Smoke and Mirrors
by Neil Gaiman
How many times am I going to affirm my admiration for this man's awesome storytelling and rich imagination?
So far, I've read his award-winning, bestselling full-length novel, American Gods; his children's books Coraline and The Graveyard Book, and; his short story compendiums, Fragile Things, M is For Magic, and now, Smoke and Mirrors. My reaction for every time that I finish reading one of Gaiman's works is always the same: hell-yeah-that-was-friggin-awesome.
I read Fragile Things last year and loved it so much that I vowed to follow it up right away with Smoke and Mirrors. Of course, we all know the perennial bookish problem of too many books, too little time, so yes, the promise went kaput and Smoke and Mirrors joined the battalion of books in the backlog. But now that I've finally picked it up and read every single story, my head is just reeling. Boy, what took me so long??
Smoke and Mirrors contains 36 stories, some of them reprints from Gaiman's earlier short story collections, My absolute favorite Gaiman short story of all, Snow, Glass, Apples, is included in this compendium. I have previously read Troll Bridge, Chivalry, Don't Ask Jack and The Price, so I skipped those stories in favor of the others that I haven't read yet although admittedly, I couldn't help browsing through The Price once again. Shivers all over, even for the second time.
My two favorite stories from this particular collection, however, are We Can Get Them For You Wholesale and Murder Mysteries. It's difficult to describe them in detail, so I think this should suffice:
We Can Get Them For You Wholesale = a million heebie-jeebies
Murder Mysteries = thrilling, eerie, creepy
Thus, by far, these are my top three short stories by Gaiman:
#1 Snow, Glass, Apples
#2 Murder Mysteries
#3 We Can Get Them For You Wholesale
If you're a neophyte Gaiman reader and want to try his brand of fiction, i.e., eerie, strange, fantastic, and to a certain extent, odd, chances are you might get turned off or even question his spiritual beliefs (or possibly, the lack thereof). But that is exactly what I love about Gaiman: his talent for deftly turning around centuries-established facts, particularly those settled by tradition (Santa Claus spreads joy and love on Christmas Eve by giving gifts to kids and bellowing ho-ho-ho, right? And Snow White was poisoned by her evil stepmother-queen, right?), and creating a rather unconventional, fictional setting for them. Gaiman is a master at retelling, at infusing one fiction into another and challenging the readers to figure out how much of it could be possibly true.
Every single time, I accept the challenge. :)