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Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

4.2 67
by Neil Gaiman

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Neil Gaiman's novel Neverwhere proved to fans and critics alike that he truly deserves the distinction of being listed along with Thomas Pynchon and William Burroughs as one of the Top Ten Post Modern Writers in America by the Dictionary of Literary Biography. His mythic, award-winning graphic novel series "The Sandman" has been hailed by Norman Mailer


Neil Gaiman's novel Neverwhere proved to fans and critics alike that he truly deserves the distinction of being listed along with Thomas Pynchon and William Burroughs as one of the Top Ten Post Modern Writers in America by the Dictionary of Literary Biography. His mythic, award-winning graphic novel series "The Sandman" has been hailed by Norman Mailer as "a comic strip for intellectuals."

Now, in his latest book, Smoke and Mirrors, Gaiman dazzles the senses with a collection of short stories and poems that will move readers to the depths of their souls. Over the course of 30 tales, Gaiman takes readers on a wild ride from roving werewolves to Yellow Pages-listed assassins to the astrologically tuned groundskeepers at a run-down Los Angeles hotel. In typical Gaiman fashion, the "Renaissance man of the '90s" comes through with a collection guaranteed to slake the thirst of every fan (the list of which includes Tad Williams, Tori Amos, and the band Metallica).

Barnesandnoble.com welcomed cult hero Neil Gaiman to the Auditorium for a discussion of his new book, Smoke and Mirrors. Gaiman continued the fascinating dialogue with his numerous fans that began in his previous chat with barnesandnoble.com.

Editorial Reviews

With winning characters and memorable situations, these short pieces evidence Gaiman's supple narrative touch, already seen in vivid relief in his Sandman graphic novels.
Dallas Morning News
Highly imaginative . . . readers will find echoes of H.P. Lovecraft, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, but the voice is all Gaiman.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Imaginative twists on old legends and frightening glimpses into the impossible combine to form this impressive collection of 30 stories and poems by the author of Neverwhere and co-creator of The Sandman graphic novels. Each entry skirts the edges of a puncture in reality through which something dark and mysterious peeks. Then it moves on and the apparition is hidden away again, but not forgotten. The narratives follow a dream logic: The angel Raguel, the Vengeance of the Lord, can bum a cigarette off a youth in L.A. and tell him the truth behind Lucifer's fall ("Murder Mysteries"), and nonchalant assassins can be found in the Yellow Pages under pest control ("We Can Get Them for You Wholesale"). The bizarre and disturbing essence of the stories is highlighted by their background of absolute normalcy. Their prose is simple yet evocative, and Gaiman's characters are textured with well-defined personalities. Because the characters treat the unreal as ordinary, the eeriness of what unfolds has all the more impact. In "Chivalry," a woman finds the Holy Grail in a secondhand shop, and Galahad must trade something for it that will look just as good on her mantle. Demons take over London in "Cold Colors," because the devil has learned how to network and God can't get "saintware" up and running. The intriguing world behind these pages is indeed smoke and mirrors, just a step or a word or a story away from our own. (Nov.)
Neil Gaiman (The Sandman and Neverwhere) apparently possesses a bottomless magic well of imagination and his recent collection, Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions, provides a brimming dipper from it for readers thirsty for unique fantasy. A dozen of the thirty or so stories and poems in Smoke and Mirrors -- including the memorable lead story "Chivalry," the tale of an unflappable widow who finds the Holy Grail in a secondhand shop -- first saw print in his award-winning Angels and Visitations, a small press miscellany of stories, poems, essays, articles, and reviews, originally published for the 1993 World Fantasy Convention. Some stories -- like "Snow, Glass, Apples," a retelling of "Snow White" -- are already fairly well-known through popular anthologies and reprintings in "year's best" collections. Familiarity, in Gaiman's case, breeds only further admiration, but Smoke and Mirrors contains plenty of newer stories, too -- such as the darkly erotic "Tastings" and "Bay Wolf," a combination of "Beowulf" and, er, "Baywatch." Gaiman's incantatory storytelling ignites both the bitter and the sweet and its smoke twists and seeps into dark corners, wafts into the light and amusing, even wends poignantly into the heart: nothing he writes should be missed.
Kirkus Reviews
A whopping collection of 30 stories, narrative poems, and unclassifiable briefer pieces from the peerlessly inventive British-born co-editor/creator of The Sandman graphic novel series and last year's terrific fantasy Neverwhere. Gaiman, who's also provided a disarmingly genial introduction, calls these tales "messages from Looking-Glass Land and pictures in shifting clouds." Though they're often derivative of both traditional folk materials and acknowledged favorite writers (such as John Collier, H.P. Lovecraft, and Michael Moorcock), the volume's numerous successes put an engaging spin on even more-than-twice-told tales. "Nicholas Was," for instance, offers in scarcely half a page a hair-raising revisionist look at the benevolent figure of Santa Claus. The poem "The White Road" deftly reimagines the English ballad about the innocent virgin fated to be sacrificed to her vulpine fiancé ("Mr. Fox"). "The Daughter of Owls" is a fiendishly compact revenge tale told in the manner of ("as by") 17th-century antiquarian John Aubrey. Elsewhere, Gaiman offers amusingly lurid images of "swinging" London in the '70s ("Looking for the Girl"), Hollywood's past and present "wild days" ("The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories"), and sex in the age of AIDS (the very erotic "Tastings"). And, at his best, he makes something daringly new out of the stories we think we know best: "Baywolf" memorably combines the narrative and pictorial elements of the real Beowulf and of TV's Baywatch; "Snowglass, Apples" retells the story of Snow White from the viewpoint of the exasperated "evil queen"; and two tales ("Shoggoth's Old Peculiar" and "Only the End of the World"), set respectively in the Innsmouth ofEngland and of New England, pay hilarious homage to Lovecraft's Ctulhu Mythos and the conventions of the classic horror film. Gaiman miscalculates only in leading off With "Chivalry," the unforgettable tale of a placid widow who discovers the Holy Grail in a secondhand shop. Nothing later on matches it in a volume that's otherwise an exhilarating display of the work of one of our most entertaining storytellers.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.96(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Nicholas Was...

older than sin, and his beard could grow no whiter. He wanted to die.

The dwarfish natives of the Arctic caverns did not speak his language, but conversed in their own, twittering tongue, conducted incomprehensible rituals, when they were not actually working in the factories.

Once every year they forced him, sobbing and protesting, into Endless Night. During the journey he would stand near every child in the world, leave one of the dwarves' invisible gifts by its bedside. The children slept, frozen into time.

He envied Prometheus and Loki, Sisyphus and Judas. His punishment was harsher.




Smoke & Mirrors. Copyright © by Neil Gaiman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Stephen King
"He is a treasure-house of story, and we are lucky to have him in any medium. His fecundity, coupled with the overall quality of his work, is both wonderful and a little intimidating."--Stephen King

Clive Barker
"Gaiman is a star. He constructs stories like some demented cook might make a wedding cake, building layer upon layer, including all kinds of sweet and sour in the mix."--Clive Barker

Meet the Author

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.

Brief Biography

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date of Birth:
November 10, 1960
Place of Birth:
Portchester, England
Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77

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Smoke and Mirrors 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 66 reviews.
AFrayedKnot More than 1 year ago
If you're a writer and you're feeling a bit down about your writing, do not read this book. Gaiman is one of those authors whose skill with language is such that you'll despair of ever being a tenth as good as he is. Some of these stories also appeared in his Angels and Visitations collection, but there is enough variety that it's worth owning both collections.
7hir7een More than 1 year ago
Before I read this book, I was under the impression that I just wasn’t really a fan of short stories. This book made me realize that I like short stories just fine, I just have to be a fan of who is writing them. I find Neil Gaiman’s style to be dark, gritty and masterful. Smoke and Mirrors is an eclectic collection of stories and poetry about everything from the holy grail to trolls. I think there’s a little something for just about anyone that likes fiction. If you like short stories, Neil Gaiman, fantasy, or just want something a little different, you should take a look.
xavier23 More than 1 year ago
I first ran across Neil Gaiman in an anthology Living Dead and then a few other stories here and there. He would always be one of the authors that seemed, to me anyway, to rise to the top. One of the great story tellers of our time. What a take on the Snow White fable!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you've never read Neil Gaiman's short fiction, this is the PERFECT book to start with. It is filled with stories that will stick with you long after the last page has been turned. After you read SMOKE AND MIRRORS, read FRAGILE THINGS. Or read FRAGILE THINGS first. Whatever order you choose, you can't go wrong. 5 stars for the master...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a long time fan of this author, and i found most of these stories so disturbing that i amost didn't want to finish the book. Honestly i still haven't finished the book. This is a dark collection of stories. You have been warned.... avoid before bedtime.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I adore this collection and think anyone who reads it will at least appreciate Gaiman as a writer.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a diverse collection of short stories that can draw the willing reader into the strange and beguiling country created by Neil Gaiman. I first visited it when I read his novel American Gods and have since returned many times because I enjoy the experience of being transported to a place that seems far more interesting than normal everyday life. This collection contains themes and styles that Gaiman later develops to good effect in other works that follow, so if you like this, just keep going back. You've got a lot to look forward to...
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked this book very much. The collection of short stories were varied, unpredictable, imaginative with twists on the mundane that were thoroughly delightful.
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