From Publishers Weekly
The 30 short stories and poems in this collection vary widely in theme and tone, from the dark, recursive "Other People" to the witty, R.A. Laffertyesque "Sunbird." Aside from one new tale, "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," all material has been previously published. Gaiman performs admirably as narrator for the most part, changing his style from story to story to better suit the tone of each. However, in the more experimental pieces in the collection, this practice backfires and may leave listeners reaching for the fast-forward button. The poems often work on paper, but when read aloud many feel like disjointed, nonsensical stories. Gaiman is at his best when narrating his more traditional tales, such as the sly and inventive Sherlock Holmes/H.P. Lovecraft pastiche "A Study in Emerald," and the noirish "Keepsakes and Treasures." There are enough terrific stories in the book to make it a must-have for Gaiman fans, but dedicated readers may want to choose the hardcopy edition instead, so as to more easily skip the dross. Simultaneous release with the William Morrow hardcover (Reviews, July 17).
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*Starred Review* Like the first and second, Gaiman's third collection of unillustrated short pieces (he has comics collections in his portfolio, too) showcases a particular facet of his talent. Smoke and Mirrors
(1998) effervesced with his jovial parody of fairy tales, Raymond Carver, monster movies, Beowulf
, and even Bay Watch
. Adventures in the Dream Trade
(2002) collects various kinds of memoirs on being a professional fantasist. Parody--in the alternate-world Sherlock Holmes pastiche, "A Study in Emerald," and an imaginary last book of the Bible--and memoir (two reprints from Adventures
and at least one story, "Closing Time," that Gaiman admits is full of real persons and events) also figure in this book, but most of the contents, including the memory pieces, exude the romanticism, often erotic, that makes his first two novels, Neverwhere
(1997) and Stardust
(1998), for all their darkness and grit, so powerfully attractive. Many are love stories, ranging in tone from the lowering super-noir of "Keepsakes and Treasures," in which a multibillionaire, abetted by the genius-sociopath narrator, finds and loses his particular beau ideal
; to the sf-tinged horror of "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," in which two randy teens crash the wrong bash; to the love-conquers-all rapture of the poem "The Day the Saucers Came"; to the movingly sad triumph over time in the flat-out sf entry, "Goliath." Less loverly but lovelier are such archromantic tidbits as 15 tiny stories for cards from "a vampire tarot," the council of the personified months in "October in the Chair," the bittersweet shape-shifting of the commedia dell'arte-derived "Harlequin Valentine," and all the other poems. One delight after another, 31 in all, with a thirty-second tucked into the author's introduction. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved