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Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions Paperback – January 29, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 213 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This anthology of short stories, and the occasional story poem, is vintage Neil Gaiman: quirky, sometimes very funny, often dark and disturbing. Most have been published before, but are hard to find elsewhere and cover all of Gaiman's writing life. As Gaiman says in his introduction, "most of the stories in this book are about love in some form or another," but not requited love. The stories in Smoke and Mirrors touch on all of Gaiman's themes: sex, death, dreams, and the end of the world. From "Chivalry," about the Holy Grail and where it finally ended up, to "Troll Bridge," a very adult version of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff"; from "Bay Wolf," a story poem that melds Beowulf and Baywatch, with interesting results, to "Murder Mysteries," which is about a murder, but also about angels, God's will, and Evil, these stories leave lasting impressions. Fans of Ray Bradbury's short stories and of Gaiman's other works will enjoy this collection. --Nona Vero --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 339 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (January 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061450162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061450167
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I make things up and write them down. Which takes us from comics (like SANDMAN) to novels (like ANANSI BOYS and AMERICAN GODS) to short stories (some are collected in SMOKE AND MIRRORS) and to occasionally movies (like Dave McKean's MIRRORMASK or the NEVERWHERE TV series, or my own short film A SHORT FILM ABOUT JOHN BOLTON).

In my spare time I read and sleep and eat and try to keep the blog at www.neilgaiman.com more or less up to date.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I should point out first that (a) I've been Neil's friend for many years, and therefore not without bias, and (b) some of these stories I've read several times before. However, due to various health problems, I have been spending a lot of time in a series of doctor's waiting rooms for months now, and Smoke and Mirrors has been my book of choice for resisting lure of six month old issues of Field and Stream. I have read it from start to finish, resisting the strong temptation to flip forward to the stories I hadn't read, savoring each offering as I would a course in a lavish meal (and considering I'm on a diabetic's diet that's more savoring than I'm allowed in the traditional sense). It's been an unalloyed pleasure. And yesterday, while waiting for my endcrinologist to check me over, I finished the last story.
I rationed myself on this book, but you don't have to. If you only know Gaiman from Neverwhere or his Sandman comics, this is a chance to see the full range of his writing chops, which are formidable. I defy anyone to find me a better story this side of Nathaniel West about the mythical land of Hollywood than "The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories." I cannot think of a more bizarre marriage than the melding of epic poetry and bikini bimbos that is Baywolf. I heard the ghost of Peter Cook at my ear in "Shoggoth's Old Peculiar." I took inordinate pleasure in reading "Snow, Glass, Apples" aloud to a group of my son's friends, and watching them laugh uneasily.
There is a wealth of fine storytelling here, a veritable trove of style and substance, passion and pastiche, wit and bite and vision and venom. The art of the short story is in excellent hands.
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Format: Hardcover
People tend to get snide when you mention Neil Gaiman used to write comic books. Infidels. If your friends mock you and your fascination with the worlds Gaiman creates, just give them a copy of this book and tell them to shut up. It's the best introduction I can think of to everything Neil.
Some stories are undoubtedly stronger and more inspired than others, but the collection on the whole is astoundingly good, and makes Stephen King look pathetic, though it's hard to compare the two. Gaiman doesn't write horror stories, he writes magical ones -- stories that wrap you up in what your parents told you for years was impossible or unreal.
"Snow, Glass, Apples" -- this is not your grandmother's Snow White, and Gaiman himself states that he hopes the reader will not read the original faery tale the same way ever again. He succeeds. This story is worth the price of the book alone.
"Chivalry" -- a brilliant, extremely funny look into the mind of an elderly woman who's found the Holy Grail in a secondhand store and think it's just a fabulous mantel pice, never mind that Arthurian knight who keep bothering her for it. I made my dad read this one.
"Nicholas Was..." -- ever wonder how Christmas in the Gaiman household is? Dark, haunting, and achingly beautiful. Possibly my favorite, despite its (sadly) short length.
"The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories" -- the longest, and one of the best hands down, stories in this book. Neil takes the big hypodermic needle of writing and instead of sucking the life right out of what could have been a boring story, injects it with a subtle shadow and oodles of glitter. Very touching.
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Format: Paperback
Every now and then a reviewer uses the words "every now and then" to start a review. It usually is followed by a glimmering review of a very artsy, very bad book. With this book, though, it is completely appropriate. It is appropriate to say that every now and then a story collection comes along that will, in the end, change the way we read short stories. The last time this happened was, perhaps, King's "Night Shift." Before that, pick any Ray Bradbury collection.
But Gaiman's collection is both and more put into one. "Smoke and Mirrors" is absolute masterpiece and seems like it would satisfy almost any avid reader's tastes. There is the humor, social commentary, poetry of all kinds and even a few examples of remarkably tasteful erotica included in this timeless collection. The dark side of the reader is revealed in a reassuring and, at the same time, frightening way. Reading Gaiman is not mere recreation, it is experience. This reviewer did not take long to complete these pages, despite a relatively busy work schedule. When it was over, it leaves disappointment that stems from the fact that the book was over, finished. Yet it is a fulfilling, and wonderful experience. It is not bogged down by "trying to make a point," despite the points it does make on the reader. It is simply telling a story, and the reader takes it as he or she wishes. This, in the end, is the essence of writing, and Gaiman has mastered it perfectly.
The stories are diverse; humor and dark, poetry and prose. However, no matter which story you read one thing remains constant: Gaiman's superb ability in the art of storytelling.
Writing short stories is an art of the most refined form, and Gaiman has done more than lead the art form or change the art form.
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