Stories, Neil Gaiman informs in the introduction, are fragile things made up of 26 letters (more if you want to use phonetic symbols), ink and paper. They are illusions created by things that cannot last, but the best stories survive and transform. The stories within this volume are perhaps some of those best stories.
This collection contained many of Gaiman's most famous short stories. I want to write three quick reviews of some of the short stories. Including one which I previously read online and reviewed seperately
.A Study in Emerald
A re-read of A Study in Emerald proved highly enlightening as I was able to observe and analyse the technique used by Gaiman in creating the story. As previously mentioned his first paragraph verges close to plagiarism in how it replicates the feel of another Sherlock Holmes story [b:A Study in Scarlet|102868|A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1)|Arthur Conan Doyle|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348362236s/102868.jpg|1997473]. Yet only a foolish person would dare call this a work of plagiarism, rather it is a story which clearly references both Lovecraft and Doyle in a unique manner. That twist with having Moriarty and his accomplice be the heroes is fantastic.
It is a work of genius and a very clever short story in all its technical proficiency.Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire
This was a story which I didn't quite understand but I have an idea of what Gaiman was aiming at. I think his story was set in a macabre fantasy horror world with the author trying to write 'real life' fiction. Meaning he was actually writing gothic horror. And fantasy to him was writing about our real world.
If what I think is correct then it was a very clever story, speaking about the writer's art and about the connection between horror and reality. It was also a creepy story in the proper way a horror story should be!The Problem of Susan
This is one of Neil Gaiman's more famous stories and also a very controversial one. I liked some elements of it, for instance the technical aspect of the writing and the hint that the woman being interviewed was Susan. I also liked the suggestion that perhaps Susan was left behind for a purpose at that time in the Narnia books though I doubt I agree.
However what did not work where the sexual undertones and the analysis that Susan was left behind because of her growing sexuality which is what many people have criticised Lewis for. However I think that section of The last Battle personally is meant to be focused around the fact that Susan became focused on other things than Narnia. I think that Lewis merely phrased this concept awkwardly, in a way that makes it easy to see it as a sexist dig at Susan not being able to go to Narnia because she discovered boys and lipstick. Yet if you do a true analysis I think you'll notice that the grown up Lucy does go to Narnia in the end. Surely she would have discovered some kind of adult sexuality? Yet she remained true to Narnia. I also disliked the metaphor with the lion and the witch very much. I think Neil Gaiman's own personal ideology causes him to spite the religious message in the Narnia books and that it was rather apparent in his (I thought it was vulgar) portrayal of the witch and lion.Conclusion
On the whole most of the stories worked and the poems additionally added an extra level to this collection. It is certainly something every short story enthusiast and fantasy fan, let alone Neil Gaiman fan will want to read. Gaiman is one of the more versatile modern authors and his work is both bizarre, fascinating, reflective and full of literary reference. His humour shines through in subtle ways, making his work that little bit more charming. On the whole an easy four star rating and a collection to enjoy on any kind of day.