My adventures in short story reading continue, and I’ve reached the point where I’m convinced they aren’t for me. Not even the glorious, melodious Neil Gaiman reading his own collection, M is for Magic, to me could do the trick. I appear to be broken in some way.
That’s not to say that there aren’t good stories in this collection. There are several that are quite good, just not good enough to round the collections overall rating up from a 3 star. The stories in this collection rely heavily on source material and don’t often grow beyond them. Sometimes a great idea doesn’t need to, the riff is enough. But sometimes the reader is left wanting. There are eleven stories contained in M is for Magic (all previously published elsewhere) and they span Gaiman’s career from the 1980s to the 2000s. Let’s discuss:
“The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds” – is a strong start to the series, a hardboiled whodunit featuring storybook characters. The best kind of riff.
“Troll Bridge” – tale of growing up and making choices, some of which lead to the troll bridge. I enjoyed the beginning of this one, but the end petered out for me.
“Don’t Ask Jack” – a story with no point. Moody and atmospheric, but leading nowhere.
“How to Sell the Ponti Bridge” – is a story of a con-man telling other con-men his greatest caper. It is one of Gaiman’s earliest works, and it age shows. There are lots of meandering bits which took away from the overall effect.
“October in the Chair”- an interesting idea, but with a slightly lackluster payoff. What if the months of the year were people who gathered around a fire to tell tales of their experiences? Gaiman excels at building out the personalities of each month, and the story October shares has its moments, but it just didn’t hold my attention.
“Chivalry” – this one was just a kooky bit of fun. A widowed woman finds the Holy Grail at a shop and brings it home. But, Galahad needs to retrieve the Grail and attempts to offer her all sorts of things in exchange. Probably my favorite of the collection.
“The Price” – another very good story. The pacing of this one is perhaps its greatest strength. A cat protects a family – so simple yet expertly executed.
“How to Talk to Girls at Parties” This one was so strange. Girls are aliens, literally.
“Sunbird” I was not as impressed with this one since I put the pieces together very quickly and just waited for the end to arrive. Your mileage may vary.
“The Witch’s Headstone” was too long. TOO LONG. I mean sure, it was very entertaining. But did I mention that it was too long?
“Instructions” was short and sweet.
This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.