Excerpt provided by Syndetics
<anon I1="BLANK" I2="BLANK">Fragile Things Chapter One A Study in Emerald I. The New Friend Fresh from Their Stupendous European Tour, where they performed before several of the crowned heads of Europe, garnering their plaudits and praise with magnificent dramatic performances , combining both comedy and tragedy, the Strand Players wish to make it known that they shall be appearing at the Royal Court Theatre, Drury Lane, for a limited engagement in April, at which they will present My Look Alike Brother Tom!, The Littlest Violet Seller and The Great Old Ones Come (this last an Historical Epic of Pageantry and Delight); each an entire play in one act! Tickets are available now from the Box Office. It is the immensity, I believe. The hugeness of things below. The darkness of dreams. But I am woolgathering. Forgive me. I am not a literary man. I had been in need of lodgings. That was how I met him. I wanted someone to share the cost of rooms with me. We were introduced by a mutual acquaintance, in the chemical laboratories of St. Bart's. "You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive," that was what he said to me, and my mouth fell open and my eyes opened very wide. "Astonishing," I said. "Not really," said the stranger in the white lab coat, who was to become my friend. "From the way you hold your arm, I see you have been wounded, and in a particular way. You have a deep tan. You also have a military bearing, and there are few enough places in the Empire that a military man can be both tanned and, given the nature of the injury to your shoulder and the traditions of the Afghan cave folk, tortured." Put like that, of course, it was absurdly simple. But then, it always was. I had been tanned nut brown. And I had indeed, as he had observed, been tortured. The gods and men of Afghanistan were savages, unwilling to be ruled from Whitehall or from Berlin or even from Moscow, and unprepared to see reason. I had been sent into those hills, attached to the--th Regiment. As long as the fighting remained in the hills and mountains, we fought on an equal footing. When the skirmishes descended into the caves and the darkness then we found ourselves, as it were, out of our depth and in over our heads. I shall not forget the mirrored surface of the underground lake, nor the thing that emerged from the lake, its eyes opening and closing, and the singing whispers that accompanied it as it rose, wreathing their way about it like the buzzing of flies bigger than worlds. That I survived was a miracle, but survive I did, and I returned to England with my nerves in shreds and tatters. The place that leech like mouth had touched me was tattooed forever, frog white, into the skin of my now withered shoulder. I had once been a crack shot. Now I had nothing, save a fear of the world beneath the world akin to panic, which meant that I would gladly pay sixpence of my army pension for a Hansom cab rather than a penny to travel underground. Still, the fogs and darknesses of London comforted me, took me in. I had lost my first lodgings because I screamed in the night. I had been in Afghanistan; I was there no longer. "I scream in the night," I told him. "I have been told that I snore," he said. "Also I keep irregular hours, and I often use the mantelpiece for target practice. I will need the sitting room to meet clients. I am selfish, private, and easily bored. Will this be a problem?" I smiled, and I shook my head, and extended my hand. We shook on it. The rooms he had found for us, in Baker Street, were more than adequate for two bachelors. I bore in mind all my friend had said about his desire for privacy, and I forbore from asking what it was he did for a living. Still, there was much to pique my curiosity. Visitors would arrive at all hours, and when they did I would leave the sitting room and repair to my bedroom, pondering what they could have in common with my friend: the pale woman with one eye bone white, the small man who looked like a commercial traveler, the portly dandy in his velvet jacket, and the rest. Some were frequent visitors, many others came only once, spoke to him, and left, looking troubled or looking satisfied. He was a mystery to me. We were partaking of one of our landlady's magnificent breakfasts one morning, when my friend rang the bell to summon that good lady. "There will be a gentleman joining us, in about four minutes," he said. "We will need another place at table." "Very good," she said, "I'll put more sausages under the grill." My friend returned to perusing his morning paper. I waited for an explanation with growing impatience. Finally, I could stand it no longer. "I don't understand. How could you know that in four minutes we would be receiving a visitor? There was no telegram, no message of any kind." He smiled, thinly. "You did not hear the clatter of a brougham several minutes ago? It slowed as it passed us--obviously as the driver identified our door, then it sped up and went past, up into the Marylebone Road. There is a crush of carriages and taxicabs letting off passengers at the railway station and at the waxworks, and it is in that crush that anyone wishing to alight without being observed will go. The walk from there to here is but four minutes. . . ." He glanced at his pocket watch, and as he did so I heard a tread on the stairs outside. "Come in, Lestrade," he called. "The door is ajar, and your sausages are just coming out from under the grill." Fragile Things . Copyright Â© by Neil Gaiman . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.</anon>
Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
An alternate Victorian England. Months of the Year sitting around chatting. These are some of the ideas firing the 25-plus stories in Gaiman's new collection. With a one-day laydown on September 26. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Hot off the critical success of Anansi Boys, Gaiman offers this largely disappointing medley that feels like a collection of idea seeds that have yet to mature. Among the ground covered: an old woman eats her cat alive, slowly; two teenage boys fumble through a house party attended by preternaturally attractive aliens; a raven convinces a writer attempting realism to give way to fantastical inclinations. A few poems, heartfelt or playfully musical, pockmark the collection. At his best, Gaiman has a deft touch for surprise and inventiveness, and there are inspired moments, including one story that brings the months of the year to life and imagines them having a board meeting. (September is an "elegant creature of mock solicitude," while April is sensitive but cruel; they don't get along), but most of these stories rely too heavily on the stock-in-trade of horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Gaiman only once or twice gives himself the space necessary to lock the reader's attention.150,000 announced first printing. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Adult/High School-In this collection of stories (and a few poems), storytellers and the act of storytelling have prominent roles. The anthropomorphized months of the year swap tales at their annual board meeting: a half-eaten man recounts how he made the acquaintance of his beloved cannibal; and even Scheherazade, surely the greatest storyteller of all, receives a tribute with a poem. The stories are by turns horrifying and fanciful, often blending the two with a little sex, violence, and humor. An introduction offers the genesis of each selection, itself a stealthy way of initiating teens into the art of writing short stories, and to some of the important authors of the genre. Gaiman cites his influences, and readers may readily see the inflection of H. P. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury in many of the tales. Horror and fantasy are forms of literature wrought with clich?s, but Gaiman usually comes up with an interesting new angle. This collection is more poetic and more restrained than Stephen King's short stories and more expertly written than China Mieville's Looking for Jake (Ballantine, 2005). Gaiman skips along the edge of many adolescent fascinations-life, death, the living dead, and the occult-and teens with a taste for the weird will enjoy this book.-Emma Coleman, Berkeley Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Like the first and second, Gaiman's third collection of unillustrated short pieces (he has comics collections in his portfolio, too) showcases a particular facet of his talent. Smoke and Mirrors0 (1998) effervesced with his jovial parody of fairy tales, Raymond Carver, monster movies, Beowulf0 , and even Bay Watch0 . Adven0 tures in the Dream Trade0 (2002) collects various kinds of memoirs on being a professional fantasist. Parody--in the alternate-world Sherlock Holmes pastiche, "A Study in Emerald," and an imaginary last book of the Bible--and memoir (two reprints from Adventures0 and at least one story, "Closing Time," that Gaiman admits is full of real persons and events) also figure in this book, but most of the contents, including the memory pieces, exude the romanticism, often erotic, that makes his first two novels, Neverwhere0 (1997) and Stardust0 (1998), for all their darkness and grit, so powerfully attractive. Many are love stories, ranging in tone from the lowering super-noir of "Keepsakes and Treasures," in which a multibillionaire, abetted by the genius-sociopath narrator, finds and loses his particular beau ideal0 ; to the sf-tinged horror of "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," in which two randy teens crash the wrong bash; to the love-conquers-all rapture of the poem "The Day the Saucers Came"; to the movingly sad triumph over time in the flat-out sf entry, "Goliath." Less loverly but lovelier are such archromantic tidbits as 15 tiny stories for cards from "a vampire tarot," the council of the personified months in "October in the Chair," the bittersweet shape-shifting of the commedia dell'arte-derived "Harlequin Valentine," and all the other poems. One delight after another, 31 in all, with a thirty-second tucked into the author's introduction. --Ray Olson Copyright 2006 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Neo-Goth-Pulp-Noir has pretty much been trademarked by Gaiman (Anansi Boys, 2005, etc.), and these 31 jagged slices of life and the afterlife dependably deliver the damaged goods: zombies, dream-haunted kiddies, femmes fatale and fiends. Reprising his role from American Gods (2001) as ex-con, taciturn hunk, superhero and reincarnation of the Norse god Baldur, Shadow shakes things up in "The Monarch of the Glen," battling a primeval beastie and romancing a woodland nymph in the unlikely setting of a tycoon's get-together on the Scottish heath. "Good Boys Deserve Favours" highlights a lonely lad's moony passion for his double bass. "Strange Little Girls," penned to accompany a Tori Amos CD, catalogues the Eternal Feminine from showgirls to Holocaust victims to la belle dame sans merci. "October in the Chair" whimsically features the months as characters. "A Study in Emerald" offers smart, nifty homage to Conan Doyle. In "Harlequin Valentine," Missy the waitress chows down lovingly on the heart of the motley-clad acrobat of the commedia dell'arte, but even that grisly feast is rendered with swooning lyricism. Gaiman again proves himself a perverse romantic, heir not only to Poe and Baudelaire but to the breathless Pre-Raphaelites. (The poetry he includes here, for example, is generally less creepy than drippy.) He wears his pop cred in boldface, and street-smart hipness saturates these eerie epiphanies. But the collection also boasts lush prose, a lack of irony and a winning faith in the enchantment of stories. Expect the unexpected. Then savor the luscious chills. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.