First thing, this is Neil Gaiman so my bias is about to get very obvious.
Second thing, does anyone even review anthologies? Google says yes. I plunge ahead.
Gaiman published Fragile Things back in 2006, his third short story collection. (I have only read two and he has written five. Prolific authors are very expensive to be in love with). Most of the stories were printed elsewhere previously and some of them won their fair share of awards.
The introduction explains the background behind every story, their genesis, a theme Gaiman explains in more detail with Inventing Aladdin where he deconstructs the story of Scheherazade. This book took longer than usual to read because I kept flipping back and forth between the introductory explanations all the way at the front and whichever story I was reading at the time.
I’m really stalling until I can write something resembling a coherent review instead of just fangirl oohs and ahhs punctuated by superlatives.
From the introduction and this list on Wikipedia, the book sounds like a motley crew of stories and characters who just never had anywhere else to fit in. Gaiman mentions that he belaboured a bit on the order but I (in my infinite obliviousness) haven’t been able to see an overt movement of themes of structures.
There are scattered poems and outtakes, short short stories and long short stories. There is dark fantasy and light fantasy and children’s books are dealt with with a firm hand.
Hang on, I should probably be writing about the actual stories.
For the record, they were all good. Gaiman has the enviable twin talents of having a story to tell and being able to tell it with panache. But there were a few I didn’t like, and I’ll focus on those because that list is just way shorter. Trust me.
I didn’t like most of the poems – unfortunately. Either they were dealing with subject matter unfamiliar to me and I just couldn’t connect (Going Wodwo), or they just didn’t sit well. I’m picky with my poetry though.
I thought Good Boys Deserve Favours was a bit on the boring side and Strange Little Girls would probably make way more sense with the accompanying CD. The Fairy Reel (poem) fell sort of flat and The Flints of Memory Lane was (in Gaiman’s own words) unsatisfactory.
On the other hand, How Do You Think it Feels, Harlequin Valentine and Other People were shocking and disturbing (in a good way). The Problem of Susan was particularly poignant, Feeders and Eaters creeped me the hell out (again, in a good way) and Sunbird was just about the best birthday present anyone could ever ask for.
I am exceedingly partial to the American Gods novella, The Monarch of the Glen, because I love Shadow and missed him dearly. He definitely needs some lovin’ in real, well fictional, life though.
See how short the list of less-than-awesome was? I could go on forever about the ones I did like.
I really want to mention Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire because (1) WTF is that name and (2) I love the way he plays with Story here.
And I think this is already too long for a simple review so I’ll just stop myself from going on like the sock monkey in My Life. (I don’t even need alcohol).