Smoke And Mirrors
Because Neil Gaiman does most of his writing for comic books and graphic novels, the scope and richness of his talent have thus far been overlooked by the average reader. Smoke And Mirrors is only the second book of "pure" fiction he's had published, after last year's novel Neverwhere, and it pretty much counts as his first short-story collection. Roughly half of these pieces have appeared as the best stories in various collections covering the themes of sex and horror, or horror and fairy tales, or vampires and sex, or what have you; Gaiman's work has been the only really good thing in a variety of poorly conceived anthologies. This only adds to the problem of categorization that Gaiman must overcome: Like Ray Bradbury before him, he writes lovely little horror stories, fairy tales, and fantasies which are as familiar as they are fabulous, stories that are never quite what the reader expects. In "Troll Bridge," Gaiman proposes that one might grow to appreciate the idea of hungry trolls under bridges; in "Bay Wolf," he combines Baywatch, Beowulf, and a werewolf in a serious and relatively plausible fashion; and in "Snow, Glass, Apples," he explores the chilling possibilities of inverting the Snow White mythos. The building blocks of Gaiman's little fantasiesthe vampires, the stray cats that are much more than they seem, the end of the worldare certainly standard, and he doesn't ever pretend otherwise. But by flawlessly blending them with the small and mundane, by letting an old lady find the Holy Grail in a secondhand store, he makes the threat and promise of everyday magic seem wonderful, terrible, and almost even possible. With Smoke And Mirrors, Gaiman has firmly established himself as the premier ghost-story teller of his age.