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Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fiction and Illusions In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion and anything is possible In this, Gaiman s first book of short stories, his imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders a place where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under Pest Control, and where a frightened young boy must barter for his life with a mean spirited troll living beneath a bridge by the railroad tracks Explore a new reality obscured by smoke and darkness, yet brilliantly tangible in this extraordinary collection of short works by a master prestidigitator It will dazzle your senses, touch your heart, and haunt your dreams A little disappointing, though with some flourishes of fabulousness.I m a huge Neil Gaiman fan So much so, I cite him as one of the authors that made me want to write Most of his books are fantastically imaginative, exciting and wonderfully plotted, and a couple of them rank among my all time favourite books As a result, I launched into his collection of short stories with high expectations I should say, for the record, I like short stories I apprediate the whole bite sized concept, that A little disappointing, though with some flourishes of fabulousness.I m a huge Neil Gaiman fan So much so, I cite him as one of the authors that made me want to write Most of his books are fantastically imaginative, exciting and wonderfully plotted, and a couple of them rank among my all time favourite books As a result, I launched into his collection of short stories with high expectations I should say, for the record, I like short stories I apprediate the whole bite sized concept, that you can devour a whole tale in a single setting it s a bit like having a snack before you settle for a big main meal However, with this particular collection, a few of the snacks left me a bit unsatisfied The book gets off to a cracking start with Chivalry, a hilarious story of an old dear who finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop I was chuckling away throughout the tale, and rubbing my hands with glee, taking it as a sign of things to come Likewise, I adored Troll Bridge, which cleverly spun the original fairy tale, taking it in a fresh and surprising direction However, the book soon became bogged down with a couple of stories that didn t really contribute much in my opinion This was particularly the case with the poems which for me, mostly fell flat I m no poem connoisseur, but I do know a good poem when I read one, and I didn t feel that any of these fell into that category That being said, there were several stories that stuck out as being great We Can Get Them For You Wholesale, a story about haggling with assassins via the Yellow Pages, is utter brilliance, as is Looking For the Girl an eerie tale of a man spotting the same woman in countless copies of men s magazines over the years, who never seems to age Many of the excellent stories could have been filled out and extended into full length novels, in my opinion Perhaps if the multiple poems had been stripped out of the book, I would have rated this book a lot higher Would I give Neil Gaiman s future short stories a try Yes, definitely But I think I d give his poetry a miss Gaiman is literary bacon short stories, young adult, fantasy, adult fiction he s good in anything Smoke and Mirrors is a collection of 30 or so short stories They run the gamut from sci fi to very short parables to fantasy to magical realism It s not his best work, but as a collection it s imaginative and provocative I enjoyed a majority of these stories and Gaiman continues to be one of my favorite authors Some of my preferences were Chivalry , Changes , We Can Get Them for You Wh Gaiman is literary bacon short stories, young adult, fantasy, adult fiction he s good in anything Smoke and Mirrors is a collection of 30 or so short stories They run the gamut from sci fi to very short parables to fantasy to magical realism It s not his best work, but as a collection it s imaginative and provocative I enjoyed a majority of these stories and Gaiman continues to be one of my favorite authors Some of my preferences were Chivalry , Changes , We Can Get Them for You Wholesale , and Snow, Glass, Apples One of my favored aspects of Gaiman is his ability to slip seamlessly between realism and fantasy One moment the story feels like an honest recollection of his past, and the next we re interacting with angels, trolls, and werewolves He so deft with his word choice that these transitions happen with ease A good example of this is The Price , where Gaiman story about stray cats turns from reality to supernatural in an instant This ability also really stood out to me in a different book The Ocean at the End of the Lane I can t help but admire his mind It s the little things like referring to crabs and fish asfilled with things with too many legs and other things with no legs at all In this collection, Gaiman is daring, taking on explicit sex, politics, pornography, and even sex change Of course, this book was originally published in 1998, when navigating these waters were a little less turbulent than today The book includes an Introduction which gives a short description of the inspiration or background of each story I found myself flipping back and forth to this section after each story For example, in the particularly sexually graphic story Tastings , Gaiman admits that the story took him four years to write, largely because he was embarrassed by it I always appreciate short story collections where the author reveals a bit of their motivation, inspiration, or background of the stories.One note on Changes , it s a creative story idea about the cure for cancer having the side effect of gender change which society turns into recreational use It s laid out almost as author notes for a novel And it could be a fascinating, controversial, and complex novel But why include it in this form Why not write it Weird, and I found it wasteful and disappointing.An aptly titled collection of stories, where Gaiman does indeed use sleight of word and a bit of magic to make the unbelievable feel just about real I keep saying, oneNeil Gaiman book and I ll figure out what the big deal is Spoiler, I haven t yet Though, I did enjoy some of these stories indicated by a There s farthat weren t enjoyable.Introduction PLEASE skip this is so, so long It s a short story in and of itself Though, technically he hid another short story within that The Wedding Present Originally written as a wedding present, this marriage slowly but surely sinks to the pits of despair Chivalry A c I keep saying, oneNeil Gaiman book and I ll figure out what the big deal is Spoiler, I haven t yet Though, I did enjoy some of these stories indicated by a There s farthat weren t enjoyable.Introduction PLEASE skip this is so, so long It s a short story in and of itself Though, technically he hid another short story within that The Wedding Present Originally written as a wedding present, this marriage slowly but surely sinks to the pits of despair Chivalry A cute story about an elderly lady snapping up the Holy Grail at a bargain at the thrift shop Later republished in M is for Magic Nicholas Was A 100 word story centered on St Nicholas for one of Gaiman s Christmas cards.The Price this cat deserves a medal, a ball of yarn and a tuna fillet for defending this family against the devil Republished in M Is for Magic Troll Bridge Retelling of the three Billy Goats Gruff While this started on a high note undue time is used to describe the troll s flaccid genitalia Un ironically, troll acts like a dick Republished in M Is for Magic.Don t Ask Jack Menacing Jack in the Box As if I needed another reason to never buy one Republished in M Is for Magic.The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories Almost written as a reflection for Neil Gaiman on hollywood I was not a fan of his comments.Eaten Scenes from a Moving picture please, Gaiman, why does everything need to be so sex explicit Excuse me as I scrub my eyes.The White Road This wasn t memorableQueen of Knives well written by not memorable.The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch The underground circus leads to the disappearing of one Mrs Finch I wasn t a fan of the book and wasn t a fan of the short story It made too many leaps Changes Once again, a Gaiman story became weirdly sexual I really should start expecting this A man discovers the cure for cancer which has the side effect of changing a person s gender Now the world is populated by nearly immortal pill popping gender switchers I hesitate to call everyone trans since this is done so reversibly and recreationaly The Daughter of Owls A girl was found with some owls The locals hate her.Shoggoth s Old Peculiar H P Lovecraft inspired cult y New England tale Did like how he portrayed the pub though Virus Honestly wasn t that memorable Looking for the Girl A kid looking at a dirty mag spots the most beautiful girl As an adult, he finds her again in the mag but she looks exactly the same Logically, he devotes his life to becoming the best dirty mag photographer in hopes of meeting this chick in person My interpretation A vampire wanted a free photo shoot every few years and went to a magazine to do it.Only the End of the World Again Richly worded, not an interesting plot.Bay Wolf Baywatch Beowulf Surprisingly quirky and fun Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot Each of the Major Arcana first 22 of the 78 tarot cards in a deck is interpreted through a short story We Can Get Them For You Wholesale How good would the bargain need to be to end the world Despite the dark implications this was a fun read One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock High school kid who wanted to write and is a huge fan of a series He mail orders a book and never pays for it.Cold Colors Short poem involving magic and computers The Sweeper of Dreams prose piecewaxes poetic about dreams and their implicationsForeign Parts Sudden sexuality again A man is slowly taken over by a cognizant venereal disease Copious mentions of STDs and masturbation.Vampire Sestina A vampire poemMouse The married couple s house is infested The man buys a humane mousetrap while his wife seems to get an abortion The man seems to have no reaction to the abortion Upon finding a mouse trapped, he sets the mouse free outside The Sea Change Lyrical poem about mermaids and the ocean.How Do You Think It Feels Man goes to conference Man meets hot girl Man cheats on wife, despite having a couple of kids He justifies it kids are stupid, wife is lame When We Went to See the End of the World by Dawnie Morningside, age 11 Written from the perspective of a child as the end of the world occurs Unexpectedly chilling.Desert Wind Man gets lost in the desert and is found.Tastings Male Prostitute Female Celebrity Prostitute has powers which lead him to be amazing in bed essentially he reads the minds of his clients without realizing it and he can t read Celebrity s and thus is sucking not literallywell, maybe a bit in bed The mundane conversation as they try out positions made this one marginally tolerable Mostly, I was cringing away from the pages.In the End Genesis creation in reverse Not particularly memorable.Babycakes Just take that title literally.Murder Mysteries The first murder in heaven as it s investigated by the angel Raguel Snow, Glass, Apples Finally FINALLY I thought as I got to this one It s a retelling of Snow White with a huge reversal Snow is evil and the stepmother is attempting to hold together the kingdom from the terror of one, very cruel Snow What ruined it The weird sex bits I would ve loved this story if A Young Snow as in not over 18,like 12 or younger hadn t blown a traveling monk before killing him AND B if the prince wasn t into necrophilia when he screwed first the stepmother and then her daughter It just completely threw the whole story off Without it, I would ve really enjoyed this creepy retelling.YouTube Blog Instagram Twitter Snapchat miranda.reads Happy Reading Smoke and Mirrors is the first of two short story collections written by Neil Gaiman This title was first published in 1998, while Fragile Things came out in 2006 Having read Fragile Things mere months ago I was doing quite a bit of comparison between the two as I worked my way through Smoke and Mirrors While there are a lot of similarities between the two, there are also many differences.Both collections involve Gaiman doing what he does best, that is taking our own myths, fables, an Smoke and Mirrors is the first of two short story collections written by Neil Gaiman This title was first published in 1998, while Fragile Things came out in 2006 Having read Fragile Things mere months ago I was doing quite a bit of comparison between the two as I worked my way through Smoke and Mirrors While there are a lot of similarities between the two, there are also many differences.Both collections involve Gaiman doing what he does best, that is taking our own myths, fables, and folklore, tweaking them to better resonate with our modern culture, and handing them back to us complete with the grit and gristle that were absent from the versions that we received as children While this seems to be an over arching theme to most of the stories in Fragile Things , it still shows up occasionally in Smoke and Mirrors along with so much else Gaiman takes the reader to so many places throughout these stories These include a couple of nods to writers that surely influenced him along the way Lovecraft and Moorcock, specifically , a writer struggling through a screenplay that has been watered down by the movie studio discovering the legendary Hollywood of old, and political intrigue amongst the angels in heaven Lawrence Talbot also makes an appearance in a tale involving the Wolf Man Gaiman s books are usually shelved in the Sci Fi Fantasy section at the average bookstore, which I think is a bit of a disservice as these stories are so muchdiverse than the typical view of the Fantasy genre that involves touchy feely knights riding around on horses and tends to prejudice the typical reader to that genre negatively.A tip to any readers who are in the habit of skipping book introductions Gaiman actually hides a story within the introduction of this book as a payoff to those who religiously read the introduction That sort of cleverness suckers me in every time.It may be unwise to compare the stories in Smoke and Mirrors to each other and to Fragile Things as both books representof a compilation of Gaiman stories that appeared in other publications over a particular period of his writing career versus something that was put together as an intentional, unified collection However, as it is great fun to wildly speculate, I believe that the stories in Smoke and Mirrors are bolder than the ones in the later collection As most of these stories were written around the time that Sandman was finishing its run, I m wondering if the reason for this was to prove to any naysayers that Gaiman was a serious writer and not just that comic book guy These stories may not be something that would be discussed in a college level literature class with the austere professor that lives and dies by the canon, but I don t think that is Gaiman s intention as a writer He comes from the storyteller tradition, and I feel that such a thing is just as important in feeding one s imagination and intellect as the heavy literature now and again

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