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Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wondersby Neil Gaiman
Fantasy author Gaiman is at his best in this short story collection, which contains an embarrassing riches of storytelling that is at times dark, funny, terrifying, beautiful, and always brilliant.
Synopses & Reviews
A mysterious circus terrifies an audience for one extraordinary performance before disappearing into the night, taking one of the spectators along with it...
In a novella set two years after the events of American Gods, Shadow pays a visit to an ancient Scottish mansion, and finds himself trapped in a game of murder and monsters...
In a Hugo Award-winning short story set in a strangely altered Victorian England, the great detective Sherlock Holmes must solve a most unsettling royal murder...
Two teenage boys crash a party and meet the girls of their dreams — and nightmares...
In a Locus Award-winning tale, the members of an excusive epicurean club lament that they've eaten everything that can be eaten, with the exception of a legendary, rare, and exceedingly dangerous Egyptian bird...
Such marvelous creations and more — including a short story set in the world of The Matrix, and others set in the worlds of gothic fiction and children's fiction — can be found in this extraordinary collection, which showcases Neil Gaiman's storytelling brilliance as well as his terrifyingly entertaining dark sense of humor. By turns delightful, disturbing, and diverting, Fragile Things is a gift of literary enchantment from one of the most unique writers of our time.
"Hot off the critical success of Anansi Boys, Gaiman offers this largely disappointing medley that feels like a collection of idea seeds that have yet to mature. Among the ground covered: an old woman eats her cat alive, slowly; two teenage boys fumble through a house party attended by preternaturally attractive aliens; a raven convinces a writer attempting realism to give way to fantastical inclinations. A few poems, heartfelt or playfully musical, pockmark the collection. At his best, Gaiman has a deft touch for surprise and inventiveness, and there are inspired moments, including one story that brings the months of the year to life and imagines them having a board meeting. (September is an 'elegant creature of mock solicitude,' while April is sensitive but cruel; they don't get along), but most of these stories rely too heavily on the stock-in-trade of horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Gaiman only once or twice gives himself the space necessary to lock the reader's attention. 150,000 announced first printing." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"You've maybe heard some academic theory about how fairy tales weren't composed by any single author, that they somehow knitted themselves out of folk-consciousness. Baloney. To be sure, the tales might have been improved here and there over the years. But if you want to know the kind of person who would have made up the prototype classic fairy tale or even those urban folk tales doing the rounds,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) it would be someone like Neil Gaiman. He's a one-man story engine. He could fall out of a tree, reach for a passing branch and land with a fable in his hand. If you dusted him down and turned out his pockets, you'd find three fresh yarns and a horse chestnut. Puckish, restless, Gaiman moves across all available media. After making a name for himself with the miraculous 'Sandman' series in the world of the graphic novel (Norman Mailer referred to his work as 'a comic strip for intellectuals'), he has turned his hand to novels, short stories, film scripts, children's stories, poetry and numerous collaborations. His new collection, 'Fragile Things,' is a delightful compendium rather than a straightforward story collection, but it's a fine sample of the author's versatility. Gaiman writes in different registers: comedy, satire, pastiche, deadpan, lyrical or whimsical, but almost invariably dark. It all depends on whichever sooty, fantastic spirit drops down the chimney of his Minneapolis writing room on any given day. In fact, part of the fun of Gaiman's writing is in recognizing the nods and winks to the antecedents in the fantasy tradition, and a lengthy introduction is given over to notes on the background to each of the stories. Most were commissioned over the past 10 years for various anthologies. While some of the references might be elusive to readers unfamiliar with the dark genres, for those who tread that ground, the introduction is a bonus tour of the fertile orchard of this unique author's mind: a hybrid Sherlock Holmes/H.P. Lovecraft story; an M.R. James/Robert Aickman-inspired tale; a story triggered by the artwork of Frank Frazetta; an argument with C.S. Lewis. All the influences and precursors are laid bare, and the introduction reveals both the original plan for the story and the (usually inevitable) departure from that plan. Gaiman's talents and interests lend themselves — perfectly, in fact — to the short form, and there are gems in this collection. Ever felt a shot of sympathy for poor Susan, banished from heaven in the Narnia Chronicles for being 'too fond of lipsticks and nylons and invitations to parties'? Here is an exploration of the elderly Susan's last moments, created out of dissatisfaction with Lewis' priggish treatment of his female characters. Or if you're partial to the club story, then 'Closing Time' is a lovely addition to the species: The frame of the drinking-club cronies drops back into a nostalgic piece of Gothic gloaming as a lonely boy is drawn by three older lads into a mysterious garden. But what seduces you is Gaiman's conversational style, rippling with acute lines, such as, 'Being a boy, I was also a burglar of sorts.' These stories run from light-as-a-feather whimsy to the very dark and the deeply disturbing. 'How Do You Think It Feels' is a brilliantly unsettling piece about the act of choking back a broken heart, a fine study of emotional repression through recourse to the Fantastic. 'Feeders and Eaters,' with its clever setup and freak-out payoff, is not for the faint-hearted either. You just don't know what you are in for from one story to the next. One of the pleasures of Gaiman's stories is how often they announce that 'this is a true story' or that 'this happened to a friend,' though the book's introduction never confirms that any of these things actually happened. But you don't care because the story has already entered the chain of fairy/folk/urban tales, and the vulgar truth is merely academic. Ah, that Neil Gaiman. Oddly enough, the novelist William Gibson described him as 'an American treasure.' He's not. Though he is indeed a national treasure, he's a British one. The Brits would quite like him back, please. Graham Joyce's most recent novel is 'The Limits of Enchantment.'" Reviewed by Graham Joyce, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Gaiman again proves himself a perverse romantic....He wears his pop cred in boldface, and street-smart hipness saturates these eerie epiphanies. But the collection also boasts lush prose, a lack of irony and a winning faith in the enchantment of stories." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"[These stories] exude the romanticism, often erotic, that makes [Gaiman's] first two novels, Neverwhere and Stardust, for all their darkness and grit, so powerfully attractive....One delight after another." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Gaiman follows no overarching theme, but that is what makes these stories charming, at times creepy, and good fun....
"[Gaiman] can't resist using many of the pieces as stages themselves, having deftly drawn characters tell strange, or sweet, or eerie, or heartfelt stories to others....[P]erhaps, Gaiman relishes the sacred act of telling stories even more than he does writing them." Entertainment Weekly
"The tales of Fragile Things are nibbles and bits of Gaiman's immensely satisfying inner landscape. They are fiercely playful and very grim, wisps of whimsy and wonder buoyed by the happy heart of a tragic poet." USA Today
"The form and content of the collection varies wildly from tale to tale...but nearly all of them show off Gaiman's consistent and considerable craft, along with his contagious enthusiasm for storytelling itself." Newsday
"Gaiman has fun playing with pop culture, fairy tales and fables, and even when the stories dissolve too easily, a sense of mischief separates him from some of his cliché-addicted peers in the genre." San Diego Union-Tribune
"The wide variety of selections shows Gaiman's influences and his amazing range as one of the world's most popular fantasy writers....I hope Gaiman has room on his shelf for a few more trophies. Readers will be hard-pressed to find a better collection this year." Rocky Mountain News
"There's not one piece of prose or poetry in Fragile Things that won't repay re-reading....
The author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Anansi Boys releases his second collection of short fiction. Fragile Things includes a novella featuring the hero of Gaiman's masterpiece, American Gods, and charts the terrain between life and death, perception and reality, darkness and light.
“A prodigiously imaginative collection.”
—New York Times Book Review, Editors Choice
“Dazzling tales from a master of the fantastic.”
Fragile Things is a sterling collection of exceptional tales from Neil Gaiman, multiple award-winning (the Hugo, Bram Stoker, Newberry, and Eisner Awards, to name just a few), #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Graveyard Book, Anansi Boys, Coraline, and the groundbreaking Sandman graphic novel series. A uniquely imaginative creator of wonders whose unique storytelling genius has been acclaimed by a host of literary luminaries from Norman Mailer to Stephen King, Gaimans astonishing powers are on glorious displays in Fragile Things. Enter and be amazed!
About the Author
Neil Gaiman is the critically acclaimed, award-winning creator of the Sandman series of graphic novels and author of the novels Anansi Boys, American Gods, Coraline, Stardust, and Neverwhere, the short-fiction collection Smoke and Mirrors, and the bestselling children's books The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish and The Wolves in the Walls (both illustrated by Dave McKean). Originally from England, Gaiman now lives in the United States.
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