It took me a long time to read Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors. I picked it up, put it down; read the table of contents, put it down. Eventually I got round to reading the Introduction, and then I was pretty much committed. And when I finally devoured the treasures within, I found I enjoyed them a lot. Much of it was dark, true, but that’s always suited me; much of it was also magical.
So there was no real doubt I would acquire and read Fragile Things.
It hasn’t taken me as long to get around to reading it, and I have consumed it in less than 2 days (which on my current reading rate is fairly impressive; the up-side to sickness – a short story is about the extent of my concentration span).
Finishing it (with the exception of the closing novella, which I’m saving until I have actually read American Gods), I find I can barely remember any of the stories in it, but I feel satisfied that I enjoyed them. The poetry stands out better; the instructions on surviving a fairytale are particularly good. I have a notion that this volume is driven less by sex and more by ghosts and death than the previous one, but I couldn’t swear to it.
Having said less sex, it includes The Problem of Susan, which was less shocking and more enjoyable than on previous encounters (it really is incredibly poignant and beautiful, and that final dream seems less shocking while still being complete and utterly wrong). It also introduces the rather nasty Messrs Smith and Alice, who may be another slice of Croup and Vandemar, but are far creepier and not at all comical. And Bitter Grounds could almost – but not quite – be Michael Marshall Smith.
All in all, a thumbs-up. But I think I enjoyed Smoke and Mirrors more. Perhaps it was just that story about the cat. I may have to read it again to find out.