Consuming Gaiman in small bites is entertaining, funny, morbid, and sometimes hazardous to contented eating. (Consider this your warning before you start reading The Daughter of Owls or Only the End of the World Again).

Some of the stories are just plain entertaining, like Chivalry, a story about a woman who finds a grail in a second-hand shop, or The Price about a guardian cat. Other stories prattle on a bit without much of a point (The Goldfish Pond and Other Stories). I laughed out loud at Nicholas Was..., where we learn the truth about Santa Claus and his relationship with the infamous north pole elves.

I have a weakness for retellings of fairy tales, and so I loved his rewrite of Snow White Snow, Glass, Apples which reveals that Snow White was actually a blood-sucking vampire that the Queen had to kill in order to protect her kingdom. I also liked Troll Bridge, a sort of take on the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

There were a number of stories that had a more solid "message" behind them, like Babycakes (written for PETA, it speculates that once we run out of animals to eat, we'll turn to babies) or Foreign Parts (something long and boring about STDs), and they were, in my opinion, less entertaining.

A great feature about this book is the fact he wrote an extensive introduction explaining the backstories of each short story. You get a little peak into Gaiman's brain (the adjectives fun and disturbing both come to mind). Why don't all short story authors do this? It makes the reading experience even more enjoyable, learning what sorts of kooky things give authors their ideas. I've enjoyed my little jaunt into Gaiman-land, now I must leave it and venture into other new territories.


Melody said...

Glad you enjoyed this book, Kim! I've yet to read all his books, and I'm currently starting to collect them but some of his older works can be hard to find!

Chris said...

This is definitely my favorite of his two short story collections and I LOVE Snow Glass Apples. I really liked The Goldfish Pond too even though it didn't have much of a point. I loved nearly every story in this collection. His writing just fascinates me. And your right about his introduction...I enjoyed that just as much as his stories! Oh! And you can buy Nicholas Was Christmas cards :)

Eva said...

I second Chris-I like this one much more than Fragile Things. My three favourite stories were "Chivalry," "Snow, Glass, and Apples," and "A Murder Mystery." I get goosebumps just thinking about them.

And your Neil Gaiman crush allows you entrance into our exclusive little blogosphere club....j/k...but whenever you write about Gaiman, it's pretty much guaranteed that Chris, Nymeth and I are going to pop up our heads!!

Stephanie said...

How fun. I just read this book too!! Well...I broke it into chunks and read it for Short Story Mondays. I loved this book, but I have that crush on Gaiman too!! Not that I disagree, but I really loved Fragile Things. Maybe because I read it first, but I could almost say I liked it better than Smoke and Mirrors. (But most Gaiman fans disagree with me!) There was a great story at the end that had Shadow from American Gods as the main Character.

I think my favorites of this book were Snow Glass Apples, We can Get them for you Wholesale, and the wolf stories.

Nymeth said...

Snow Glass Apples is one of my favourites too. And I also love the little introduction explaining each story! I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much :)

Alice Teh said...

It's easy to understand how you can easily develop a crush on him... My first Gaiman encounter is Stardust. I'm collecting his other works now.

Happy reading!

Andi said...

Great review. I was just commenting on another blog that I have something of an iffy relationship with Gaiman so far. I've read American Gods and Sandman: Dream Hunters and liked them but wasn't blown away. On the other hand, I looooved Coraline. I have Neverwhere and Smoke & Mirrors left on my stacks to read soon.

Kim L said...

melody-what books have you read of his? Did you like them?

chris-Next year, I'm so sending out that for a Christmas card. Instead of the usual, this is what we've been doing this year, a messed up story about St. Nick. Everyone will know I'm crazy!

eva-Chivalry was such a cute story. I loved it!

stephanie-I have to read that collection too, because I'm curious to learn more about Shadow. He was a real interesting character!

nymeth-sounds like you are a big fan of gaiman too! His writing does keep you engaged.

alice-I'm trying to do interlibrary loan to get that book because my library doesn't have it. We'll see if I have any luck!

andi-well this collection has enough variety where I'm sure you'll find something you like! I haven't read Neverwhere, but I'm sure I've got it on my list somewhere.

Melody said...

So far, I only read Coraline, Neverwhere and a few picture books for young children and I enjoyed reading them all! I have Fragile Things, Smoke & Mirrors, American Gods in my pile. :)

Rhinoa said...

I read this a good few years back and keep meaning to re-read it. I wasn't overly impressed with it origianlly only really enjoying the first and final few tales in the collection (I loved the version of Snow White). I remember really enjoying the introduction though and why each story was written.