Title: Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Wonders
Author: Neil Gaiman
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Short Stories
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
Neil Gaiman. It's a name that some, if not all, fantasy readers are familiar with. And I'm not going to lie; even this man's name gives me chills and shivers. His writing is just pure magic. I'm not going to wax poetic about him, though honestly, I could. But both as a reader and a writer, Neil Gaiman is the equivalent to rejuvenation and inspiration for me. He's an author that I never stop being stunned by, and one that I certainly wouldn't mind having at the dinner table one night, if only to see where he seems to get his special brand of dark, creepy compulsions that lead to his stories.
Though I like to be thorough and try to review every piece in an anthology, simply because it's the holidays (Happy Thanksgiving, by the way! Am I the only one in a food coma? Anyway...), I'm going to give an overall review, with just a look at a few of the many pieces that populate this volume of fiction.
Snow Glass Apples, the last story in this book, was actually my first story ever by Neil Gaiman, and ever since, I've been absolutely spellbound. It terrified me, more than a little creeped me out, but I was struck by how a familiar story, one retold countless times, was made new by a single new element--it was darkly exciting, in the way that the original fairy tale was done justice. This story is among my favorites in the volume, along with a few others.
Troll Bridge is another favorite, a retelling of the tale of the three goats. It was darkly comic, fantastically told, though it was short. I really enjoyed the funny prose between the main character, Jack, and the troll he finds living under the bridge.
The White Road was a poem, told in descriptive snippets on a dark, rainy night in a village, dark and frightening, but also funny--I really enjoyed the way the creep factor was amped up until the end of the poem, as per Gaiman's signature.
One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock: This story especially rang true with me, about the pleasures and perils that reading can bring upon a person--I couldn't tell if it was a warning, or parable, but it felt like that to me, and made me kind of afraid to live too deeply in my stories...
The Sweeper of Dreams: Inspired by a song, this short vignette was slightly creepy, and it took me a few readings to figure out what Gaiman was talking about, but it was psychedelic and dark. (I love a story that really makes an impression, no matter the length.)
Foreign Parts: This story was interesting to me because it dealt with the often abstract subject of gender--it was so unlike Gaiman's usual style, but it carried the same seductive, compelling creepiness--I'm not going to lie, I had to put the book down after this one, but it was impressive and exciting, and made me think about what gender really is and what it means to people.
And lastly: Murder Mysteries. This story is the kind I love; a lone main character who gets pulled into a compelling story that may or may not be true after all, complete with angels, murder, and a fun, slightly enigmatic talk with good old God. It was, after Snow Glass Apples, probably my second favorite story of the collection.
The bottom line: An exciting story collection that contains something for everyone, whether you're a Neil Gaiman diehard or a newcomer, Smoke and Mirrors completely stole my imagination--a wonderful triumph for a king of fiction! Next on deck: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti!