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Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders Mass Market Paperback – February 9, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 205 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 363 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (February 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060515236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060515232
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (205 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By T. Simons VINE VOICE on September 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This collection contains exactly the sort of stories that one would expect Neil Gaiman to write -- brilliant, original, imaginative fantasy tales that occasionally make tentative steps across the border into Horror(but never quite cross over). Fantasy, but lyric fantasy, not epic, and grounded in our reality -- there are no hobbits here, and almost all these tales concern fantasy elements that seem to have somehow brushed up against our reality, rather than the reverse.

If you like Neil Gaiman's other works, you'll like these stories; if you don't, you probably won't; if you don't know whether you do or not, but you're interested enough to read Amazon reviews, then this collection provides a magnificent place to start.

I will focus on the flaws, not because the collection is flawed, or because any of these flaws are significant in comparison with the compelling and powerful strengths of the stories, but because the stories are so good that a list of their virtues would become boring ("this story is the best story about this thing since Neil Gaiman's last story about this thing.")

1) Some, most, or perhaps all of these stories have appeared in prior publications; I believe "The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch" and "Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot" were in some editions of Smoke and Mirrors, "A Study in Emerald" was available for a long time (if it isn't still) on Neil Gaiman's website, "Harlequin Valentine" has been available as a small illustrated hardcover for a long time now, etc. If you're enough of a Neil Gaiman fan to have tracked down all those disparate stories, though, in all those disparate places, this single volume will probably be a marked convenience.
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Format: Hardcover
This excellent story collection is a bit like a pop CD that is frontloaded with its best material. Thus, if this book had ended on page 112, I would have been quite happy. This book's interstitial poems aside (which Gaiman essentially apologizes for in the author's notes), the stories up to that point range from good to brilliant. It's a fantastic run of storytelling, and I was sad to see it end.

But end it does. From there in, the tales range from:
-- the unbelievable ("Keepsakes and Treasures") and yes, I use the word advisedly...
-- to the uninspired ("Good Boys Deserve Favors")...
-- to the unfortunate, namely, CD liner notes for Neil's "personal friend," Tori Amos ("Strange Little Girls")...
-- and sometimes, back to the excellent ("The Monarch of the Glen," among others).

I think that part of the problem with the material stems from the fact that people apparently ring Gaiman asking him to contribute for specialty anthologies. ("Neil, I'm putting together a collection of stories about gargoyles. Are you in?") This type of "spec work" is perhaps not the best way to seek inspiration. So to continue my previous analogy, this book's substandard material should be thought of as a CD's bonus tracks.

That said, FRAGILE THINGS is a mostly enjoyable read, and to reiterate, the first third of the book alone is worth the price of admission.
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Format: Hardcover
Did you ever pick up one of those compilation albums by one of your favorite musicians, only to find it to be full of undeveloped ideas and vanity pieces that were rightfully withheld from the proper albums in the first place? This anthology from the usually awesome Neil Gaiman is the literary equivalent of a collection of B-sides and outtakes, and there's a reason many of these ideas are not in his much more developed novels. Like any odds n' sods collection, there are a few flashes of brilliance here, like the modern Sherlock Holmes tale "A Study in Emerald" and the gruesomely whimsical "Sunbird." There are also a few enjoyable entries that highlight Gaiman's well-known interest in fairy tales, like "Harlequin Valentine." But most of the short stories here are toss-offs to themed anthologies or tribute editions; and regardless of the fact that several of these tales were award winners in the realms where they originally appeared, many seem undeveloped and arbitrary.

Gaiman is correct in stating that his tribute to Ray Bradbury, "October in the Chair," would have been better written by Bradbury himself, and tributes to other works like "Goliath" (The Matrix) and "The Problem of Susan" (Narnia) are vanity pieces at best. Some stories such as "Diseasemaker's Croup" are disappointinggly anemic snippets of thin and fanciful ideas, with probably more reward for the writer than the reader. This book's examples of Gaiman's poetry and targeted prose (such as the snippets written for the Strange Little Girls album by Tori Amos) are intriguing but directionless, and the majority of short stories are just plain unmemorable. Gaiman is one of my favorite writers and I recommend his novels whole-heartedly. But this collection is surely not appropriate for the casual fan, and even serious fans will probably find it disappointing and a bit self-indulgent. [~doomsdayer520~]
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Three reasons;

1) He experiments with story format - one story Strange Little Girls - is a bunch of paragraphs with bold headings like Silence, Rattlesnake, Time, Heart of Gold. Short, unclear descriptions lead to nowhere. Other formats include poetry which is okay, but not what people want to read, when they buy a short story book.

2) Stories just weren't as fun to read as Gaiman has given us in the past. Plots just okay, characters mediocre, didn't understand his goal for many of the tales.

3) Worst kind of short story? When you DON'T GET AN ENDING! That's right, he leaves you hanging. "So what happens next? I guess I'm supposed to make up my own ending." I DESPISE THIS TYPE OF WRITING. Just finish the story, okay? Please?

This final point means you invest yourself in the context and emotion of the writing and get nothing, in the end.

Felt like I wasted time plowing through this, hoping for something good. And good didn't show up much, at all.

Go buy Trigger Warning instead. That Gaiman book is great, gave it 5 Stars.
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