Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
8 out of 10
My friends have been trying to get me into Neil Gaiman for a while. Good Omens, which he co-authored with Terry Pratchett is one of my favourite books. I eventually tried American Gods and hated it. Don’t get me wrong, the premise is great, I loved his ideas and his world building but the plot kind of disappeared at a few points during it and I found the characterisation woeful. I find it hard to believe that the main character, Shadow, after just being released from prison, finding he has nowhere to go and his wife and best friend had just died, wouldn’t have an emotional reaction.
But my friends persisted and one decided I should read his short stories, that’d be good back door into his world. As exams were coming up and I never have the time or concentration during exams to read a novel I agreed.
And it was excellent. Absolutely amazing, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time in fact. It’s difficult to review each story independently because it could go on forever but I’ll just list a few of my favourites.
1. Snow Glass Apples
A retelling of the Snow white story darker than any Grimm’s fairytale but hugely intelligent and compelling.
2. Nicholas Was
Less than a page long, pure genius and packs more of an emotional punch than I got from all 800 pages of American Gods.
3. When we went to see the end of the world by Dawnie Morningside, age 11 1/4
The end of the world and possibly the end of a marriage through the eyes of an 11-year-old.
4. Murder Mysteries
There’s a murder in heaven that prompts the angel Lucifer to have a think.
Very funny story about an old woman who buys the Holy Grail for 30p in a charity shop and Sir Galaad, knight of the round table, shows up on her doorstep.
The whole collection is filled with gems like this, huge variety in the content and a lot of thought has gone into the ideas, I’m glad I gave him a second chance, I might even try one of the novels next.
* Disclaimer: I never read the poems in this book because I find you have to devote time and thought to poems to really appreciate them and frankly I didn’t have the energy on top of exams – that is the only reason I’ve deducted 2 marks because I don’t know if they’re any good or not but the stories on their own deserve 10 out of 10 *