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