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Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions
Neil Gaiman
Avon Books, 352 pages

Art: J.K. Potter
Smoke and Mirrors:  Short Fictions and Illusions
Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is the author of one of the most critically acclaimed comic books of the decade, the Sandman series from DC Comics. He is also the author of a collection of short stories, Angels and Visitations, and the co-author (with Terry Pratchett) of Good Omens. His first anthology was The Sandman Book of Dreams, edited with Ed Kramer). He is the creator and author of the BBC series "Neverwhere," which inspired his novel of the same name. Born in England, he now lives in Minnesota.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Neverwhere
SF Site Review: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
SF Site Review: The Sandman: Book of Dreams
Official Neverwhere Site
Gaiman bibliography from Dreamhaven Books
Angels and Visitations
Heart of the Dreaming (Sandman fan page)
Sandman Links

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Neil Walsh

I've been a fan of Neil Gaiman's writing since issue #1 of Sandman first appeared on the shelves of my local comic store. And that's high praise from me, because I've only ever found 3 comic titles that had writing of a calibre to keep me interested for more than a few issues. Sandman was certainly one of them.

Last year, for the SF Site's "Best of 1997," I voted for Gaiman's novel, Neverwhere, as my choice for the best new book I read that year. For me, then, Smoke and Mirrors is a real treat as it offers not only a wide selection of stories and poems from one of my favourite writers, but also some insight into the mind of the artist.

I enjoy reading about the circumstances surrounding the story I'm about to read. But I hate boring, bad or excessively didactic introductions. I much prefer to read what the author has to say about his or her own work than to read some scholar's interpretation of the symbolism inherent in the blah, blah, blah. And in this book, Gaiman introduces each of his stories in his own words -- always brief, and always insightful.

The stories in this collection are not new, although a few of them have not been previously published. And don't be frightened off by the knowledge that there are a few poems interspersed throughout. Gaiman's poems tend to be more narrative than self-indulgent, and if there's an element of self-indulgence in his poems it's forgivable because it's generally in the format. Rondels and sestinas, for example, are cleverly structured poems which are difficult to do well, but which can cause a thrill of pleasure when they are successful.

In this collection, as in much of Gaiman's writing, the focus is on fairy tales, fantasy, surrealism, satire and sex. Call me lazy, if you will, but I don't care to single out individual stories in this review and concentrate on only those few. And there are too many to discuss all of them. Everyone will have their own favourites. Suffice it to say that if you're a fan of Neil Gaiman, Smoke and Mirrors is a must read. And if you're not a fan of Neil Gaiman, read this collection and you will be.

Table of Contents
Reading the Entrails: A Rondel  
An Introduction (including the story The Wedding Present)Bay Wolf
Chivalry We Can Get Them For You Wholesale
Nicholas Was... One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock
The Price Cold Colors
Troll Bridge The Sweeper of Dreams
Don't Ask Jack Foreign Parts
The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories Vampire Sestina
The White Road Mouse
Queen of Knives The Sea Change
Changes When We Went to See the End of the World, by Dawnie Morningside, age 11¼
The Daughter of Owls Desert Wind
Shoggoth's Old Peculiar Tastings
Virus Babycakes
Looking for the Girl Murder Mysteries
Only the End of the World Again Snow, Glass, Apples

Copyright © 1998 by Neil Walsh

Neil Walsh is the Reviews Editor for the SF Site. He lives in contentment, surrounded by books, in Ottawa, Canada.

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