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Neil Gaiman – Fragile ThingsI’m not even going to attempt to count and classify the books and stories which bear Neil Gaiman’s name by now. He has been prolific, he has been successful, his stories have been translated, transformed into films, have spawned meta-fiction, and meanwhile span a huge range of topics, genres, and styles. My favourite is still the Sandman series of graphic novels, with his American Gods novel running a close second, but that’s just me; you are welcome to have your own favourites amongst his oevre. His latest book, ‘Fortunately the Milk’, is just out in Hardback on Bloomsbury Childrens.

 

Fragile Things is one of (see above) many collections published by Neil over the years. In his introduction he expands on the history of the collection, as well as the meaning behind the title. You see, initially this was planned to be a cycle of 12 specifically written, topically linked short stories, ie some concept album kind of short story collection. So much for plans – what it turned out to be is a ‘normal’ collection of previously published stories, interspersed with some poetry (of varying quality, I felt). Not that that’s a bad thing, mind, all the more so if you can decorate your collection with a Hugo and several Locus award winners…

Anyway, at the front of the book we get a short run-through of the stories in the book, with background on their conception, their writing, their history and meaning to the author; plus an extra, extra-short story. I found myself referring back to this section whilst reading, as, for most of the content, this information adds something extra, and changed the way I looked at some of the stories.

 

Below are a few words on some of the more unusual, stand-out stories in the book:

 

Study in Emerald

A Sherlock Holmes vs H.P. Lovecraft mash-up; the Old Ones have arrived, and are in charge – we know them as Royalty…  This is a nifty and clever piece, and worthy of the award it received.

 

Bitter Grounds

A disorienting, drifting, slightly disturbing trip down the rabbit hole of attraction towards non-being.

 

Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire

Deliciously titled, and apparently that’s the shortened version of the title. A fun reversal of a story, to boot.

 

Goliath

This is a Matrix tie-in, and was part of the pre-release PR effort. I do not expect it to be canon, though…

 

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

One of those short stories which offer you a glimpse at a story, at a world, a universe, which you want to know more of, want to get into – and then simply stops, leaving you begging for more. It’s a story of two boys gatecrashing a party of exchange students – who turn out to be from other planets/solar systems/races (albeit all look like young Earth girls here whilst they are in their placements).

 

The Day the Saucers Came

A classic short poem, which has had multiple multimedia and graphic treatments. I especially like Jouni Koponen’s illustrated version, which you can buy here.

 

 

The Monarch of the Glen

An American Gods novella, and a rather good one, too – with added Wickerman and Beowulf references… it was good to meet Shadow again!

 

 

Overall a very solid collection, as I would expect from someone with Neil’s pedigree. Not a must-read, but a potential starting point for new readers (should there be any left) - enjoyable, and definitely more than simply for fans and completists.

 

 

More Neil Gaiman

 

Title: Fragile Things

Author: Neil Gaiman

Reviewer: Markus

Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net

Publisher:  Headline/Review

Publisher URL: http://www.reviewbooks.co.uk

Publication Date: 2006

Review Date: 131025

ISBN: 9780755334148

Price: UKP 7.99

Pages: 433

Format: Trade PB

Topic: Short Stories

Topic: Speculative Fiction

 

Peter Watts – Maelstrom

 

Thomas Pynchon - Slow Learner

 

S.P. Somtow – I Wake from a Dream of a Drowned Star City

 

Iain Sinclair - Radon Daughters

 

Lavie Tidhar - Central Station

 

Doris Lessing – The Sirian Experiments

 

Thomas Pynchon – Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Ian Sales – Adrift on the Sea of Rains

 

Peter Watts - Blindsight


Andy Weir - The Martian

 

Ken MacLeod - Cosmonaut Keep

 

Doris Lessing - Shikasta

 

Liz Williams - Empire of Bones

 

Charles Stross - The Atrocity Archives

 

Somtow Sucharitul – Starship & Haiku

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