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Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fiction and Illusions

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In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion... and anything is possible. In this, Gaiman's first book of short stories, his imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders -- a place where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion... and anything is possible. In this, Gaiman's first book of short stories, his imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders -- a place 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 extraordinary collection of short works by a master prestidigitator. It will dazzle your senses, touch your heart, and haunt your dreams.


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In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion... and anything is possible. In this, Gaiman's first book of short stories, his imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders -- a place where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion... and anything is possible. In this, Gaiman's first book of short stories, his imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders -- a place 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 extraordinary collection of short works by a master prestidigitator. It will dazzle your senses, touch your heart, and haunt your dreams.

30 review for Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fiction and Illusions

  1. 4 out of 5

    Miranda Reads

    I keep saying, "one more Neil Gaiman book and I'll figure out what the big deal is..." Spoiler, I haven't yet. Though, I did enjoy some of these stories (indicated by a *). There's far more that weren't enjoyable. Introduction - PLEASE skip - this is so, so long. It's a short story in and of itself. Though, technically he hid another short story within that: The Wedding Present - Originally written as a wedding present, this marriage slowly but surely sinks to the pits of despair. Chivalry - A c I keep saying, "one more Neil Gaiman book and I'll figure out what the big deal is..." Spoiler, I haven't yet. Though, I did enjoy some of these stories (indicated by a *). There's far more that weren't enjoyable. Introduction - PLEASE skip - this is so, so long. It's a short story in and of itself. Though, technically he hid another short story within that: The Wedding Present - Originally written as a wedding present, this marriage slowly but surely sinks to the pits of despair. Chivalry - A cute story about an elderly lady snapping up the Holy Grail at a bargain at the thrift shop. Later republished in M is for Magic. Nicholas Was... - A 100-word story centered on St Nicholas for one of Gaiman's Christmas cards. The Price* - this cat deserves a medal, a ball of yarn and a tuna fillet for defending this family against the devil. Republished in M Is for Magic. Troll Bridge - Retelling of the three Billy Goats Gruff. While this started on a high note - undue time is used to describe the troll's flaccid genitalia. Un-ironically, troll acts like a dick. Republished in M Is for Magic. Don't Ask Jack - Menacing Jack-in-the-Box. (As if I needed another reason to never buy one) Republished in M Is for Magic. The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories - Almost written as a reflection for Neil Gaiman on hollywood. I was not a fan of his comments. Eaten (Scenes from a Moving picture) - please, Gaiman, why does everything need to be so sex-explicit?? Excuse me as I scrub my eyes. The White Road* - This wasn't memorable Queen of Knives - well-written by not memorable. The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch - The underground circus leads to the disappearing of one Mrs. Finch. I wasn't a fan of the book and wasn't a fan of the short story. It made too many leaps. Changes - Once again, a Gaiman story became weirdly sexual. (I really should start expecting this). A man discovers the cure for cancer (which has the side effect of changing a person's gender). Now the world is populated by nearly immortal pill-popping gender switchers (I hesitate to call everyone trans since this is done so reversibly and recreationaly) The Daughter of Owls - A girl was found with some owls. The locals hate her. Shoggoth's Old Peculiar - H. P. Lovecraft inspired cult-y New England tale. Did like how he portrayed the pub though. Virus - Honestly wasn't that memorable. Looking for the Girl - A kid looking at a dirty mag spots the most beautiful girl. As an adult, he finds her again in the mag - but she looks exactly the same. Logically, he devotes his life to becoming the best dirty-mag photographer in hopes of meeting this chick in person. My interpretation: A vampire wanted a free photo-shoot every few years and went to a magazine to do it. Only the End of the World Again - Richly worded, not an interesting plot. Bay Wolf - Baywatch + Beowulf. Surprisingly quirky and fun Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot - Each of the Major Arcana (first 22 of the 78 tarot cards in a deck) is interpreted through a short story. We Can Get Them For You Wholesale* - How good would the bargain need to be to end the world? Despite the dark implications - this was a fun read!! One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock - High school kid who wanted to write and is a huge fan of a series. He mail-orders a book and never pays for it. Cold Colors - Short poem involving magic and computers The Sweeper of Dreams - prose piece...waxes poetic about dreams and their implications Foreign Parts Sudden sexuality again. A man is slowly taken over by a cognizant venereal disease. Copious mentions of STDs and masturbation. Vampire Sestina - A vampire poem Mouse - The married couple's house is infested. The man buys a humane mousetrap while his wife seems to get an abortion. The man seems to have no reaction to the abortion. Upon finding a mouse trapped, he sets the mouse free outside. The Sea Change* Lyrical poem about mermaids and the ocean. How Do You Think It Feels? - Man goes to conference. Man meets hot girl. Man cheats on wife, despite having a couple of kids. He justifies it (kids are stupid, wife is lame). When We Went to See the End of the World by Dawnie Morningside, age 11¼ - Written from the perspective of a child as the end of the world occurs. Unexpectedly chilling. Desert Wind - Man gets lost in the desert and is found. Tastings - Male Prostitute + Female Celebrity. Prostitute has "powers" which lead him to be amazing in bed - essentially he reads the minds of his clients without realizing it - and he can't read Celebrity's and thus is sucking (not literally...well, maybe a bit) in bed. The mundane conversation as they try out positions made this one marginally tolerable. Mostly, I was cringing away from the pages. In the End - Genesis creation in reverse. Not particularly memorable. Babycakes - Just take that title literally. Murder Mysteries - The first murder in heaven as it's investigated by the angel Raguel. Snow, Glass, Apples - Finally! FINALLY I thought as I got to this one. It's a retelling of Snow White with a huge reversal. Snow is evil and the stepmother is attempting to hold together the kingdom from the terror of one, very cruel Snow. What ruined it: The weird sex bits. I would've loved this story if A) Young Snow (as in not over 18, more like 12 or younger hadn't blown a traveling monk before killing him AND B) if the prince wasn't into necrophilia when he screwed first the stepmother and then her daughter. It just completely threw the whole story off. Without it, I would've really enjoyed this creepy retelling. Blog | Instagram

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    'Smoke and Mirrors' is the first of two short story collections written by Neil Gaiman. This title was first published in 1998, while 'Fragile Things' came out in 2006. Having read 'Fragile Things' mere months ago I was doing quite a bit of comparison between the two as I worked my way through 'Smoke and Mirrors'. While there are a lot of similarities between the two, there are also many differences. Both collections involve Gaiman doing what he does best, that is taking our own myths, fables, an 'Smoke and Mirrors' is the first of two short story collections written by Neil Gaiman. This title was first published in 1998, while 'Fragile Things' came out in 2006. Having read 'Fragile Things' mere months ago I was doing quite a bit of comparison between the two as I worked my way through 'Smoke and Mirrors'. While there are a lot of similarities between the two, there are also many differences. Both collections involve Gaiman doing what he does best, that is taking our own myths, fables, and folklore, tweaking them to better resonate with our modern culture, and handing them back to us complete with the grit and gristle that were absent from the versions that we received as children. While this seems to be an over-arching theme to most of the stories in 'Fragile Things', it still shows up occasionally in 'Smoke and Mirrors' along with so much else. Gaiman takes the reader to so many places throughout these stories. These include a couple of nods to writers that surely influenced him along the way (Lovecraft and Moorcock, specifically), a writer struggling through a screenplay that has been watered down by the movie studio discovering the legendary Hollywood of old, and political intrigue amongst the angels in heaven. Lawrence Talbot also makes an appearance in a tale involving the Wolf Man. Gaiman's books are usually shelved in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section at the average bookstore, which I think is a bit of a disservice as these stories are so much more diverse than the typical view of the Fantasy genre that involves touchy-feely knights riding around on horses and tends to prejudice the typical reader to that genre negatively. A tip to any readers who are in the habit of skipping book introductions: Gaiman actually hides a story within the introduction of this book as a payoff to those who religiously read the introduction. That sort of cleverness suckers me in every time. It may be unwise to compare the stories in 'Smoke and Mirrors' to each other and to 'Fragile Things' as both books represent more of a compilation of Gaiman stories that appeared in other publications over a particular period of his writing career versus something that was put together as an intentional, unified collection. However, as it is great fun to wildly speculate, I believe that the stories in 'Smoke and Mirrors' are bolder than the ones in the later collection. As most of these stories were written around the time that 'Sandman' was finishing its run, I'm wondering if the reason for this was to prove to any naysayers that Gaiman was a serious writer and not just "that comic book guy." These stories may not be something that would be discussed in a college level literature class with the austere professor that lives and dies by the canon, but I don't think that is Gaiman's intention as a writer. He comes from the storyteller tradition, and I feel that such a thing is just as important in feeding one's imagination and intellect as the heavy literature now and again.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jc

    This collection of short works, some not quite complete, is maybe a must read for real Gaiman fans who read everything he does (4 stars for them), but not really for anyone else (only 1 star for the general audience). And I say that as one of those fans. I really like what Gaiman does, both in traditional and graphic novel form, but Smoke and Mirrors is not representative of his best work. Basically, it is a collection of things he never bothered to give a final polish to. Much of S&M is thi This collection of short works, some not quite complete, is maybe a must read for real Gaiman fans who read everything he does (4 stars for them), but not really for anyone else (only 1 star for the general audience). And I say that as one of those fans. I really like what Gaiman does, both in traditional and graphic novel form, but Smoke and Mirrors is not representative of his best work. Basically, it is a collection of things he never bothered to give a final polish to. Much of S&M is things that were just workbook exercises, not intended for publication. Some fun ideas, and entertaining for the fan (or for those who want to study how he develops ideas), but others should try American Gods, Anansi Boys, Neverwhere, Good Omens (with T.Pratchett!), or even Coraline or his Sandman graphic novels. It does, however, contain a few real gems for fans. [warning: different editions of the S&M varied the collection slightly, so referring to specific stories may be confusing when discussing the book]

  4. 5 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    Initially read in 1999 or thereabouts. Not reviewed at the time. Upon re-reading: ***** “The Goldfish Pond and Other Stories” by Neil Gaiman I'm usually not that interested in the whole 'glamour of Hollywood' theme, but this is probably the best commentary on it I've ever read. Clearly partially autobiographical, this tells the story of a British writer who's flown out to L.A. to talk about converting his bestselling novel into a movie. A shifting cast of film execs gradually morph his story past r Initially read in 1999 or thereabouts. Not reviewed at the time. Upon re-reading: ***** “The Goldfish Pond and Other Stories” by Neil Gaiman I'm usually not that interested in the whole 'glamour of Hollywood' theme, but this is probably the best commentary on it I've ever read. Clearly partially autobiographical, this tells the story of a British writer who's flown out to L.A. to talk about converting his bestselling novel into a movie. A shifting cast of film execs gradually morph his story past recognition. Meanwhile, he gets to know the elderly groundskeeper at his decaying hotel, who tells him stories of the glory days of silent films. Multi-layered, ironically humorous, but ultimately poignant. Beautifully done. _____ Other included pieces (from the wiki). "The included stories and poems are different between some of the editions. The US, UK, and eBook editions have some differences in the stories they contain (see table to right): † Not in US print version ‡ Not in eBook version * Appears in eBook version as Apple Reading the Entrails The Wedding Present Chivalry - written for an anthology by Marty Greenberg Nicholas Was... The Price Troll Bridge - retelling of The Three Billy Goats Gruff written for the anthology Snow White, Blood Red by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling Don't Ask Jack Eaten (Scenes from a Moving picture) †‡ The White Road - A narrative poem Queen of Knives - A narrative poem The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch †‡ Changes The Daughter of Owls Shoggoth's Old Peculiar Virus - Written for the anthology Digital Dreams by David Barrett Looking for the Girl - Commissioned by Penthouse for their 20th anniversary issue Only the End of the World Again Bay Wolf - A story poem retelling Beowulf Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot † We Can Get Them For You Wholesale One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock - Written for an anthology of Elric stories by Michael Moorcock Cold Colors The Sweeper of Dreams Foreign Parts Vampire Sestina - A poem originally published in Fantasy Tales and later reprinted in the Mammoth Book of Vampires by Stephen Jones Mouse - written for Touch Wood, edited by Pete Crowther The Sea Change How Do You Think It Feels? †‡ When We Went to See the End of the World by Dawnie Morningside, age 11¼ Desert Wind Tastings - Included in Sirens by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling In the End †* Babycakes Murder Mysteries - written for the anthology Midnight Graffiti by Jessie Horsting Snow, Glass, Apples

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amanda NEVER MANDY

    Apparently I am not a fan of his short stories, they are bad. I gave his other short story collection book three stars and that was being kind. This one is getting two because I am all out of kindness. A better review to come. -Here is my attempt at a better review. Normally I would delete the prereview BS but I like it this time so it stays.- This is the second short story collection I have read from this author and they have both been thumbs down experiences. I definitely have a love/hate relat Apparently I am not a fan of his short stories, they are bad. I gave his other short story collection book three stars and that was being kind. This one is getting two because I am all out of kindness. A better review to come. -Here is my attempt at a better review. Normally I would delete the prereview BS but I like it this time so it stays.- This is the second short story collection I have read from this author and they have both been thumbs down experiences. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with his work. The gray area in between is not a friend of mine. WHAT I LIKED: Maybe two stories. WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: Everything else. I can’t decide which description matches my feelings towards it more: OPTION A: The publisher said give me anything you have and the author decided to present him with the crumpled paper balls of failed ideas. OR OPTION B: The author feels that all of his ideas are shareworthy and has not a care in the world regarding what readers might think of them. OR OPTION C: I am all out of sugarcoating today as well as shits to give so here is my true feelings about a read that without a doubt disappointed me. OR A little of option A, a little of option B and all of option C. DING, DING, DING...WE HAVE A WINNER!!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Abbie | ab_reads

    2.5 stars, a few gems but way too many narrative poems and meh stories.

  7. 4 out of 5

    April

    Bearing in mind I read this on my kindle, so some stories weren't included in the version I read. Also this is hella long. All ratings (including notes). * indicates favourite The Wedding Present (Yes, I religiously read introductions):4* In which a picturesque couple are given a quaint wedding present that seems to be a 'retelling' of their coupling; it spins a story of how their marriage could have went wrong. Though this premise may seem outlandish and bizarre, it's terribly relevant and poses Bearing in mind I read this on my kindle, so some stories weren't included in the version I read. Also this is hella long. All ratings (including notes). * indicates favourite The Wedding Present (Yes, I religiously read introductions):4* In which a picturesque couple are given a quaint wedding present that seems to be a 'retelling' of their coupling; it spins a story of how their marriage could have went wrong. Though this premise may seem outlandish and bizarre, it's terribly relevant and poses significant questions about the lives we choose to live. It's sad to think that some Gaiman fans miss this story;it's precious. Chivalry:3.5 Quite lovely. The relationship was sweet and Mrs. Whitaker was charming to read. Nicholas Was...:4.5 An excellent and precisely one hundred word twist on St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus. Ho ho ho. The Price:4 Ooh symbolism, symbolism! I adore this story, possibly because I'm so fond of cats. The idea of a knightly cat guardian is wonderful. Troll Bridge:3.5 I enjoyed this tale, but something lead me to believe that it would be more than it was when it finished, so I wasn't as impressed with the ending. Nevertheless it was immensely thought-provoking and preoccupying. Don't Ask Jack:5* Horrifying, afflicting, and downright disturbing. Yep, one of my favourite stories out of the entire book. The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories:3 I really liked the vintage Hollywood theme but it didn't pull me in. I think I maintained interest simply because it's a quasi-account of personal experience for Gaiman (as he admitted at the start of the book). Riddled with idioms and scathing remarks on Hollywood, it's very entertaining and humorous, but not gripping enough for me. Eaten (Scenes from a Moving Picture):3 ARGH. I have written on my notepad: 'SEXSEXSEXSEXSEX. GROSSED OUT. NEED SHOWER.'That pretty much summarizes how I feel about this story. ...Bloomin' heteros. The White Road:3.5 Cool, kind of story you can read over and over again and interpret in many different ways. Queen Of Knives:4.5 Very alluring; I analysed this to death. I fathomed all sorts of underlying messages and things I could take away. Personally I took this idea of being trapped in a loveless marriage to result in the disappearance. In addition, it's also delectably written. I devoured this story in one bite. Changes:4* Exceedingly powerful, especially the end. The mere fact that Rajit (a Scientist) was referring to the people as 'Angels' was of pivotal importance to me. I took away my own meanings for this, some of which I'm certain Gaiman wasn't even attempting to convey. I thought the significance of 'Angels' meant that a conceivably genderless society - or a society in which gender holds no meaning - could be perceived as being that of an angelic, peaceful community. That's just a fraction of what I took away from this, though. The Daughter of Owls:2 I didn't find this story interesting. The title was inviting but the tale disappointed. I followed everything that happened with little interest as to what would eventually happen. Shoggoth's Old Peculiar:2 Looking back, I don't even remember this story. Needless to say I wasn't that impressed. Beautifully written (as always, oh Gaiman, you wonderful thing) but with little quality for me to recall. I'll duplicate the comment for above: I didn't find this story interesting. The title was inviting but the tale disappointed. I followed everything that happened with little interest as to what would eventually happen. Virus:3 Interesting, cryptic, scary. It reminded me of that short film titled Virus too. Looking for the Girl:4/4.5 This reminded me a lot of Death in Venice and whilst I didn't have the opportunity to picture a beautiful prepubescent boy walking among the streets of Italy, I still engaged with the divine narrative that retained this sense of beauty never being able to be obtained. I'm also reminded of McConaughey's: Bay Wolf:3 I'm always captivated by mythical creatures, so I relished this little anecdote (though I don't remember much about it - probably because I was nodding off). Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot:5* A collection within a collection: an array of segmented texts that evoke mystery and awe. I loved the relativity toward Tarot cards in particular, especially 'The Fool'. We Can Get Them for You Wholesale:4.5* Hilarious and ambiguously intriguing. 'They'd been ready for a long time, but they had to be asked.' It reminded me of Vampires having to be granted permission to cross the threshold into our world. One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock:3 All I have written down is: 'Something missing, liked the beginning though.' Very informative, April. Cold Colors:2.5 All I remember is confusion. The Sweeper of Dreams:3.5 A magical ideal, one that need not be questioned in the unknown and mystical land of dreams. Foreign Parts:3.5 Excusing the awkward descriptions of symptoms deriving from venereal disease, the alienation of the lower regions of the protagonists body is open to interpretation. The real interest I had was determining whether this was a tale of possession or dispossession Vampire Sestina:5* Sensual and delightful, it certainly appealed to my extreme love of Vampiresque material. Kudos to Gaiman also for succeeding in writing quite possibly the toughest form of verse out there. Mouse:2 Curious but a tale that scurried away pretty easily from my train of thought. The Sea Change:4 I love the sea and aquatic life in general, therefore I was pretty gripped with this story. I'm also a sucker for mermaids. When We Went To See The End of The World by Dawnie:Morningside, age 11 1/4:4 This really disturbed me. I don't know why, it just seemed like the complete representation of evil. It maintained the sense of inventive, fictitious evil whilst holding the innocence and relativity of real life. The most blatant representation of this is the mere use of the narration of an 11-year-old. Desert Wind:3 Nicely told anecdote; it really brings forth the sensation of regret and longing to be somewhere else (which is the reason I read Gaimans books in the first place). I would like to go with the people too. Tastings:4.5* Oh, more sexy times. I actually loved the idea of something so frequently deemed emotionless or meaningless in the promiscuity of modern society becoming a personal necessity to someone's character. To be frank, I pried open this story like some sort of literary autopsy and picked apart meanings and interpretations for hours. Babycakes:4* 'We'll figure something out.' An almost dystopian feel to this, which I always admire. Very haunting and inhuman - yet possible. Foreshadowing the horror of human existence. Superb. Murder Mysteries:4 I'm not Christian, so forgive me for not fully immersing myself in the retelling of creation or rather Gaiman's 'take' on it. I relished the wholehearted symbolism throughout though. Snow, Glass and Apples:3 I expected this to be one of my favourites, but sadly it's something that I feel suffered from my high expectations. I originally heard of this in Gaiman's extra in Stardust and thought it was going to be magnificent. It was pretty good, and will forever leave a 'stain' on the Snow White tale for me personally, but truthfully I was expecting more. I originally intended to read one story per night, as it seemed pretty easy to do so; all of the stories are fairly unique and eclectic. However, I was far too engaged to pass up the opportunity to finish the book all at once. I even made notes on each tale after finishing them. Looking back, it’s quite hard to give an overall summary. It’s a wonderful, disturbing, downright peculiar collection of stories that spins you from one adventure to the next weaved in with Gaiman's imaginary genius. Some were decent, others spectacular, few just okay. I frequently sensed some stories were ones that either needed to be developed more, or ones that didn't have enough promise and shouldn't have made it onto the page. Overall rating: 3.5.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Manisha

    As much as I adore Gaiman’s writing style, it seemed like none of these short stories were chosen thoughtfully. I enjoyed this book a though, so it gets a 3.5 from me. RTC

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Banks

    A little disappointing, though with some flourishes of fabulousness. I'm a huge Neil Gaiman fan. So much so, I cite him as one of the authors that made me want to write. Most of his books are fantastically imaginative, exciting and wonderfully plotted, and a couple of them rank among my all-time favourite books. As a result, I launched into his collection of short stories with high expectations. I should say, for the record, I like short stories - I apprediate the whole 'bite-sized' concept, that A little disappointing, though with some flourishes of fabulousness. I'm a huge Neil Gaiman fan. So much so, I cite him as one of the authors that made me want to write. Most of his books are fantastically imaginative, exciting and wonderfully plotted, and a couple of them rank among my all-time favourite books. As a result, I launched into his collection of short stories with high expectations. I should say, for the record, I like short stories - I apprediate the whole 'bite-sized' concept, that you can devour a whole tale in a single setting; it's a bit like having a snack before you settle for a big main meal! However, with this particular collection, a few of the 'snacks' left me a bit unsatisfied. The book gets off to a cracking start with Chivalry, a hilarious story of an old dear who finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop. I was chuckling away throughout the tale, and rubbing my hands with glee, taking it as a sign of things to come. Likewise, I adored Troll Bridge, which cleverly spun the original fairy-tale, taking it in a fresh and surprising direction. However, the book soon became bogged down with a couple of stories that didn't really contribute much (in my opinion). This was particularly the case with the poems; which for me, mostly fell flat. I'm no poem connoisseur, but I do know a good poem when I read one, and I didn't feel that any of these fell into that category. That being said, there were several stories that stuck out as being great. We Can Get Them For You Wholesale, a story about haggling with assassins via the Yellow Pages, is utter brilliance, as is Looking For the Girl; an eerie tale of a man spotting the same woman in countless copies of men's magazines over the years, who never seems to age. Many of the excellent stories could have been filled out and extended into full-length novels, in my opinion. Perhaps if the multiple poems had been stripped out of the book, I would have rated this book a lot higher. Would I give Neil Gaiman's future short stories a try? Yes, definitely. But I think I'd give his poetry a miss!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Petergiaquinta

    A guilty pleasure, sure, but with Ray Bradbury's death, I'd suggest that Neil Gaiman is the best storyteller we have today. Consider the words of Harry Bailly (he of the Tabard Inn, not George's brother): "And which of yow that bereth hym best of alle / That is to seyn that telleth in this caas / Tales of best sentence and moost solaas / Shal have a soper at oure aller cost." And I'd buy Gaiman a meal or three for this sundry collection of tales pulled together from over the years and published i A guilty pleasure, sure, but with Ray Bradbury's death, I'd suggest that Neil Gaiman is the best storyteller we have today. Consider the words of Harry Bailly (he of the Tabard Inn, not George's brother): "And which of yow that bereth hym best of alle / That is to seyn that telleth in this caas / Tales of best sentence and moost solaas / Shal have a soper at oure aller cost." And I'd buy Gaiman a meal or three for this sundry collection of tales pulled together from over the years and published in Smoke and Mirrors. You might think I'm just showing off with the Middle English, but I don't think it's too much of a stretch to draw parallels between Gaiman and Chaucer. Chaucer's Tales cover a wide range of genres, from the romance to the fabliau to the beast fable to the exemplum and everything in between, and Gaiman uses just as wide a contemporary pallet as Chaucer employed from the Middle Ages. Gaiman moves from the hard-boiled to the horror story; he blends prose and poetry with sci-fi, the sacred and the secular; he has an erotic (?) offering here that transcends mommy porn; heck, he even writes a sestina with vampires in it that works...and that alone has to testify to the genius of the man. Elsewhere Gaiman does everything from the full-blown novel to YA to children's lit; he's written screenplays and comic books, and just about everything he does is golden. Sure he's had some missteps, and not everything in Smoke and Mirrors succeeds at the same level, but hey, the Friar's Tale is a bit dull and the Priest's lengthy sermon is practically unreadable. And like Chaucer (working from Bocaccio and Petrarch and the Thousand and One Nights among other sources), Gaiman is often at his best when he is reworking earlier stories and authors, especially fairy tales and folk tales. His version of Snow White here is a fascinating retelling that's going to stick with me for a long time, and one of my favorites in the book ("Shoggoth's Old Peculiar") grows out of Lovecraft. And even though it's goofy as hell, I even like his pastiche of Beowulf and Baywatch with Larry Talbot thrown in as an added plus. Finally, and thanks for sticking with me this long, Gaiman addresses many of the same concerns Chaucer had: greed and hypocrisy, dreams and where they come from, what makes a good marriage, the role of women in a male-dominated society, and on and on (the intertwining roles of magic and technology in "Cold Colors"? try the Franklin's Tale), but through them all, both authors are really interested in the whole idea of stories and story telling and what makes a good story. And what that is, if you go back to Harry Bailly, is that right blend of "best sentence and moost solaas," and Neil Gaiman just about always gets it right.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Wayne Barrett

    ...Drops of water fell like diamonds from the Angel Lucifer's perfect fingers... From the short story, 'Murder Mysteries' About half way through this volume of short's I was thinking this would probably be a 4 star, maybe a 3.5 actual. Now that I am at the end, having examined the work as a whole, and considering the power of the last 2 stories, I had to rate this a 5. I love the way Neil mixed it up. The collection seemed to be a potpourri of short stories, prose, poetry and lyrical verse. I cou ...Drops of water fell like diamonds from the Angel Lucifer's perfect fingers... From the short story, 'Murder Mysteries' About half way through this volume of short's I was thinking this would probably be a 4 star, maybe a 3.5 actual. Now that I am at the end, having examined the work as a whole, and considering the power of the last 2 stories, I had to rate this a 5. I love the way Neil mixed it up. The collection seemed to be a potpourri of short stories, prose, poetry and lyrical verse. I could feel his love of mythology, a little touch of H.P. Lovecraft, and another side that I think of as a British Chuck Palahniuk. The last 2 stories, 'Murder Mysteries', and 'Snow, Glass, Apples',made this entire book well worth the read. Murder Mysteries was a unique play on the mythology of God, Lucifer and the angels that I found to be particularly entertaining and thought provoking. Very well done. And Snow, Glass, Apples was also a twist on the old story of Snow White. Neil Gaiman has a style and imagination that makes him one of my favorites. And Smoke and Mirrors reflects his story telling gifts brilliantly.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kimberley doruyter

    a wonderful collection of the madness that is neil gaiman.

  13. 5 out of 5

    that_scarlet_girl

    How weird and marvelous is Gaiman's mind

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andrea ❤Ninja Bunneh❤

    I hate saying this, but I'm only giving this one 3 stars. I love Gaiman's writing, I truly do. Somehow I felt a lot of the stories in this anthology were a bit disjointed. Some were boring, to be quite honest. As if they were just something thrown together from a discarded pile. A few of the stories were enjoyable so I'm just going to say I had a neutral time reading this. That being said, I am not giving up on Gaiman just yet. I know he's an author has the potential to make my weirdly wired br I hate saying this, but I'm only giving this one 3 stars. I love Gaiman's writing, I truly do. Somehow I felt a lot of the stories in this anthology were a bit disjointed. Some were boring, to be quite honest. As if they were just something thrown together from a discarded pile. A few of the stories were enjoyable so I'm just going to say I had a neutral time reading this. That being said, I am not giving up on Gaiman just yet. I know he's an author has the potential to make my weirdly wired brain happy. 3 Ninja-Bunnehs-Disappointed

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    DNF at 50%. I couldn't really get myself to love any of the stories here. I liked some of them at most; as for the rest... maybe they were just too short.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Latharia

    Wow. I have to say that just about every story in this collection was highly engaging, and I had strong emotional reactions to several of them, and many "gotcha" type moments. Gaiman is, indeed, a master storyteller. Some of my favorite bits, without giving too much away for those of you who need to add this to your "to read" stack: - the sad workings of Peter's mind in "We Can Get Them For You Wholesale" - the explanation of those who've spurned "The Sweeper of Dreams" - the evolution of perceive Wow. I have to say that just about every story in this collection was highly engaging, and I had strong emotional reactions to several of them, and many "gotcha" type moments. Gaiman is, indeed, a master storyteller. Some of my favorite bits, without giving too much away for those of you who need to add this to your "to read" stack: - the sad workings of Peter's mind in "We Can Get Them For You Wholesale" - the explanation of those who've spurned "The Sweeper of Dreams" - the evolution of perceived morality in "Changes" - the mundane conversational aspects of "Tastings" - the story embedded within the story of "Murder Mysteries" I would like to say that this is a wonderful book to have on one's nightstand, to read a short story before bedtime, but I can't say that. Many of the stories (Don't Ask Jack, The White Road, and Snow,Glass,Apples in particular) were downright emotionally disturbing. Good, but disturbing. Don't Ask Jack actually generated a nightmare! *shudder* Great job, Gaiman. *wink*

  17. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    My first ever book filled with short stories and, naturally, it was BRILLIANT! I honestly expected Neil Gaiman to deliver a somewhat magical experience since he never disappointed me so far. However, I'm new to short stories and didn't know if it was for me since I usually prefer novels. But this collection has some real gems! Chilling stories, funny stories, sometimes stories with only a couple of lines, other times quite long short stories, but ALWAYS stories with wit and more than two hidden m My first ever book filled with short stories and, naturally, it was BRILLIANT! I honestly expected Neil Gaiman to deliver a somewhat magical experience since he never disappointed me so far. However, I'm new to short stories and didn't know if it was for me since I usually prefer novels. But this collection has some real gems! Chilling stories, funny stories, sometimes stories with only a couple of lines, other times quite long short stories, but ALWAYS stories with wit and more than two hidden messages. There was only one I actually disliked. And, as a bonus, my edition of the book not only had a foreword but also background information on every single one of the stories, which gave a great insight. I will definitely read the next two collections as well.!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Edward Lorn

    SMOKE AND MIRRORS Review, or My Final Review For a While I'm a Neil Gaiman fanboy. I've loved all of his novels and a great deal of his short fiction, but this collection was marred with either lackluster outings or poems I couldn't enjoy because I personally don't understand what makes them poems. The latter is my own fault, and I do not hold it against the author. The former, on the other hand, is all Gaiman's fault. Many of these stories lack purpose, are nothing more than words compiled into SMOKE AND MIRRORS Review, or My Final Review For a While I'm a Neil Gaiman fanboy. I've loved all of his novels and a great deal of his short fiction, but this collection was marred with either lackluster outings or poems I couldn't enjoy because I personally don't understand what makes them poems. The latter is my own fault, and I do not hold it against the author. The former, on the other hand, is all Gaiman's fault. Many of these stories lack purpose, are nothing more than words compiled into sentences and paragraphs. I can dig tales that have no definitive ending, or open endings, as it were, but when a piece of fiction has no reason whatsoever I fail to understand how or why it made it to print. Gaiman goes into great detail about how each of the stories in this collection came to be, and I can't help but wonder if the editors who requested a number of these stories only paid for them because they'd asked Gaiman for something and he delivered. Then, said editors felt responsible, perhaps thinking, "Well, we did ask for... something, and he did deliver." The biggest culprit here being the first outing, "Chivalry", wherein nothing happens other than a knight decked out in full armor (in modern times, mind you) trying time and time again to procure the holy grail from a stubborn old woman. In the end, Good Knight Galaad gets his grail and the reader's left wondering exactly what the hell was the story's purpose? There's no conflict, no tension, no drama, no twist, and not even a hint of climax. "Chivalry" accomplished nothing aside from making me slam my forehead into my desk in an attempt to knock the banality of the tale from my conscious mind. I think that, had I read SMOKE AND MIRRORS instead of listening to the audio book, I would have disliked far more of these stories than I did. Gaiman brought a certain whimsical panache to lesser tales, making them a great deal more interesting (e.g. "Troll Bridge", "Shoggoth's Old Peculiar" and "We Can Get Them for You Wholesale"). I think this came from knowing how the author felt the dialogue and prose should be read in order to get the most from the verbiage.   The stories that made me want to stick ice picks in my ears were: "Chivalry", "Don't Ask Jack", "The Daughter of Owls", and "One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock". I didn't simply dislike these stories, I downright loathed them. Even Gaiman's narration seemed dull, as if he were apologizing for their existence by phoning in his performance.    The tales that stood out are as follows: "The Price", "Troll Bridge", "The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories", "Changes", "Shoggoth's Old Peculiar" (which didn't have a purpose either, but was enjoyable nonetheless because of the odd characters), "Only the End of the World Again". "Bay Wolf", "We can Get Them for You Wholesale", and "Mouse". Basically, half the collection was worth my time. Everything else was either meaningless or downright boring. Still, not a single entry in SMOKE AND MIRRORS matched the brilliance of his novels. I was hoping for short stroies on par with CORALINE or THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE or AMERICAN GODS. Sadly, I was disappointed.    All other stories not mentioned above were wholly unmentionable or entirely forgettable. Meaning, I couldn't even be bothered to complain about them.   In summation: If you're looking for a collection packed with amazing short stories, you can do far better than this. SMOKE AND MIRRORS is not the worst short story collection I've read, but it comes close. When Gaiman is on, he's terrific and magical and wonderfully creative, but when he's bad, sweet baby Tom Cruise, he'll make you want to castrate him with a rusty battleaxe then boil the dismembered bits in a vat of acid. Still, this grouping of fiction is well written. Even the worst of these tales are readable, which cannot be said for every short story author. Instead of this, I recommend ANANSI BOYS, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, AMERICAN GODS, CORALINE (and, no, it's not only a children's book), THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE, or any of Gaiman's other novels. I highly recommend his series of SANDMAN comics, if you can get your hands on them, that is. If you would like a better collection from a different author, try BOOKS OF BLOOD, by Clive Barker (in my opinion, Barker is much better at short fiction than he'll ever be as a novelist), SKELETON CREW, by Stephen King, and any collection by Ray Bradbury.   2.5 out of 5 severely disappointed stars. (If you're reading this on Goodreads, I've rounded up to three.)

  19. 4 out of 5

    J

    A note: I expect more than I should from this author. I find him to be a brilliant idea man with little substance. -Suggested Reading Order: Murder Mystery Tastings Snow, Glass, Apples Only the End of the World Again Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar We Can Get Them for You Wholesale Chivalry Cold Colors The Price Chivalry- an old woman buys the Holy Grail. A full-armored knight comes to seek the Grail. Cute, long-run and dry. The most wonderful thing about this story is that it is quaint and written as gabbish; a A note: I expect more than I should from this author. I find him to be a brilliant idea man with little substance. -Suggested Reading Order: Murder Mystery Tastings Snow, Glass, Apples Only the End of the World Again Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar We Can Get Them for You Wholesale Chivalry Cold Colors The Price Chivalry- an old woman buys the Holy Grail. A full-armored knight comes to seek the Grail. Cute, long-run and dry. The most wonderful thing about this story is that it is quaint and written as gabbish; a runabout talkative form of day-to-day meandering, paying no heed to the extraordinary. Nicholas Was… - my favorite line "Once every year they forced him, sobbing and protesting, into Endless Night." This is a short short story. It seems, in this piece, there was more to be said but wasn’t. The Price- The beginning of this piece is bloody brilliant, reflecting harlequin mythos. The story sidesteps this flight of fancy to anecdote, betraying itself with its narrative Troll Bridge- The strength is the child’s voice (which continues and becomes outlived). The narrative stretches into the mundane: a point and picture of nothingness, an ode to the anticlimactic where, at the end, the story snuffs itself out of hopelessness… like a suicidal cigarette. The White Road- These story-poems were glanced over with some volume of interest. The White Road- could’ve been the premise for the Corpse Bride, except that at the scene where the corpse bride was supposed to get killed, she does not and lives thereafter. Changes- A summary of a man and his time split from an invention- a (not the) cure for cancer, side effect- sex change, and what becomes of it as seen by him. The Daughters of Owls- Phun with mysspellinks. Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar- Gaiman pays homage to H.P. Lovecraft, typing his lines and taking his name. The descriptive presence shows Gaiman's strength as the main character muddles about a town conversing with two drunkards spouting Lovecraft at lengths with lists of that and this. Looking for the Girl- The main character buys a dirty magazine in his youth and immortalizes the girl spread between the pages. He devotes his life to finding her, becoming a photographer, selling off all of his worldly possessions, and buying all of the magazines (of which she appears at different intervals in his life- the same and in age, but with a different name). Only the End of the World Again- Read this substanceless story for its language (it has a Scooby-Doo-ish plot). Bay Wolf- Fighting something from the Deep! Narrated in pulp “and then I ripped his arm off” fashion. We Can Get Them For You Wholesale- Brilliant first 3 pages! A man searches through a phone book for an assassin to kill the man who’s cheating with his girlfriend. Cold Colors- Crazy cool Dealing with computers and computer lingo, software, hardware mixed between metaphors. My favorite part was pigeon selling- people would buy them and spread their blood around their computer. The Sweeper of Dreams- T’was a nice short; think the ending was a “I have to end this and… meh.” Vampire Sestina- A vampire poem. The word blood is used. Ironically, the word suck is not. Mouse- What’s happening takes place in one paragraph near the end of the story. Everything else is exposition to that idea. Tastings- It’s sexually explitious! An erotic tale with a twist into supernatural fiction. Very well written. Babycakes- A story about eating babies… (sweet) Murder Mysteries- I waded through 292 pages to read this story! Snow, Glass, Apples- …I like the idea of holding her heart on the wall above the bed. (The short stories not mentioned are partiularly: MEH!)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lastik

    segundo recopilatorio que leo del autor y me ha gustado mucho más. Por la temática de los relatos más oscuros, más de ciencia ficción, más adultos...Pero todos con ese toque tan particular del autor. Seguro que muchos os sorprenderá u os hará ver la realidad de otra forma como me ha ocurrido con el último relato. Muy recomendable a lectores asiduos del autor. Más sobre mi opinión en la reseña del blog https://almalectora.blogspot.com/2017...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    "Stories are, in on way or another, mirrors. We use them to explain ourselves how the world works or how it doesn't work.Like mirrors, stories prepare us for the day to come. They distract us from the things in the darkness. Fantasy-and all fiction is fantasy of one kind or another-is a mirror. A distorting mirror, to be sure, and a concealing mirror, set at 45 degrees to reality, but it's a mirror nonetheless, which we can use to tell ourselves things we might not otherwise see." As always anot "Stories are, in on way or another, mirrors. We use them to explain ourselves how the world works or how it doesn't work.Like mirrors, stories prepare us for the day to come. They distract us from the things in the darkness. Fantasy-and all fiction is fantasy of one kind or another-is a mirror. A distorting mirror, to be sure, and a concealing mirror, set at 45 degrees to reality, but it's a mirror nonetheless, which we can use to tell ourselves things we might not otherwise see." As always another wonderful book by Neil Gaiman. A great collection of short stories and poems that are haunting, disturbing, and funny all at the same time in a way that only Neil Gaiman can deliver.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tally

    Short stories are like ice cream cones: they can be perfectly savored in one sitting. These ones in particular were deliciously entertaining. I have always loved Neil Gaiman's style (he is my favorite author, after all), and this collection is no different. It's an eclectic mix of oddities, wonders, spine-tinglers, and fairy tales turned upside down. Highly recommended, especially if you're in the mood for something short and sweet.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I just think I'm the wrong audience for this book. Some of the novellas I thought were okay and others I skimmed. Nothing really grabbed my attention to make me sit up and say, "Wow that was amazing". I'll bypass Gaiman's short stories in future and just continue reading his novels.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Serena.. Sery-ously?

    Hey, hi! Neil Gaiman speaking! I can write the best damn introductions ever.. Bye losers! Just kidding, I can write whatever the hell I want: name it, already done! I found some old friends (such as "Chivalry" or "Troll bridge".. Long time no see!) and discovered some new (I'm talking about you, "We can get them for you wholesale" and you, "Snow, glass, apples".. Hi! Nice meeting you!). Some stories are creepy as hell (there is a certain atmosphere, I don't even know how to explain!), while others Hey, hi! Neil Gaiman speaking! I can write the best damn introductions ever.. Bye losers! Just kidding, I can write whatever the hell I want: name it, already done! I found some old friends (such as "Chivalry" or "Troll bridge".. Long time no see!) and discovered some new (I'm talking about you, "We can get them for you wholesale" and you, "Snow, glass, apples".. Hi! Nice meeting you!). Some stories are creepy as hell (there is a certain atmosphere, I don't even know how to explain!), while others are pure genius; i think I didn't catch the meaning of some of them, but totally my bad :D

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

    Like in all story collections some stories are better, some are worse.In this case some stories where boring and alone I would rate them 1 star and some where 5 stars easily and reminded me why I consider Gaiman a deity. My overall impression is that Smoke and mirrors is enjoyable book but not among Gaiman's best.I would recommend it to people who read most of his "major" books and are looking for more, than definitively read this.If you haven't, read those first than return and if you are unfami Like in all story collections some stories are better, some are worse.In this case some stories where boring and alone I would rate them 1 star and some where 5 stars easily and reminded me why I consider Gaiman a deity. My overall impression is that Smoke and mirrors is enjoyable book but not among Gaiman's best.I would recommend it to people who read most of his "major" books and are looking for more, than definitively read this.If you haven't, read those first than return and if you are unfamiliar with Gaiman's work and you are just looking for short story collection, look elsewhere.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Luffy

    What a less than average writer! I don't see what the fuss about Gaiman! Maybe he's not the author for me but some of the glitches in his writing are universally recognized as disjointed, especially by my former English teacher. Smoke and mirrors got more than 4 stars on this site, and it's an outrageous score. There's simply just no perspective anymore. And I thought IMDB had bad scoring...live and learn, I suppose. One star.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Matt Garcia

    Interesting collection with a wide variety of stories. Horror, fantasy, science fiction, and other genres are present in this collection. Gaiman's imagination is unique and some of his stories have the ability to grab you and not let go until the end. A crisp, clean writing style and inventive premises make this an enjoyable collection. Some stories are exemplary while others fell flat. Overall, a worthwhile read from a truly talented writer who is not bound to any sort of genre limitation.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tamsien West (Babbling Books)

    Everything in this world casts a shadow, and I suspect Neil Gaiman looks deeper into the shadows than most of us will ever have the courage to. Smoke and Mirrors is a hugely varied collection of short stories in terms of length and subject matter, but there is a thread of delving into the shadow-world of half-seen things we fear that ties them all together. There are many reasons to read this book, but my reason is to discover the very best, and most disturbing Snow White retelling I have ever e Everything in this world casts a shadow, and I suspect Neil Gaiman looks deeper into the shadows than most of us will ever have the courage to. Smoke and Mirrors is a hugely varied collection of short stories in terms of length and subject matter, but there is a thread of delving into the shadow-world of half-seen things we fear that ties them all together. There are many reasons to read this book, but my reason is to discover the very best, and most disturbing Snow White retelling I have ever encountered. Gaiman opens the collection with an explanation of how each of the stories came to be, and where they were originally published, which was helpful in giving context to a couple of the more baffling stories. I found myself flipping back to the introduction before and after each story to refresh my understanding. If you're not the kind of person who reads introductions I suggest you make an exception and read this one, as there is a really creepy little short story hidden in it, title The Wedding Present. In the introduction Gaiman also explains the inspiration behind the title: "Stories are, in one way or another, mirrors. We use them to explain to ourselves how the world works or how it doesn't work. Like mirrors, stories prepare us for the day to come. They distract us from the things in the darkness." All short story collections have both memorable and forgettable moments, it's the nature of curating groups of stories. In this case I think some of the older and more experimental stories were less successful in my eyes, especially the verse poetry. But I suspect that this is more from personal preference than any real deficiency in the writing. Some of the stories that really stood out to me were: Chivalry: An elderly lady finds the Holy Grail in a secondhand store. It is one of the most touching and delightful short stories of Gaiman's I have ever read. There is something so very wholesome about it, though it is tinged with sadness. Nicholas Was: A truly disturbing Christmas tale in just 100 words. So incredibly vivid and playing on all the other traditions and stories about Christmas, Gaiman in just a few words points us towards a mirror and asks if we see just what we expected. I will never look at Santa Claus the same way again. Babycakes: Written for PETA this is by far the most disturbing and horrifying story in the collection. Which is saying something, as many of the stories are directly inspired by and reference classic Horror tales. Snow, Glass, Apples: Truly this is the best Snow White retelling I have ever read. Told from the perspective of Snow White's step mother it is once again like Gaiman is holding up a mirror to a familiar tale and pointing out that what we think we know if not the whole truth. I cannot get this interpretation out of my head, and I suspect it will haunt my memories of the story of Snow White forever. Gaiman views the world through a lens of accumulated genre fiction reading, and so do I. I suspect that is why I love his stories so much, why the way he twists the known and lifts the veil to show the spaces behind the things we think we know, appeals to me so much. His work isn't for everyone, but nothing ever is. Fellow fans of Gaiman will find a lot to love in this collection, and new readers are in for a shock.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jan Kadlec

    Oh. Oh oh oh. Na Gaimanovi je super, jak stírá hranice mezi realitou a fantastičnem. Je to přesně ten typ příběhů, který mě baví číst. Vím, že se to _nikdy_ nemůže stát - ale bylo by fajn, kdyby existovalo i něco víc než jen přízemní šeď běžného života. Ve Smoke and Mirrors jsem si připadal jak na horské dráze. Některé věci - Chivalry, Troll Bridge, Vampire Sestina, Snow Glass Apple - byly báječné. A do toho WTF v podobě Eaten. Co už.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Reynar Swan

    Gaiman is a a rare writer. He writes with obvious intelligence and pens his stories with heart and sometimes using a rather unique, unabashed look at humanity. Not every story in Smoke & Mirrors is a gem, but none of them fail to be entertaining and all are well-written. Those that are gems (the majority, btw) make this book of short stories a solid five-star experience.

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