Monday, September 5, 2011

Fragile Things

Title: Fragile Things
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2006

Recommendation: A great anthology with a variety of stories - something for everyone.
Rating: 8.5/10

Summary: This is a collection of short stories and poems written by Neil Gaiman throughout his career.

Reactions: I am not generally a huge reader of anthologies. The ones I've previously tried tend to be of variable quality and interest to me. And since the stories are not tied together, there's a great likelihood of me finishing a story I didn't enjoy and then just not picking up the book again. Surprisingly, this was not the case with Fragile Things. I just kept wanting to come back for more stories, and the overall quality of this collection is amazing. While, I've already enjoyed Gaiman's works before, I think I've gained new respect for him as an author. The breadth and the depth of the stories in this collection is astonishing and I enjoyed pretty much every single one of them.

Nevertheless, there are several stories that really stood out for me in this collection. The first one is also the first story in the collection, titled A Study in Emerald. It's an alternative Sherlock Holmes story in a mystically changed England, which I found very cleverly done and just as much fun to read as the original Conan Doyle stories. Though I suppose, someone who is not familiar with the original material would miss half the fun in the story.

My next favorite story in the collection is Bitter Grounds. It's one of those stories where mysterious things happen and they stay pretty unexplained, but the real focus of the story is the main character. It follows a man who, after having his heart broken, leaves the town and travels across the country until he gets accidentally involved in the life of an anthropology professor traveling to a conference in New Orleans. The whole atmosphere of the town, the mystical things that happen, and the community is very well done and lead to a poignant ending. Certainly a very well-crafted story.

Another story I enjoyed a lot was Goliath, which is a story based on the premise of the movie Matrix. I read the story and enjoyed the references quite a bit without knowing that they were quite intentional and apparently the story appeared in the promotional materials for the movie right before it was released. I am not even sure what it is that attracts me to the story so much since it's probably the least unique of the bunch, but in some ways it's just a lot of fun to mess with time in a story and this is a good example of that.

There are many more stories in the collection and most of them are interesting, evocative and clever. On top of it, there is an introduction to the book which tells about how each of the stories came to be and provides other tidbits about the story. I would read each story and then flip to the introduction to see more information about it, which surprisingly enhances the reading experience and sometime explains why the story is told the way it is.

All in all, this is a top notch collection and one I would recommend without any hesitation. There's a wide variety of stories -- mysteries, horror, personal accounts, fairy tales, stories about relationships, sex, crime, and afterlife. You will be impressed.


  1. I tend to prefer his short stories to his novels, and he is ridiculously prolific as a short story writer. So if you like this one, there are many other collections out there of his you'll probably enjoy as well.

    I haven't read this particular collection but I'll keep and eye out for it. I don't know that I've ever read anything of his that was truly science fiction, but I have such a broad definition of fantasy I've probably made allowances and didn't even know it.

  2. I will probably pick up another collection of his at some point, but for now I've had enough short stories. Time to read something a bit longer :)

    I am also not actually sure why I put science fiction as the genre. Thinking about it, the anthology is a lot closer to fantasy than science fiction. I actually think a lot of the stories could be considered light horror.

  3. Smoke and Mirrors is another excellent short story collection of his. Angels and Visitations is good as well, though there are a few crossover stories.

    Your timing cracks me up. Did you know a bunch of us are group reading this book right now? I just posted my thoughts on the first 4 stories a couple of days ago. If you have time and the inclination it would be great to have you chime in.

    Chad is so right, Gaiman is a very prolific short story writer. I would think, just based on the number of books that I've seen stories in over the last couple of years, that he would be putting out another collection sometime soon. I wish he would, its been too long since he put anything out.

  4. It's great timing and completely coincidental too! It's really fun to follow your group read now that I've just freshly read the stories. I am already learning something new. I knew the Sherlock Holmes references in A Study in Emerald, but had no idea that the other part was coming from Lovecraft stories (though I've heard of cthulu before). I still enjoyed the story immensely though. Really looking forward to your other posts.

  5. Great, I look forward thoughts on some of the other stories.