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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman. New York: William Morrow, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-06-051522-5

I’ve been reading several short story collections recently, and this is just the first of them. Short stories are not my favorite genre, but when the author is someone known to me, particularly someone whose novels I enjoy, and especially in the science fiction and/or fantasy genre, I will generally read their short story collections, not only just to see what their stories are like, but also because they often include some stories based in one or more of their fictional universes that I have already enjoyed.

For example, Neil Gaiman includes a story set in his “American Gods” universe, a story that he originally wrote for one of Robert Silverberg’s justly famous Legends compilations. So anyone who is a fan of American Gods (which I’ve read and reviewed on this blog) or Anansi Boys (which I’ve not yet read or reviewed, but mean to as soon as I get around to it) will want to check out this Fragile Things collection if for no other reason than to read “The Monarch of the Glen,” unless, of course, they’ve already read it in Legends.

As for the rest of the collection, as with nearly every short story collection I read, it’s a mixed bag. Some of the substantial stories, such as “Closing Time,” “Bitter Grounds,” “Goliath,” and “Good Boys Deserve Favors,” I really enjoyed.

Others, not so much. I didn’t particularly appreciate the turn-around ending for “A Study in Emerald,” even though it (the story) won a Hugo award AND got Gaiman inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars. “Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire” was just plain silly, although I suppose that was probably the intent. I could complain about some of the others, but to what point? The point is that anyone reading this collection will like some, dislike others.

Some of my favorites were actually some of the shortest, quickest little stories, the ones you can read out loud to someone you’re with, and it will only take 5 or 10 minutes, short enough that they probably can be persuaded to listen that long. Examples include “Other People,” “Locks,” “Instructions,” “In the End,” and “The Day the Saucers Came.” Several of these, some of my favorites, are actually poems. Or at least, written in verse.

So, if you’ve read and enjoyed any of Neil Gaiman’s work, you’ll probably want to read this short story collection as well. You’re sure to like some of them; you may not like some of the others; some of them may be disturbing, annoying, depressing, or even abhorrent, but that’s the way it is when you read a collection like this.

Oh, don’t overlook the introduction, in which Gaiman explains how each came to be written. You may want to read it after the fact or along with each story, but don’t leave it out altogether. Why? Because he actually embeds a very short story into one of the introductory comments, which you won’t want to miss. I have to say, I would have preferred the introductory materials to have been printed with each individual story, instead of grouping them together at the beginning, as that it would have made it easier to read each one with the associated story.

Definitely recommended for Gaiman fans.

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