I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Smoke and Mirrors

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Smoke and Mirrors
by Neil Gaiman

Plot Summary:

In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion ... and anything is possible. In this, Gaiman's first book of short stories, his imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders -- a place where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under "Pest Control," and where a frightened young boy must barter for his life with a mean-spirited troll living beneath a bridge by the railroad tracks. Explore a new reality -- obscured by smoke and darkness, yet brilliantly tangible -- in this extraordinary collection of short works by a master prestidigitator. It will dazzle your senses, touch your heart, and haunt your dreams.


Oh Neil Gaiman.  The way you wield words is extraordinary.  These short tales only prove to emphasize Neil's craftsmanship of words, with the way he gives detail and nuance to characters and settings in only a few sentences.  The short tales starts off with a magical, whimsical vibe and as the novel progresses, they get darker and grittier.  I have to say that I enjoyed the first half more, but that is personal preference, as I do enjoy Gaiman's work more when it is lighter and more entrancing.  A lot of his work seems to explore the darker side of human nature, and I enjoy more positivity in what I read.  However, all the stories in this book are excellent and extremely varied.

There are short poems and prose pieces interspersed with the longer short fictions and many are thought provoking and present unique outlooks on very mundane occurrences.  I felt like each piece was almost a puzzle to decipher because it was very hard to see where Neil was taking the story and what the moral or piece of wisdom would be in the end.  The story "Changes" in particular resonated with me - perhaps because I am in the Science field - but the way Neil takes a new scientific discovery - a cure for cancer - and makes it a parable for the pitfalls of advanced technology was genius.  In another favorite tale: "We Can Get Them For You Wholesale", the story becomes a pure farce, albeit with that macabre touch, that shows how easily human weakness can be exploited.  It's all very entertaining, and it is fun to pick up and read a couple stories here and there when you have the time.

I read this book for Project Fairy Tale and Neil Gaiman's "The White Road" is based on my particular fairy tale "Mr. Fox." Gaiman's story emphasizes the imminent danger of the original fairy tale, by starting with a different tale about a woman who went mad when she found out her lover wanted to kill her.  The writing is concise and lyrical, which only seemed to heighten the eeriness of the story.  And the story is told through "Mr. Fox's" eyes, which makes the twist at the end very interesting, as well as justifying completely the beginning tale.  It's a very thought-provoking piece, and gave me chills, it so beautifully turned the original fairy tale on it's head.

I can't highly recommend this book enough.  Though there were stories in it that did not resonate with me, I feel pretty confident that most people will come across one or two stories (or more!) that they absolutely adore as I did.  I may be a little biased because I have so much admiration for Neil Gaiman's skill, but this book is a perfectly magical way to transport your mind into new worlds and ideas.

Part of Project Fairy Tale Reading challenge

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  1. I want to read this one! Odd I am such a Neil Gaiman fan and I have never picked this one up! I need too!

    1. It's a great read! I would love to know which stories you really liked!

  2. First of all, I adore Neil Gaiman's other work. I recently got a copy from this book, but I haven't got the time to read it yet. The white road sounds interesting, since I love fairytales and all the retellings :)

    I'm a new linky follower.

    1. There are more fairytale retellings in this book - Snow, Glass, Apples retells Snow White! Thanks for stopping by, I'm a follower of your blog through Linky as well! :)