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Neil Gaiman – Smoke and Mirrors

Title: Smoke and Mirrors
Author: Neil Gaiman
Year: 1998

Neil Gaiman is previously known to me as the author of a couple of truly excellent novels (Coraline, Stardust and Neverwhere), along with one of my favourite works of fiction, The Sandman. With such a track record, it’s exceedingly difficult to live up to expectations, and, admittedly, this is what Neil Gaiman fails with in this collection of short stories. I imagined that his style should be perfect for short stories, but so far I’m not convinced.

The level is uneven throughout Smoke and Mirrors. Some stories really stand out as being brilliant, but most of them are rather dull, leaving me wondering if that was supposed to be it. He also focuses way too much on sex, especially in some short stories where it doesn’t make any sense. In his other works, he isn’t afraid of explicitly describing intimacy, but it always feels like a part of the story, which isn’t the case here.He also experiments a lot with unconventional line breaks, which to me seems completey irrational and only manages to make me irritated.

Still, it’s Neil Gaiman, and even if everything he touches doesn’t turn into gold, he can still write like a god. The good short stories are really good, even if it isn’t enough to pull the rest of them up to a level where I would say it’s worthwhile to read the book. However, since it’s a collection of short stories, reading just a few short stories should be perfect. Here are the short stories I recommend: Chivalry, Troll Bridge, Desert Wind, Babycakes, Murder Mysteries and, finally Snow, Glass, Apples.

But, hey, aren’t there roughly thirty short stories in Smoke and Mirrors? Yes, there are, but the rest of them are either mediocre or outright bad. The fact that I give the entire collection two and a half snails should be taken as a sign of the brilliance of the few short stories I liked. If you can, please have a look at these, but stay away from the rest and read something else by Neil Gaiman instead.

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  1. elisamaza’s avatar

    I found “Fragile Things” to be a far superior collection of short stories – if you haven’t, you might give it a shot!


    1. Olle Linge’s avatar

      Yes, I have read it and I agree! I don’t understand why I haven’t reviewed the book, but it’s probably too late to do it now since I read the book roughly two years ago. :(