I wanted to review these two Neil Gaiman short story compilations together. I think that with the completion of both of these books, I have read just about all of Gaiman’s full-length published works for adults! Although to call these “short story” compilations isn’t exactly fair. Gaiman fills both of these with poems, essays, and other types of writing that go far beyond just stories, which makes his work such a pleasure for me to read.
Smoke and Mirrors is subtitled “Short Fictions and Illusions” while Fragile Things is subtitled “Short Fictions and Wonders.” I found Smoke and Mirrors to have a generally darker tone though both books experiment with the fantastic and supernatural. Smoke and Mirrors is an older book (first published 1998) and for me really carried a lot of the feeling of books like American Gods. My favorite story of anything that appeared between either of these two books was “October in the Chair” from Fragile Things. I adored this story, which described a meeting of the personified months of the year as they gather to hear a rather dark tale told by the character of October. There are also many retellings of myths, fairy tales, and references to other works by Gaiman and otherwise, but of course also much that is completely unique. I read these two collections one after the other and I think they sort of just blended together in my mind but if I was going to pick one I did prefer Fragile Things slightly more.
One problem that avid Gaiman fans might have with both of these is the fact that there is not much original material in either of them, but this wasn’t a problem for me personally and just about everything was new for me – just something to think about if you do follow a lot of the literary magazines and other sources where his work appears. For me I feel like no matter how much Neil Gaiman I read there is always something totally original and very out-there for me to find. I think he has one of the most vivid imaginations of any contemporary author and hope he continues to harness this to provide more books for me to read! I’m giving 4 stars to both Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things.