Title: Fragile Things
Publisher: Hodder Headline
Blurb: Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire. Of after-hours drinking and unanswered phones, of good deeds and bad days, of trusting wolves and how to talk to girls There are stories within stories, whispered in the quiet of the night, shouted above the roar of the day, and played out between lovers and enemies, strangers and friends. But all, all are fragile things made of just 26 letters arranged and rearranged to form tales and imaginings which will dazzle your senses, haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul.
Although I normally enjoy reading short stories, especially Neil Gaiman because he IS a genius, I had trouble with this book. It seemed to much like an imitation of "Smoke and Mirrors" to me, I would have expected Gaiman to come up with something entirely different for his second collection of short stories - I must confess, I'm actually disappointed.
Once again the individual texts for every short story or poem in the introduction is nice, I like knowing where this and that thought came from and the author's opinion on his own work, but with "Smoke and Mirrors" already covering that it seemed a little lush to me - there even was another short story hidden in the intrdroduction, just like the one in the first collection, only that it seemed to me like it was just thrown in there without any special meaning, not like "The Wedding Present".
I also really missed the poems in this book. I loved them in "Smoke and Mirrors" and I like the few ones in "Fragile Things", but they didn't set me in the right mood - remembering the story about the fox or "Babycakes" I still feel the slightly eerie or throughoutly horrifying atmosphere they conjured and none of the poems in this book ever made me feel that way. But that wasn't just the poems - the whole book seemed to be missing this atmosphere and that's been the thing capturing me in "Smoke and Mirrors"... Just thinking about the Snow White story.... uuuuh. If you want to know what I'm talking about go buy the book or read my review HERE.
But I'm not completely disappointed - there where a few stories that were rather good, even though I didn't find anything remotely comparable to the ones in the forerunner. Out of the 28 stories presented in this book, these are my favorites:
- A Study in Emerald is, without any doubt, one of the best attempts to combine fantastic phenomena with the pure logic of Sherlock Holmes - although it makes no sense at all I love it as I am sure every Sherlock-Holmes fan will.
- I recently developed a liking to ghost stories... or so it seems, because I really enjoyed reading Oktober in the Chair. In this story every month gets to tell one of his personal memories - anything that happens in the time he/she sits in the chair. I really like the idea and think it would be immensely interesting to read more of it.
- The same unexpected liking to ghost stories made me enjoy Closing Time where one of our narrators encounters three ghost children without him knowing anything about it... and we are kept in the dark, too, until a strange man connects the pieces.
- In Harlequin Valentine I finally found a story that gave me this feeling of eerieness I wanted from all of the stories in this collection - a harlequin presenting his heart to a girl on a valentines day which will take some unpleasant turns for him. Beautifully written.
- Instructions - this story is just what the title tells you. It contains all instructions on how to react when you find yourself in a fairytale squeezed together in a very sweet poem. While reading it I found myself struggling to find out what instruction resembled which fairytale, it was pretty amusing.
- The most brilliantly done piece in this book in my opinion is Goliath - if you know the movie "Matrix" you can think of some of its plot elements. It's pretty funny how somehow the system breaks down and you get stuck in a de-ja-vu sort of time-loop in a tube - and how they solve all of this in the end. I really enjoyed reading this.
- The last storie I recommend is another poem: Inventing Aladdin. I like the way Gaiman expresses his feelings about the way a story is born here, he even explains this in the introduction-piece concerning this story.