Thursday, 22 March 2001

Neil Gaiman: Smoke and Mirrors (1999)

Edition: Headline, 1999
Review number: 790

In a lengthy, unthemed collection of short stories, it is to be expected that the preoccupations of an author will be more obvious than might be the case in any individual novel. Neil Gaiman's first collection is not an exception, and showcases both his talents and shortcomings as a writer.

The main strengths of Gaiman's writing are unusual imagination and the ability to convey that imagination. This is particularly the case with the stories which are re-tellings of familiar tales - Snow White from the point of view of the stepmother, for example.

The major weakness is that he has too great a desire to introduce an unexpected twist into each story. When one is encountered individually, this will obviously help it to stand out and remain in the memory. In thirty or so all read together, it does become a little tiresome.

A large number of the stories are narrative poems, and some of them are pretty good; but the quality of the poetry is variable, and some of them just seem to be strangely formatted prose. The best stories in the collection are those which are rather different from the others; these include the short short In The End and heavenly crime story Murder Mysteries.

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