Author Neil Gaiman has become a rock-star novelist in recent years. A few of his novels, such as “Stardust” and “Coraline” have been optioned and turned into films and it seems he could very well turn into this generation’s Stephen King.
When I went to the bookstore a few weeks ago and saw, “Smoke and Mirrors”, a collection of short stories by Gaiman, I knew I had to bring it home.
After all, with the pressure of school and constant studying, reading an entire novel can be daunting. So many times I have dove into a 400 plus page story, only to put it on the back burner and leave it at the bottom of my priorities. However, I can finish a short story in 15 minutes before I go to bed or during the time in between classes.
The subtitle of the novel is “Short Fictions and Illusions,” and that is exactly what Gaiman provides his audience.
The book is comprised of 30 different entries. I use the word entries because not all of them are stories. Several of the chapters are simply brief poems and prose, which provide immediate gratification.
For instance, the 100-word chapter “Nicholas Was…” gives a cynical and darkly humorous look into the world of Santa Claus. Furthermore, the story entitled “Babycakes” is less than two pages but is quite possibly the most disturbing entry in the book.
The longest entry in the novel is the introduction at 34 pages and, in my opinion, it is just as compelling as any other story in the book, perhaps even more so.
Knowing full well that a lot of readers skip introductions, Gaiman provides a treat to the ones that don’t by adding a short story within it called “The Wedding Present.”
Right before the story within the introduction, Gaiman interestingly lets his readers know his power over them.
“If I don’t like the story once it’s written, I can always cross out this paragraph, and you’ll never know,” Gaiman writes.
Luckily for the readers, the story is left in and is effectively creepy.
“Chivalry” is technically the first story of the novel and one of the sweetest and most charming.
The story is a fantasy tale about a widowed old woman who, while shopping at an antique store, buys the Holy Grail to place above her mantle. Gaiman himself is quite fond of the story.
“It’s a very friendly story and I enjoy reading it aloud,” he writes.
The book as a whole is perfect for readers who have a taste for mysteries, fantasies and strange tales. Gaiman provides little dark worlds for readers to go to, even if it is only for five minutes.
Some of my favorites included “Troll Bridge” and “The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories,” to name a couple.
With that being said, I must admit I did not care for all the stories. Entry’s such as “The Price” and “Don’t Ask Jack” left me feeling cheated. However, just because some of the stories rubbed me the wrong way does not mean other readers will feel the same. This is one of the beautiful parts of collections of short stories.
In another collection of short stories by Gaiman called “M is for Magic”, he writes: “You don’t have to like them all. If there’s one you don’t enjoy, well, there will be another one along soon.”
Still, I found that most of the stories left me with a smile or a shudder, but only in the most enjoyable way.