Monday, September 18, 2006

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

"She only looked away for a moment, and the mask slipped, and you fell. All your tomorrows start here."

I'm not a Neil Gaiman fan.

Sure, I enjoyed quite a lot of American Gods. Who didn't? I respect what he did with Sandman and the effect it had on comics in general and Vertigo in particular, even though it wasn't a personal favorite. Good Omens made me smile a lot and chuckle once or twice. But he never sucked me in to the legions of Gaiman worshippers.

But then, I hadn't read his short fiction.

Fragile Things is Neil Gaiman's fourth (Angels and Visitations, Smoke and Mirrors, and Adventures in the Dream Trade.) collection of short stories and poetry. I am unable to rank it amongst those that have come before because, despite owning all three, I've never read any of them. A failing I do believe I'll be correcting rather sooner than later. See, Fragile Things is wonderful.

Not wonderful in the sense that you got a promotion in work; truly it's in the rare and more honest definition: It's full of wonder. I was terrified by the eerie possibilities in 'Closing Time.' I simply could not shake that story, and so, am suffering from a lack of sleep today. 'Bitter Grounds' would not have been amiss amongst the best of Tales From The Crypt, but it wasn't quite as scary. 'A Study In Emerald' is a Lovecraftian tale of Sherlock Holmes; as strange and beautiful as any short I've read since Kelly Link's last collection. It won the Hugo for short story in 2004.

Most of the stories in Fragile Things have appeared in anthologies or magazines or other assorted Gaiman ephemera; but the collection is strong despite this, and reads well as assembled. This is the strongest book from Gaiman that I've yet read, barely touched by his propensity to ramble in his longer works. That said, a few of the stories are weaker than the rest, and his poetry is so out of place, it literally begs to be skipped over more than the songs in a Tolkien novel. "Oh Elbereth Gilthoniel!" Let's get on with the stories, aye?

I'm still not a Neil Gaiman fan. Maybe it's the leather jacket. Regardless, Fragile Things is a very good collection. Check it out.


Collector's Notes:

There were 150,000 of the US hardcovers produced. Could it be a collector's item with that many in print? A short story collection? I doubt it.

The book itself is quite neat, with a tissue paper dust jacket over a glossy binding. It certainly belongs on the shelves of Gaiman collector's and short fiction fanatics, but I would honestly recommend waiting for the paperback.

Comments on "Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:18 PM) : 

if you're going to read smoke and mirrors don't skip the introduction i'm not gonna say anything... just dont trust me.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:25 PM) : 

Just so your readers know: Smoke and Mirrors reprints much of the (long out of print) Angels and Visitations, and Adventures in the Dream Trade is nonfiction; so in practical terms this is only his second collection of short fiction.


Blogger Me, Myself and I said ... (5:50 PM) : 

I was lucky enough to be present at a reading Gaiman did in Connecticut recently; two of the readings he did from 'Fragile Things' were peoms. The first I didn't care for (I'm sorry I don't recall the title); it was a journey through a forest, and there was a castle, etc., etc. As a true fan of fantasy for the last 20 years or so, I found the references to fairytale rules and Aurtherian legend derivative, rather than imaginitive. I didn't dislike it; it just didn't draw me in at all. The other peom (I also can't recall the title, sorry!) was great. It was about the day the world ended, and how the subject of the poem didn't was very funny, and he read it well, building up to the unexpected and almost punchline-like ending perfectly. The short fiction he read was excellent also. I look forward to seeing more short fiction and poetry from this author.
A quick finale note; I noticed that you mentioned 'American Gods' but not 'Anansi Boys'. The former was very good, and I enjoyed it, but 'Anansi Boys' was better. If you haven't read it, you should - it's a tighter read, also.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:13 PM) : 

His short fiction is really where his strength lies, IMO. I mean, I liked Neverwhere and American Gods, but aren't the best examples of his work.


Blogger banzai cat said ... (1:38 AM) : 

Yeah, I have to agree with mike. Short story is where Gaiman's strengh lies. Maybe it's his exposure to comic books, with its rather limited format.


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