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Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman
Review by Drew Bittner
William Morrow Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0060515228
Date: 26 September, 2006 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The collection leads off with Hugo Winner "A Study in Emerald", wherein the writer (a military man recently returned from Afghanistan) forges a remarkable friendship with London's only consulting detective. Their adventure sets them against a dangerous terrorist and his accomplice, who conspire to kill the inhuman "royals" who rule mankind; this follows the rising of the Great Old Ones centuries past and the subsequent subjugation of the human race. Those readers familiar with either Sherlock Holmes or the Cthulu mythos will appreciate the craft that went into this particular tale.

Other entries include his sequel to American Gods, the adventures of Shadow in northern Scotland and his encounter with some of Gaiman's most nefarious characters. "Monarch of the Glen" is one of the book's foremost highlights and a treasure for fans of the aforementioned novel.

Among the other pieces included:

    Harlequin foolishly gives his heart to a would-be Columbine on Valentine's Day, only to realize the dangers of true love, in "Harlequin Valentine"
    A group of friends find that not is all as it seems at an underground circus in "The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch", especially when the entertainment carries away one of their number... and the rest are left wondering how to explain her disappearance
    The liner notes written for Tori Amos, "Strange Little Girls", are reproduced here, showcasing a fascinating array of women, their lives writ in minimalist brushstrokes
    A man learns he is ultimately disposable when his reality starts to unravel in "Goliath", a tale (Gaiman explains) written to help support a little film called The Matrix...
    In Locus Award-winner "October in the Chair", the months of the year congregate for a swapping of tales
There are many more, but no reader should be tipped off to all the tricks up Mr. Gaiman's sleeve. Suffice to say that his knack for lush description, sharp-edged dialogue and incisive endings is in top form. Gaiman remains one of modern fantasy's most thoughtful writers, a blend of Rod Serling, Thorne Smith and Ray Bradbury, perhaps filtered through smoky sunglasses and wrapped in a leather jacket.

Readers who have never sampled Gaiman's prodigious body of work could easily begin here; his short fiction is highly accessible and makes for wonderful readings aloud. If nothing else, it should inspire readers to continue into his novels and other story collections, as he continues to be one of the best fantasy writers working today.

Strongly recommended.

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