Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
In Smoke and Mirrors, Gaiman transforms a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders—where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under "Pest Control," and where a frightened young boy must barter for his life with a mean-spirited troll living beneath a bridge by the railroad tracks. Explore a new reality, obscured by smoke and darkness yet brilliantly tangible, in this collection of short works by a master prestidigitator.
I was first introduced to this book when my friend made me read the short story Babycakes, in which the animals disappear and babies - yes, babies - take their place as lab subjects, leather suppliers, and a food source.
Babycakes and stories like it fill the pages of Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of Gaiman's short stories written over the years and all compiled into one place. Some of them, like Babycakes, are terrifying and disgusting. Others are silly but fantastic, while still more are serious. A few are sexually explicit and even pornographic. They all contain elements of fantasy, ranging from creepy to entertaining.
Every story is of a high caliber, since it's Gaiman writing them, but as usual a few rise above the rest. They're the creepiest or weirdest ones. Some of them even make me afraid to turn out my light. That would be because they all seem very, very real, like if you were to be observant enough, you might find a troll under your nearest train bridge or a fictional H.P. Lovecraft town off the highway. Fantasy lovers will be thrilled with this anthology, as will any Gaiman fans who haven't read it yet.
Once Upon a Time...
As a longtime lover of stories and a believer in the power and magic of books, I've spent my life seeking out the best reads. This blog is dedicated to reviewing the books I read - good, bad, or magnificent - to help other readers find their next favorite books.