Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fragile Things - Neil Gaiman

A collection of short stories, a follow up to Smoke and Mirrors, by acclaimed Fantasy author Neil Gaiman. I won’t go through each story, just the ones that I particularly enjoyed. The first was A Study in Emerald that matches Sherlock Holmes with Cthulhu myths. Everything is twisted around in this excellent detective story. How to talk to Girls at Parties was a fun look at what happens when two human teenagers stumble into a party filled withwomen not quite of this world. Teenage angst with a sci fi twist.

The Problem of Susan is a tale I had often wondered about myself and it was interesting to read Gaiman’s take on what happened to Susan after the events of The Last Battle. She isn’t taken by Aslan as she is too into fashion and make-up. Harlequin Valentine was another dark and fun tale looking at love and is included in a Lisa Snellings-Clark book inspired by her artwork. The final tale is a novella which catches up with Shadow after American Gods finishes. American Gods is my favourite Gaiman book and it was a lot of fun catching up with him again. A strange tale, but one that will stick in my mind for some time to come.

There were a couple of stories I had read before in other collections, but for the most part they were all new to me. I read Smoke and Mirrors about 8 years ago and I don’t remember enjoying it as much as this set. There were a couple I didn’t take to, but overall a fun and freaky read. Everything you would expect from Gaiman.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Elementals - AS Byatt

This was my first collection by AS Byatt. It is a collection of six short stories and it is subtitled "Tales of Fire and Ice". They all have fantasy and fairy tale elements to them although "Cold" is the most traditionally fairy tale. It was also my favourite by far in the book. It follows a princess, the youngest child of the king and queen. She is loved by all but isn't very emotional and is often tired and sleepy. One day it snows and she finally comes alive and discovers one of her ancestors was a woman from the cold north lands. Her father wants her to marry (ideally from the North so she can be happy in the cold), but she chooses a man from the desert hotlands. She travels with him but begins to wane until her husband finds a compromise. It was beautifully told and mixed fantastical with cruel. It will definitely stick with me for a long time to come.

The other stories that stood out were "A Lamia in the Cvennes" and "Christ in the House of Martha and Mary". These were about a man who paints a lamia who lives in his swimming pool but tries to get out of marrying her once the painting is done. Christ is about two models who stood for Velsquez as Martha and Mary and where their lives have taken them since.

Unfortunately I wasn't so keen on the other three in the collection. They were a little dull and dragged. The three I did like more than made up for their lacking and as I said, Cold will stay with me a long time. From doing a search online it looks like this isn't the best introduction to Byatt's writing and I know I will be reading more by her in the future.