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Smoke And Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions [Paperback]

Neil Gaiman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 17 2008 P.S.

In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion . . . and anything is possible. In Smoke and Mirrors, Gaiman's imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders—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.


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Smoke And Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions + Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders + Neverwhere: A Novel
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Product Description

From Amazon

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback
This collection of short stories marks the first time I've ever been somewhat bored by a Neil Gaiman tale. That is to say only a few of the stories actually fail to represent the author's habitual genius but most are at least interesting, while many are actually excellent, as should be expected. The stories are presented in asynchronous order and Gaiman offers an introduction about each piece with some interesting background information. Some of the oldest are also some of the best in this set.

Uninitiated readers eager to discover Neil Gaiman should probably start with Stardust or Neverwhere, or any other of his full-length novels for that matter. I think his longer stories generally provide much better characters and storylines, a benefit that comes with spending more time on a single setting and exploring it further than only a few pages allow. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the stories I appreciated the most in Smokes and Mirrors also happened to be the lengthier ones. Those written as poems or in a telegraphic style really lost me for the most part, but the rest is sure to provide the reader with enough chills and thrills. It retains a bit of magic and mystery typical to all of Gaiman's work. Quite a fascinating mind!
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5.0 out of 5 stars riveting collection of stories May 4 2003
Format:Hardcover
I have a love-hate relationship with Neil Gaiman. I love his work. His diction is always impeccable, always inspired. But I hate that I somehow lose a day when I start reading one of his books. I get so wrapped up in the story, in the world that he weaves, that I cannot put the book down.
I started reading this short story collection thinking that this may be the solution to my love-hate relationship. I could not have been more wrong. Even when the story is a mere hundred words (as is 'Nicholas Was ...'), I simply could not stop reading. After each story, I would pause to shiver or reflect (or, often, both). Occasionally, I would flip back to the beginning to read the introduction where the author discusses each story and how it came about. Then, I would plunge into the next story. I finished the book in less than a day, including flipping back and reading several stories again.
This collection of short stories is an excellent introduction to the world of Neil Gaiman. One of the strengths of the author is showing an alternate perspective. You could look at each of these stories (including the one buried in the introduction) as doing just that. The haunting 'Nicholas Was ...' and 'Snow, Glass, Apples' show us that maybe Santa Claus isn't a jolly old man and that maybe Snow White wasn't an innocent pure girl driven out by an evil uncaring stepmother.
Individually, each of the stories is an excellent example of what comes off of a gifted writer's pen (or keyboard, as it were). Together, this collection is riveting and engaging. In the years to come, I am sure that I will pull this book off my shelf often to read a story or two (or all of them) again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lights and Highlights June 27 2002
Format:Paperback
On a first reading of a short story compilation, I read every story front-to-back. I make my decisions as to what I like and what I can live without, and on subsequent readings, I often head straight to the highlights. The stories that grabbed me the first time.
Not so with Smoke and Mirrors. When I revisit this one, I read the entire thing cover to cover all over again. I've looked over and over for a weakness in this compilation but can't seem to find it. The introduction is not only amusing in its own right, but added to my enjoyment of the stories by giving a little background info on each piece. Where the ideas came from, what Gaiman thinks about it now that it's done, etc.
The best thing I can say about the stories themselves is that each one is enjoyable and unique. I get aggravated with some compilations because every story is only slightly different than the one before it. Not so with Smoke and Mirrors. Each piece follows different conventions, is written in a different style. There are rondels and modern fairy tales, pulp stories and narrative poems. I might go so far as to say that there is a story for every taste in here.
Still unsure about whether this is for you? If you can get your hands on a copy, read "Nicholas Was..." It's only 100 words long. And it's oh-so-worth-it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars gets under your skin April 1 2002
Format:Paperback
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.
I could sit on this computer for another hour listing good stories from this collection; however, you'd do better just to buy the book. If you like psychological horror, dry humor, or anything of the sort, you'll love this.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
I loved the diversity in these stories. Some of them were dark, others humorous, but all of them were worth reading.
Published 11 months ago by Mira
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding delivery
Normally, I am not a fan of short stories but these were amazing. Even the introduction was amazing. I recommend not skipping it. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2011 by Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Just can't get enough
Bought a second and third copy and gave it to 2 of my friends. Need I say more? This is an awesome book!
Published on Jan. 12 2010 by Maria Nina Sy
4.0 out of 5 stars Smoke and Mirros
Neil Gaiman has been named as one of the top ten living post-modern writers (the Dictionary of Literary Biography). Read more
Published on Aug. 26 2009 by Clayton Bye
4.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately is missing Gaiman's most important work
Having of course been born in the twenty-fourth century and then thrust backwards through time after stumbling upon a temporal fissure, I have read this book. Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2004 by J. D. Bartlett
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous! This book is going to ROCK!
Wow. I haven't read this book, but that won't stop me from reviewing it: when I read this it is going to be AWESOME.
Published on Aug. 30 2004 by Gregory Reed
4.0 out of 5 stars 9/10
I give it a nine out of ten.
What I liked about it:
Neil Gaiman is a terrific author. The stories were mostly crisp and kept me interested. Read more
Published on June 27 2004 by Dr. Neil
4.0 out of 5 stars So much better than Neverwhere
In "Neverwhere" Gaiman seriously bit off more than he could chew. But in this book of short stories, Gaiman's intensely creative ideas and fantastic imagination are... Read more
Published on May 28 2004 by Rebecca
5.0 out of 5 stars Stop reading this and go get this book now!
There is so much variety in this book you'd think it wasn't written by the same person, but it is, and how well it was done. Read more
Published on April 19 2004 by R. Nguyen
5.0 out of 5 stars Echos in your mind indefinately
Most of what I would say has already been said in previous reviews. I would simply add my voice to the chorus that praises this collection, and add that Gaiman's skill is such... Read more
Published on April 4 2004
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