It’s difficult to pin Neil Gaiman down to a genre (he does horror, fantasy, folk tales and poetry equally well) or to a style of writing – he can be dreamlike, beautiful, brutally graphic, intensely intimate or epic in scale. He seems to have created a sub-genre all his own in the same way as Ray Bradbury, Terry Pratchett, or Clive Barker.
This collection, which veers towards the darker side of his oeuvre, is still eclectic, with only his smooth and sensual prose connecting the variety of tales.
There are twenty-four pieces here, a mix of prose and poetry, so I’ll mention only a few highlights.
Some pieces definitely fall into the horror genre, but they still vary hugely. The Thing About Cassandra is a layered rumination on artists’ relationships and responsibilities to their creations; My Last Landlady reads like a horror comic perhaps written by Robert Bloch in the 1960s; Click clack the Rattlebag is the kind of delicious little horror tale wicked uncles tell children; the contemporary and subtly creepy Feminine Endings could have been written by Ramsay Campbell.
His fantasy tales range through the personal (Jerusalem, The Man who forgot Ray Bradbury), the whimsical (And Weep, Like Alexander), and the grand (An Invocation of Incuriosity).
There are the kind of little snippets that Gaiman is so good at, and we get to meet Gaiman favourites Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, David Bowie, and Shadow, the laconic hero from American Gods who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
He treats us to a triptych of tales featuring Malificent, Sleeping Beauty and a grown-up feminist kick ass Snow White. And his Calendar of Tales, a short piece for each month of the year, is a perfect summation of his many talents.
A terrific collection, and another triumph from one of our finest authors.