Smoke and Mirrors - Neil Gaiman

February 18, 2018

3/5 Stars


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! 

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