Tag Archives: short stories

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (unabridged audiobook read by the author): Haunting and atmospheric as usual; whenever I read any of Gaiman’s stories I immediately wish I could visit whatever location he describes. No matter how desolate or bland, he always manages to fill it with a sense of wonder and beauty. I wasn’t, however, quite so impressed with the story-poems, which struck me more like prose with awkwardly placed line breaks. I also wish I’d known so many of the stories would be from collections devoted to authors I’ve never read, such as H.P. Lovecraft. But that’s okay. Maybe someday, after I’ve read some of those stories, I’ll come back and reread these. Speaking of rereading, the final two stories, “Murder Mysteries” and “Snow, Glass, Apples”, I’d heard before on Two Plays for Voices. They’re much easier to follow in prose form. All in all, I think I prefer the other Gaiman I’ve read.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe

Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe: I have several overlapping collections of Poe, so I decided, once I’d finished reading them all, to put them all together in a single post here. I think by and large that I like Poe, but he seems to alternate between marvelous horror at his best and boring nonsense at his worst.

  • The Assignation – I couldn’t follow this one. What did the drowning child and the art aficionado have to do with one another?
  • The Balloon-Hoax – Wow. That was really boring.
  • The Bells – Fun to read aloud.
  • Berenice – Delightfully disturbing.
  • The Black Cat – Deliciously horrific.
  • The Cask of Amontillado – I think makes Poe so memorable is his vivid first-person accounts from the point of view of a killer.
  • A Descent into the Maelstrom – Not too memorable.
  • Diddling – A random essay on swindling.
  • The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar – Enjoyably bizarre.
  • The Fall of the House of Usher – Not as interesting as his others, but good atmosphere.
  • Hop-Frog – Um. What is this man’s obsession with orangutans?
  • The Imp of the Perverse – A strange little story on why we knowingly act not in our own interest – such as lying, procrastinating, drinking, and other things sure to get us into trouble – to explain a confession of murder.
  • Ligeia – Didn’t really go anywhere.
  • The Man That was Used Up – Silly, amusing, but ends a bit too abruptly.
  • The Masque of the Red Death – Meh. Weird for no reason and kind of boring.
  • Metzengerstein – I’m not sure I entirely understand what happened in this one.
  • MS. Found in a Bottle – Good suspense, but the ending confused me.
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue – A rather silly Holmes-esque mystery tale.
  • The Mystery of Marie Roget – Needlessly complicated and hard to follow. There’s a reason Holmes became famous and Dupin did not.
  • The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym – Some good bits, but I think I just don’t like maritime fiction.
  • The Pit and the Pendulum – A delightful tale of suspense.
  • The Purloined Letter – Not bad, but far too wordy.
  • The Raven – An old favorite. I love the contrast between the subject matter and the singsong cadence.
  • A Tale of the Ragged Mountains – Kind of weird. I’m not sure if I liked it or not.
  • The Tell-Tale Heart – Funnier than I’d remembered. One of my all-time favorites.
  • “Thou Art the Man” – Clever but very predictable.
  • William Wilson – Brilliant piece of horror.

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories by Tim Burton: This is a strange little volume of macabre stories, mostly told in verse, of children with unusual issues and the horrors that befall them. I suppose it’s supposed to be darkly humorous, but I found it just plain old weird. Though in the same vein as Edward Gorey, it’s not quite as clever. However, it’s not bad for a ten-minute read.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King

Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King: When reading King novels, I’ve often felt that the idea was good but the execution was too long and drawn out, and that in general his works would be better as short stories. So I picked up this collection of short stories and was less impressed than I’d hoped. Some of the tales were good, such as the title story, the first-person account of a man about to be autopsied alive, and the man who had been captured by terrorists, but I found most of the rest fairly forgettable. I guess I expected to be scared, at least a little bit. However, I’m not giving up just yet. I’ve been told by many King fans that his earlier stuff is best, so I’ll be on the look-out for a copy of Night Shift.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell: No matter what the book jacket claims, this is not a novel. It is a series of vaguely interconnected short stories spanning the globe and leaping around in time. A more studious reader may have found more synergy than I did – I have my suspicions regarding the relationships between, for instance, the narrator of “Mongolia,” His Serendipity, and the Zookeeper in “Night Train,” but they are only suspicions. Nothing is confirmed, nothing is clear. Summing up the plot is impossible, but here’s a taste: the book starts with a doomsday cult member awaiting the end of the world in Okinawa, trots back and forth across hundreds of years and thousands of miles, and finally meanders its way back to him at the very end.

A lot of people like books with open endings where you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen or, as in the case of this book, what the hell just happened. I personally prefer things to be at least tied up loosely. I like to know how the characters are related, both to each other and to the overarching story, and there’s simply no hope of that for this story. Too many characters, too many details, not enough repetition for the slow kids like me to keep up.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this book. The characters were phenomenal. All so different and yet so three-dimensional, so real. There was a lot more dialogue in this book than I’m used to, to the point where I occasionally had to backtrack to figure out who was speaking, but in general the speech patterns were distinct enough that he said/she said weren’t strictly necessary. Also, the descriptions of life in the various locations were brief yet so concise I felt like I was there.

In the end, I believe this is a book that requires multiple reads to totally grasp. That is both high praise and harsh criticism. If you like your fiction to be a total mind trip, then Ghostwritten is for you. If you prefer something a wee bit less convoluted, I’d recommend skipping this one.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Gates of Eden by Ethan Coen

With Gates of Eden, Ethan Coen has proven himself a true wordsmith. His prose is witty, starkly realistic, and often beautiful. His plots, on the other hand, are quite lacking. This is more a matter of personal taste, but I prefer stories in which something actually happens. Too many of the stories merely stopped after assorted description, rather than providing an actual ending or at least a feeling of purpose to the story (often I was left thinking, “So why did he think that story was worth retelling?” or “Where was he going with that?”). I also got tired of feeling like I was hearing everything secondhand. Even the stories that were not in first person left me feeling like somebody was telling me the story, rather than truly experiencing the events or connecting at all with the characters. I’m glad I read this, but I think I’ll stick to Coen films from now on.

Originally posted on Bookcrossing.

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