Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

M Is for Magic

MagicM Is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

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Ever have those days where you put on an old jacket from last winter, and find a $20 bill in the pocket?  That’s how I felt when I first heard about M Is for Magic.  I didn’t know that Neil Gaiman had a new book coming out, much less that he had pulled a Ray Bradbury by picking some of his stories appropriate for younger audiences, and packaging them together under a new title.  Shoot, he even acknowledges Bradbury in the introduction and in “October in the Chair,” so it’s no surprise that he even adopted Bradbury’s old title format for the collection.  Bradbury had R Is for Rocket and S Is for Space, and now we’ve covered the Ms, as well.

So, the reality is that if you’re a hardcore Gaiman fanboy, then you’ve read most all of these stories.  There’s only one story here that’s an “exclusive” (“The Witch’s Headstone,” a wonderful romp that’s reminiscent of Jonathan Carroll’s early stuff), but I believe it’s going to see print in a future publication, anyway.   The good news is that this is a lot like a “greatest hits” for Gaiman.  “Chivalry,” possibly the best short work of fiction published last century, is there, as is “Troll Bridge” (which shows the darker side of growing up) and “The Price” (an even darker look at our pets and what they do for us), along with a newer “classic,” “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” (an odd science fiction story that probably owes a small debt to Harlan Ellison).

Like any short story collection, there are a few misses here, including “The Case of Four and Twenty Blackbirds,” but the premises and ideas behind the stories make up for what they lack in punch.  Even Neil Gaiman can’t be on all the time, but even when he’s just puttering along, there’s much more going on to keep your interest than just the presentation.  The story itself should keep you reading.  Besides, as I’ve mentioned before, mediocre Neil Gaiman is definitely better than the best of some other authors I’ve read.

So, there may not be anything new here, and it may not all represent the best stuff that Gaiman has written, but M Is for Magic is a great introduction to a wonderful author.  That it’s been released just in time for you to pick the collection up for the young reader in your family for Christmas isn’t, I doubt, a coincidence.  Besides, if you haven’t read “Chivalry” yet, then your life isn’t quite yet complete.

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October 17, 2007 Posted by | Juvenile Fiction, Reviews | Leave a comment

D.A.

DAD.A. by Connie Willis

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I adore Connie Willis.  The first book of hers I read was To Say Nothing of the Dog, and it was one of those books that I bought on impulse, thinking I would probably never read it.  It lingered on my shelf for several months before I finally took the plunge, and was pleasantly surprised with the story.  It was interesting, sweet, compelling, and tight, all with this sort of style that seemed effortless.  From that moment on, I was hooked.

D.A. is considered a novelette, but really, it’s a short story.  It’s 76 pages, with full-page illustrations and wide typespace with a larger-than-average font, and I finished the book in less than an hour.  Frankly, I don’t care; it’s a new Connie Willis story, and I’m all over that like cold on ice.  It’s been at least 6 years since Passage, and if all I can get between then and her next novel is a couple of short stories, I can deal with it.  My only issue is that Willis really shines when she’s given the length of time to really develop a plot and characters.  Both Inside Job and D.A. are good stories, with clever ideas, but are too short to really get a sense of her precision.   Plus, one of the aspects of her stories that I always enjoy — the romantic subplots — was entirely missing in this story.  It read more like a YA story, since it’s about a high-school girl who’s essentially kidnapped to participate on an elite space station, and there was no sense of a love interest in the story.  I suppose that’s fine, but that aspect of her previous stories lends it more into the realm of slapstick which, oddly, works perfectly well in her fiction.  I was disappointed to find it lacking in D.A.

Of course, like any of my favorite authors, Willis’ mediocre works are a far cry better than some of the best works by other authors, so this is a small criticism.  I wouldn’t recommend anyone start reading Connie Willis with this book (Bellwether or Doomsday Book are better starting points), but it’s a tasty appetizer to hold me over until she finishes her next novel.

October 3, 2007 Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews | Leave a comment