Smoke and Mirrors (1998) – Neil Gaiman

 

This collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman was just what I needed. All the tales deal with magic or illusion, whether in the form of creatures, sex, drugs, or life, the power of each is examined under the eye of this brilliant author in this wonderful collection of stories, some of which I was already familiar with.

There are terrors and wonders here to behold, and I love the way he crafts his stories, two of them stood on wonderfully for me, Murder Mysteries, featuring a tale told by an angel of the Beginning, the Name and the creation of the emotion Love, and the concepts of Death and Murder, as he performs his function, that of the Lord’s Vengeance, and seeks out the culprit behind the first death.

Snow, Glass, Apples is a really nice twist on the classic Snow White fairy tale, alternately creepy and unnerving, while staying very closer to the original story. Some of it is downright disturbing.

We Can Get Them For You Wholesale starts out charming, quirky, and funny before ending ever so darkly.

There are beautiful stories, like Changes, there are reimagined fairy tales, like Troll Bridge, and there are tales that are alternately sexy and disturbing, like Eaten (Scenes from a Moving Picture) – this one especially!

Through it all, this collection entertains, filling the reader with wonder, and putting them on edge as only the best writers can truly do. I continue to love his work, and am loving coming across stories I may have missed the first time around.

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There are two loosely connected stories featuring a recurring character, an Adjustor, and for those who know the name, Lawrence Talbot, you know exactly what the hero of the pieces is. In one tale, Only the End of the World Again, he takes on a visit to the H.P. Lovecraft created Innsmouth, and in the next Bay Wolf, an updated take on the classic Beowulf, he takes on a familiar monster.

There is also a very enjoyable collection of associated tales, encapsulated together called Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot, each of the cards has a story, or even just a few short lines, but each of them, like all of Gaiman’s work, paints a visual image that just stays with you.

There are nods to classic science fiction, visits to fantasy, dark paths best wandered in the company of friends and strong flashlights, but you still can’t help but venture down them, because you know that the wonders Gaiman unveils, whether beautiful or horrific, will still be amazing.

A stunning collection that runs the gambit from fairy-tale to eroticism, and he does it all deftly and amazingly.

Also! Make sure you read the introduction, as there is a wonderful little story in there as well, called The Wedding Present, and it’s ending is… well, I don’t want to give it away.

So many amazing stories.

Neil Gaiman never ceases to amaze and entertain!

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