Neil Gaiman is a genius. I’ve never read anything of his I didn’t like, including Smoke and Mirrors. I’m not saying that I like this as much as Sandman or Gaiman’s various novels, but by and large the short stories in this book are great.
The book contains 31 short stories and poems—one of which is hidden (I won’t say where). As is usual with Gaiman’s writing, all of these stories are very strange. There’s a sort of futuristic Baywatch meets Beowulf. There are vampires, angels, and fox spirits. There’s even a warped version of Santa Claus.
My favorite stories have got to be “Snow, Glass, Apples,” “The Sweeper of Dreams,” and “Murder Mysteries.” “Snow, Glass, Apples” is a vampiric version of “Snow White.” “The Sweeper of Dreams” could have almost walked out of Sandman. ”Murder Mysteries” is—not surprisingly—a murder mystery; only it’s set in the Silver City, where God and the angels created the universe.
Not all of the stories were superb. I really didn’t like the Lovecraft pastiches, “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” and “Only the End of the World Again.” I was also rather bored by the Baywatch/Beowulf story, “Bay Wolf.” Oddly enough, two of these stories feature Larry Talbot, the original Wolf Man.
Still, despite a few unsatisfactory stories, I give Smoke and Mirrors 4.5 out of 5 goldfish. Up next was going to be Flight to Thlessa Mey, but that’s been kind of boring, so I switched to a Science Fiction Book Club omnibus called Garret Investigates.