Smoke and Mirrors

Author: Neil Gaiman
Title: Smoke and Mirrors
Publisher: Hodder Headline
ISBN: 978-0-7472-63685
Rating: 8/10

Blurb: In Gaiman's richly imagined fictions, anything is possible - an elderly widow finds the Holy Grail beneath an old fur coat in a second-hand store; under a bridge, a frightened little boy bargains for his life with a very persistent troll; a stray cat fights and refights a terrible nightly battle to protect his unsuspecting adoptive family
                                                           from unimaginable evil...
                                                           these miraculous inventions and many more
                                                           await in this extraordinary book, revealing
                                                           one of your most gifted storytellers at the
                                                           height of his powers.
The first thing I ever read by Neil Gaiman was 'Coraline', and only because I adored the movie so much, I wanted to know if the story the book told was identical. I really enjoyed the story and the authors style of writing, so when I saw this book in the 'English Books' area in my local bookstore I just thought: 'GO FOR IT!' And I did.

Lately I get extremely fond of short story collections (maybe just because of my lack of time to read a fully grown novel), but this one is my favorite by far. My mind kept constantly constantly making a Tim Burton film out of every story in this book - I think these two would be made for each other (which is why I don't know why THEY didn't do Coraline together...). While not all the stories are high-class in my opinion, here are a few of my favorites:
  • Chivalry is about an old woman who finds the holy grail in a second-hand store and is afterwards pursued by a  knight who searched for it in vain. I loved the character of the old lady and how she would deal with this whole affair so nonchalantly and her way of dealing with it in her everyday life. This is in no way a typical story about the holy grail and I love it!
  • The Plot of The Price revolves about an angel in form of a cat who protects the family that accepted him from the devil. I really like how this story is written: It's got mystery, fantasy and action (you got to love the fight with the devil) in just 7 pages.
  • In The White Road we witness a girl telling the extremely disturbing story of one of her dreams to a group of people which has fatal consquences for one specific man. This is the first narrative poem I ever read by Gaiman and I thought it was quite fantastic - actually I got stuck in it and read it several times because in my mind it just all fit together so well. I really like the supernatural theme he creates here and the mythology about foxes is one of the most fascinating aspects I ever came across. Although you must prepare for the grotesque, I greatly recommend this story.
  • Babycakes - this is a story of a little more than one page, but it's impact on the readers can be huge. The animals vanished off the face of the earth from one minute to another and the human race decides to eat babies instead - it's disturbing, but it is the most rational thing for the people in the story: 'Babies can talk. They can hardly move. A baby is not a ratinoal, thinking creature. We made babies. And we used them. [...] Some people complained, of course. But then, they always do. And everything went back to normal.' This is not your typical 'Watch out for your environment!'-story, but it can stimulate your thoughts. Thank God I'm a vegetarian.
  • When I began reading the story Murder Mysteries I was not expecting it to evolve the way it did. Instead of coming across a policeman or a detective with whom we solve a mysterious and perhaps slightly supernatural case, we stumble upon the angel Raguel, The Vengence of the Lord. This story is actually quite entertaining because it includes how the concepts of love, hate and death were created and it is also an opinion on 'God's Mysterious Ways' if I get it right.
  • I really like fairytale retellings so my favorite story by far in this book has to be Snow, Glass, Apples. Perhaps you can already tell by the name: it's a Snow White retelling. But this is unlike everything I've ever read. We experience the story through the eyes of the Queen, not Snow White and it's not the Queen who is the bad guy (or girl) this time. When you think about it, it could actually be true: her white skin, her dark hair, her red lips - Snow White is a vampire in this story. I'm amazed how every fact of the original fairytale gets twisted in this story and it still gives a full picture of it. I think I can never read the real story again without thinking about this one ... I haven't decided yet if that's a good or a bad thing. But if you like vampire stories and the retellings of your most precious childhood fairytales, I surely recommend this story.
While writing all of the above I discovered that I could write such a short review for every single one of the 35 stories published in this book, because there's not one of them I despise - they are not all perfect, but they aren't bad either.

Mentioning 35 stories is actually not true. There's a 36th one for those readers who don't skip every introduction that is longer than one page - Gaiman hid a story in his, and it is one I loved reading. I think it is a little bit simmilar to 'The Price', but only because the main theme seems to be protection, this time not by a cat but by a letter. Although we have a lot of elements to all of this stories that we meet more than one time, every one is in itself unique: The change of the writing style and the variety of the characters guarantee individuality for every one of the stories.

Another thing I loved about the book was that Gaiman wrote a little somthing about all of the stories in the introduction and I liked to read it after I read the actual story - it gave me the feeling that I had his personal opinion of his work at hand. There's also a little interview printed at the end of the book which is quite interesting - so all in all I would say it is a book full of possibilities to enjoy yourself and I suggest it to everyone who doesn't mind a little bit of the obscure in his everyday life.

1 Kommentar:

  1. Meine Antwort auf deine Nachricht^^
    Bist auf jeden Fall herzlich Willkommen bei der Challenge =) Wärst du aber auch beim ersten Besuch gewesen ;)
    Ich habe dich auch schon in die Liste eingetragen.

    Liebe Grüße