PurplyCookie's Reviews > Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
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Aug 08, 09

bookshelves: fantasy, short-stories, mythic-fiction, personal-faves, fave-author
Read in February, 2008, read count: 2

This anthology of short stories, and the occasional story poem, is vintage Neil Gaiman: quirky, sometimes very funny, often dark and disturbing. Most have been published before, but are hard to find elsewhere and cover all of Gaiman's writing life.

The stories in "Smoke and Mirrors" touch on almost all of Gaiman's themes: sex, death, dreams, and the end of the world. This collection includes:


Reading the Entrails >> A Rondel

Introduction >> be sure to read it! It includes a hidden jewel of a story "The Wedding Present" which is indeed a scary gift to receive especially on one of the biggest moments in a person's life. I was a tad disappointed on how the ending turned out though, sort of anti-climactic.

Chivalry >> The search for the Holy Grail (and the war accompanying it) has been going on for years. Imagine yourself finding it inside a secondhand thrift shop! Poor Sir Galaad :)

Nicholas Was... >> Santa Claus' never ending punishment (who knew he envied even Loki?)

The Price >> The only time I even came close to liking black cats. This was later illustrated in a graphic novel along with "Daughter of the Owls" in a tpb titled "Creatures of the Night".

Troll Bridge >> "Trolls can smell the rainbows, trolls can smell the stars," it whispered sadly. "Trolls can smell the dreams you dreamed before you were ever born." The saddest troll I've ever met in stories. "Fol rol de ol rol."

Don't Ask Jack >> inspired by Lisa Snelling's sculpture of a demonic Jack-in-the-Box. I wouldn't play with this toy either.

The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories >> I'm afraid I just got lost (and not in a good way; more of a confused whaaa-where-is this-heading way) within this story.

The White Road >> combination of Chinese and Japanese folktale elements with the English version of "Bluebeard". I liked it; it's bloody and sheds light on the Bluebeard character I met in B. Willingham's "Fables" series & Zenoscope's "Grimm Fairy Tales".

Queen of Knives >> What happens when a magic trick doesn't really work out the way it's supposed to...?

Changes >> What happens if the only cure to wiping out cancer leads to a side effect of "rebooting," that is you'll be changing your gender? Enlightening read into what medicine can do to humanity.

The Daughter of Owls >> Haunting story, you can't help but feel like a sudden misogynist. Also illustrated in a graphic novel along with "The Price" in a tpb titled "Creatures of the Night".

Shoggoth's Old Peculiar >> I laughed out loud reading this line "...would probably not recognize the British coastline if it were to dance through her bedroom at the head of a marching band, singing "I'm the British Coastline," in a loud and cheerful voice..." A lot of references to H.P. Lovecraft's "Cthulhu" of whose work I've never read before. Time to introduce myself to another writer then...

Virus >> Short piece on a virus/very addicting game passed on by personal contact. "And when the power goes off for good then I will play it in my head until I die."

Looking For The Girl >> What happens when a photographer becomes obsessive about finding the perfect girl who's forever aged 19 in a Penthouse magazine?

Only the End of the World Again >> I've never been a fan of werewolves (the only werewolf I even liked was Remus Lupin from HP world) and I guess this didn't do it for me.

Bay Wolf >> now this is a different kind of wolf! Some people mistakenly heard/assumed that Gaiman will be writing an episode of Baywatch when he was working on the film script of Beowulf! Unbelievable.

We Can Get Them for You Wholesale >> What if someone betrayed you and you felt like killing them? What do you do? Turn to the Yellow Pages, of course! Plus these assassins can give you a discount if you "purchase" their services in bulk ;p

One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock >> We all wish to live lives we've read about in books. What if you were given that chance, a moment stretched (seemingly) forever? Loved the illustration of this one when it was published as a single issue comic before (but then I love P. Craig's style of drawing).

Cold Colors >> I'm not really into poetry.

The Sweeper of Dreams >> Chilling. There's no way I'm not paying due respect to this entity.

Foreign Parts >> "Or maybe," he thought, as his vision clouded over and the darkness swallowed the last of Simon Powers, "it caught me." Lesson to the boys: don't masturbate too much.

Vampire Sestina >> “I offered you a truth beyond your dreams while all you had to offer was your love.”

Mouse & The Sea Change >> Disturbing. I don’t want to read these again.

When We Went to See the End of the World by Dawn Morningside, age 11 1/4 >> How you’d tell a family trip if you were age 11 1/4

Desert Wind >> What would the desert dream of, if it could?

Tastings >> A story that took Gaiman 4 years to write since he gets all flushed about it. Guess you got to read it in order to find out what embarrasses him.

Babycakes >> Another very disturbing short tale. What would happen if one day, humanity wakes up and finds all source of meat gone? What'd they think of eating as a replacement? *shudder*

Murder Mysteries >> I loved this story especially when it came out in a graphic novel of the same title (loved the illustration of the Silver City). Is it possible to kill or murder an angel? If yes, then how was it done? If yes, then what is the reason for it? If yes, then will God punish the evildoer? This is told from the viewpoint of Raguel, an angel whose function is to be the "Vengeance of the Lord."

The Lord: "Poor sweet Lucifer. His way will be the hardest of all my children; for there is a part he must play in the drama that is to come, and it is a grand role."
Raguel: "Perhaps it is true that all that happens is in accordance with Your Will, and thus it is good. But sometimes You leave blood on Your instruments."

I gained a totally new perspective on angels because of this great story. Thank you, Gaiman!

Snow, Glass, Apples >> You will NEVER think of the fairy tale "Snowhite & the Seven Dwarves" the same way again.


Book Details:

Title Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions
Author Neil Gaiman
Reviewed By Purplycookie
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