Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

by Neil Gaiman

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Overview

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.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780380973644
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/01/1998
Pages: 339
Product dimensions: 6.48(w) x 9.59(h) x 1.41(d)

About the Author

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, including Norse Mythology, Neverwhere, and The Graveyard Book. Among his numerous literary awards are the Newbery and Carnegie medals, and the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Will Eisner awards. Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Hometown:

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Date of Birth:

November 10, 1960

Place of Birth:

Portchester, England

Education:

Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77

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.

Ho.

Ho.

Ho.

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

Interviews

Before the live bn chat, Neil Gaiman agreed to answer some of our questions:

Q: If you could be any comic-book character, who would you be?

A: Plastic Man. He always looked like he was enjoying himself.

Q: Who is your favorite comic villain?

A: I always liked Marvel's monster comics by Jack Kirby. Characters like Fin Fang Foom -- I think he was the monster from 40,000 fathoms.

Q: Do you have a major literary influence?

A: G. K. Chesterton -- a turn-of-the-century author who wrote from a very English perspective -- and the American writer James Branch Cabell. In 1921 Cabell was probably the most famous writer in America. Now he's completely forgotten. He wrote fantasies, historical fiction, and short stories.

Q: Do you have any favorite contemporary writers?

A: I enjoy Jonathan Carroll...and Gene Wolfe is probably my favorite science fiction writer.

Q: Do you have a favorite place to get away to?

A: I have a gazebo in the woods. I go there to write.

Q: What do you do for insomnia?

A: I go and write. If I don't feel like writing, I'll buy secondhand books on the Web -- really obscure books by really obscure authors. I also might telephone someone who will be awake.

Q: How involved are you in the film version of the "Sandman" comics?

A: I'm not. It's so huge, I figure it's best if I just stay out of it.

Q: Do you miss England?

A: Enormously.


Customer Reviews

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Smoke and Mirrors 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 90 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.
level250geek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If there's a part of your imagination that can be ignited, this book ignites it. Spanning the spectrum from charming, gentle fantasy to chilling, macabre horror, Gaiman's stories make the reader think in ways most impossible; somehow making his charm and wit come through even the most horrifying tales.
bramon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
D-I like this book very much. I might even love it... Let me think about it some more.
lauranav on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great collection of short stories that are as interesting in subject and telling as his novels. Some quick reading, but also plenty to think about. Highly recommended.
mysanal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
More reasons why Neil is one of the best writers around!
melydia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Haunting and atmospheric as usual; whenever I read any of Gaiman's stories I immediately wish I could visit whatever location he describes. No matter how desolate or bland, he always manages to fill it with a sense of wonder and beauty. I wasn't, however, quite so impressed with the story-poems, which struck me more like prose with awkwardly placed line breaks. I also wish I'd known so many of the stories would be from collections devoted to authors I've never read, such as H.P. Lovecraft. But that's okay. Maybe someday, after I've read some of those stories, I'll come back and reread these. Speaking of rereading, the final two stories, "Murder Mysteries" and "Snow, Glass, Apples", I'd heard before on Two Plays for Voices. They're much easier to follow in prose form. All in all, I think I prefer the other Gaiman I've read.
Unreachableshelf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Neil Gaiman has the rare ability to be equally brilliant in short and long form. His prose style and his invention stand out among contemporary fantasy/SF authors. This collection of short stories is presented with brief notes on each one in the introduction, as well as a bonus short story in the introduction.
Alera on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The title is quite apt, short prose and poetry give but a glimpse of something, an illusion of a different world. I've always loved short story anthologies, and it's a great treat when they all come from an author whose stories I always find somewhat refreshing. This collection was everything I wanted and more. Every story was something unique with something to appeal to all sorts of literary types as long as they have a taste for the slightly fantastical. An old woman finding the holy grail, Snow White being not nearly as pure as she seems, a cat who can hold off the devil: all this and more can be found within these pages. Simply an enchanting read.
RogueBelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
These stories are a large part of why I want to be Neil Gaiman when I grow up. His imagination is truly magnificent, and his talent is overwhelming. "Murder Mysteries" is my all-time favourite short story. Gaiman is an absolute literary genius, and that is showcased incredibly well in this collection.
DanaJean on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A nice grouping of short stories and poetry, this was my first adult Neil Gaiman. And yes, he can get very adult. I found some of the themes and ideas so creative and intriguing--he seemed to be experimenting and challenging himself throughout. Definitely something for everyone. At the beginning of the book, I liked that he told a little bit about where he was in his journey as a writer when he wrote each of these entries. Those little snippets of insight are always fun and interesting.Most of the stories were very smart and polished with beautiful use of the language; but there were a few that seemed young and stumbling. Fledgling writer coming into his own so to speak. I enjoyed it, but I'm glad I read The Graveyard Book and CORALINE first, as I'm not sure this collection alone would have inspired me to move onto his novels. But, maybe novels is where his real talent lies? I'll keep reading.
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary: Smoke and Mirrors is a collection of Neil Gaiman's short stories and story-poems. They're primarily from earlier in his career, and run the gamut to werewolf detectives to alien STDs, and from fairy tale kingdoms to 1980s London to the End of the World. Although some of the stories overlap with M is for Magic, Gaiman's YA story collection, Smoke and Mirrors is emphatically not a book for kids, as many of the stories deal, unashamedly if not necessarily explicitly, with sex and death, usually in equal measures.Review: I got this book after realizing that M is for Magic was not a collection of new stories, but rather an anthology that drew primarily from Fragile Things and this book. As a consequence of having read Gaiman's other collections, however, I was already familiar with a number of the stories in Smoke and Mirrors. This was just fine by me; "Chivalry", "The Price", "Shoggoth's Old Peculiar", and "Vampire Sestina" are all very good stories, and "Troll Bridge" and "Don't Ask Jack" are fine as well, if not my particular favorites. As for the rest of the stories... well, it was kind of a mixed bag.For most of the book, the stories were ticking along at a pretty good pace, even if they weren't blowing my mind. "Changes" and "We Can Get Them For You Wholesale" were fascinating and bitterly funny, "Mouse" and "One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock" were haunting and unexpectedly poignant, and "When We Went to See the End of the World by Dawnie Morningside, Age 11 1/4" was a bit of both. The rest of the stories were interesting enough, if not really attention-grabbing, although the story-poems (of which there were a fair few) didn't really do much for me... I typically prefer more structured poetry (like "Vampire Sestina"). Maybe Gaiman's too good of a storyteller... I'm so used to him at the top of his game that this collection of earlier works didn't quite get the job done. Regardless, everything changed when I got to the last two stories, "Murder Mysteries" and "Snow, Glass, Apples." I know these stories have been reprinted elsewhere, but it was my first encounter with them, and man alive. *That* is how to write a seriously good short story. I'm sure it didn't hurt that I'm predisposed to love fairy tale retellings and fallen angel stories, but... wow, they were good.So, overall, this collection wasn't perfect, and had a handful of low spots... but also a handful of shining high spots, too, and the stories are quick enough that even when I wasn't particularly into one of them, I was already on to the next. 3.5 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: Fans of Gaiman's works, dive in! There'll probably be some familiar stories, and some are starting to show their age, but there's quite a few gems worth reading, too. For Gaiman newbies, I wouldn't start here. Although Gaiman's a great storyteller, this collection's kind of patchy, and not representative of him at his best.
RebeccaAnn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! My relationship with Gaiman to this point hasn't been the best. Having only read Stardust and Coraline (and not loving either), I was tentative to dive into an entire collection of his short stories. But I'm glad I did. Smoke and Mirrors allowed me to see a wide variety of Gaiman's styles and while there were stories in here I didn't really care for too much, they were the exception, not the rule. Most of the stories were absolutely brilliant!My favorites were "Troll Bridge", "Murder Mysteries" and "Snow, Glass, Apples". "Troll Bridge" is about a boy who accidentally wanders upon a troll and for the remainder of the story, he must continually try to keep his life from being eaten. This was the saddest story in the entire collection. I read it multiple times before I'd even finished the book. "Murder Mysteries" is an interesting take on the biblical creation story. It paints Lucifer in a gentler light (actually, he comes across as the true victim of the story). It's one of the longer stories in the book but it's worth it. "Snow, Glass, Apples" is another look on the faerie tale of Snow White, this time portraying Snow White as the evil one and the evil stepmother as the protagonist. I don't think I'll ever be able to look at the original tale in quite the same way...I highly, highly recommend this collection. It doesn't take a big commitment to read. The stories are quick and they fly by. You're done before you know it. But each story leaves its own mark that I don't think will be forgotten for quite awhile.
krisiti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like Tanith Lee, what I think of as Literary Horror. The style tends to be more creepy than horrifying: literary creepy? Ugh.The story in the introduction was especially disturbing. Some of the semi-pornographic bits bothered me-- like the story about the male with a detatchment to his penis. Perhaps just that they were scenes about sex written by a man, from a male point of view, since they were disturbing to me in a way that sex scenes written by women generally aren't. The casual body-function-ness attitude is alien, to someone who first learned about sex from female-written romance novels, anyways.
TheDivineOomba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I skipped the poetry - A few good stories, but after reading a number of them, you realize that while Neal is a very good writer - Most of his short stories are nothing but a trick ending with a lot of frosting. The wedding present (in the introduction) - I liked this one. Sufficiently creepy, but its also an interesting what if story.Chivalry - A story about getting old, and living what is important.Nicholas Was ... Wonderful twisty story.The Price - seems a bit derivative, not that good.Troll Bridge - An ok story. Not that memorableDon't Ask Jack - another derivative story - creepy, but not that special.The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories - I liked it, but really didn't get what it was about.Changes - About a man who discovers something that changed the world - I really like this story - In a short story form, it covers how society a chances. I'd like to see this as a full length novel.The Daughter of Owls - Another well written story with a trick ending. Shoggath's Old Peculiar - Neal Gaimon's take on the Chthula Stories. Again, another trick ending.Virus (the only poem I read) - I liked it. Looking for the Girl - Typical Neil Gaimon Story - a bit pointless, or I missed what it was about - Girl only exists for photoshoots in playboy.Only the End of the World Again - Not so interesting were-wolf story.We Can Get Them For You Wholesale - I liked the story, but figured out the ending very quickly.One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock - Story about a boy who reads fantasy. Not as angsty as thought. Foreign Parts - An Okay story, with another tricky ending.Mouse - Its a mixed up story - lots of metaphor that don't quite work.When We Went to See The End of the World - Another mixed up story. I liked it, but it misses as a story about children growing up with an abusive father, and it misses as a story about the end of the world.Desert Wind - story about dying, typical story.Tastings - A story about not so typical vampires. Okay story, not great.Babycakes - Reminds me of Swift's a Modest Proposal.Murder Mysteries - an interesting tale of the first murder. I'm not entirely sure how the ending works into it. Snow, Glass Apples - alternate take on the Snow White Story, in this story, Snow White is a very scary entity.
rastaphrog on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A collection of stories that's sure to be enjoyed by any fan of Neil Gaiman. Typical of Gaiman, you won't find anything "light hearted" here, and that's all to the good. These stories may have you rethinking some of the beliefs you have about a few subjects, especially "Murder Mysteries".The only downside to this book for me were the stories told in "poetic" form, but that's a matter of personal taste.
auntieknickers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't completely review this as I've read some, but not all of the stories. What I've read I've liked.
bastet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this trip through Gaiman's imagination. Not every short story is the best, but I adored the way he described why each story was written. He's a better novelist, but this collection is a must for Gaiman fans.
wizardsheart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anyone who has ever read Gaiman has to know that he is nuts and unpredictable. In this book he shows you a whole new range of unexpected twists. This is an anthology of short stories. Highly recommended to anyone who is either a fan of Gaiman or short stories in general. There was quite a bit of poetry...that I wasn't as enamored with as I was with the short stories...but was well worth buying new!
SithCrow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i lost my original copy of this collection in what i jokingly call "the great divorce of 2005". i re-purchased it last year and i don't know why i waited so long. "murder mysteries" -- i read it and every time i finish the last page and sit there and stare into space for a bit.
clong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I seem to be in the minority on this collection. I had high hopes for this Smoke and Mirrors, but left it fairly disappointed. Don¿t get me wrong . . . Gaiman clearly has a fecund imagination, and a powerful grasp of the use of imagery, and at his best seamlessly blends dark fantasy with the very funny. But I found little of this as compelling as American Gods (which I rather liked), for example. There were several strong stories in the collection, including a couple that I rated as 8s (Shoggoth's Old Peculiar, which I found quite funny, and Snow, Glass, Apples, after the reading of which I will never quite think of a famous fairy tale the same again), and several that I rated 7s (Murder Mysteries would have been an 8, were it not marred by the inclusion of a completely gratuitous and overly graphic little sex scene). But others of the stories left me very flat. I could easily have done without Don't Ask Jack, Changes, Looking for the Girl, The Sweeper of Dreams, Foreign Parts, and Tastings. And I would characterize the poetry as strong on imagery, but fairly pedestrian on word-smithing.