Smoke and Mirrors: Gets under your skin

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Neil Gaiman Smoke and MirrorsSmoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman‘s place on my personal “favorite authors list” is cemented firmly by Smoke and Mirrors, a versatile collection of his short stories and narrative poems. There is a wide variety of “types” of story here, from fantasy to horror to mystery to wildly hilarious comedy. I liked almost all of them.

Neil Gaiman‘s two finest gifts are (1) humor, and (2) truly scary horror that gets under your skin rather than just grossing you out with gore. He flexes his humor muscles with such outstanding fare as “Chivalry” (the story of an old woman who buys the Holy Grail at a thrift shop), “We Can Get Them For You Wholesale” (about hit men with discount rates), “One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock” (about a young boy and his love for fantasy novels), and “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” (believe it or not, a funny Cthulhu story, about strange towns, getting drunk, and Things that live under the ocean).

As for horror, there is the story in the intro, “The Wedding Present,” which is sort of a “Marriage of Dorian Gray,” plus several other standouts including two of the narrative poems, “The White Road” (a montage of Bluebeard tales) and another, whose name I forget, about a woman who is vanished by a magician and never reappears. Truly creepy and hauntingly sad as well.

If you like psychological horror, dry humor, or anything of the sort, you’ll love this.

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions — (1998) Acollection of short stories by Neil Gaiman, including: an elderly woman who finds the Holy Grail beneath an old fur coat in a second-hand store; and a stray cat who fights a terrible nightly battle to protect his unwary adoptive family from unimaginable evil.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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