I just finished this book. Truly, about five minutes ago. 'Smoke and Mirrors' is a book of "short fictions and illusions."
I will rarely read a short story book, cover to cover, unless I really love the author. Neil Gaiman is one of my new favorites, as the more astute readers may have guessed. 'American Gods' hasn't left the "5 Books to Read" list since it was first put up. But the fact that I sat down and read this book, all of the stories, instead of picking one to read every so often, says a lot about it and the author.
'Smoke and Mirrors' is a collection that ranges from 1984 to the book's printing in 1998. Many times, in a collection by one author, you can tell the early material from the newer. You can see the writer mature and improve. Not so with Gaiman. The oldest story was, in my opinion, the funniest and no less worthy than the rest.
It's a rare gift to find an author who can be as funny, as twisted and weird, as witty and wholy remarkable as Neil Gaiman can be. One of the reasons I don't like short stories that much is that I rarely get as much out of them as a novel. But Gaiman can do more in five pages than the average novelist can do in fifty.
I really am in love with this man. And I really was heartbroken when I found out that he was 20 years older than I.
On to the stories. This is about them, after all.
The narrative of the queen and stepmother from a popular children's tale gives another view of the story. The wedding gift that tells an alternate history of the marriage as the couple ages. The angel who solved the first murder. A cure for cancer with curious side effects. A widow who finds the Holy Grail, but keeps it because Galahad is good company. A few true stories as well, and introductions to each piece that give the reader an insight to how they were all written or conceived are included in this anthology.
And so I tell you your duty. Go buy a Neil Gaiman book, dammit.