Neil Gaiman is someone I’ve been working with since 1988, not continuously, but regularly. I love his writing, and he’s a friend, so this is hardly an unbiased review, more a report on favorites.
When I was young, I read lots of short stories, including the entire contents of several monthly science fiction/fantasy magazines. At some point my interest drifted away to longer stories, and even in a collection like this, I find the longer ones tend to appeal to me more. There’s room to care about the characters, and the longer stories tend to be deeper. I had already read “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains…” and loved it, and I think it’s still my favorite of all the stories here. It has the full flavor of myth, in that it doesn’t feel made up, but reported as truth. Very powerful.
“The Case of Death and Honey” is the best Sherlock Holmes story I’ve read not by the original author A. Conan Doyle. It’s not a pastiche or homage, it’s a unique and brilliant use of Doyle’s main character in ways that feel right and correct, telling a story that transcends the usual murder mystery.
“Nothing O’Clock” is a Dr. Who story. I used to enjoy watching Dr. Who in the 1980s, when tons of the old ones were rebroadcast on PBS. My favorite Doctor was Tom Baker, I never warmed to the others in the same way. I’ve tried watching the newer revival, and found it didn’t work for me, not sure why. I enjoyed the story, but it assumes a lot of Dr. Who business as known to the reader, and so I feel doesn’t stand on its own as well as it might.
“The Sleeper and the Spindle” is a fine rethinking of some old fairy tales, but the intricate plot seems to be in control more than the characters. That could be said of the originals too, and I liked it all the same.
“Black Dog” is a tale of Shadow from Neil’s “American Gods,” and while it’s off the main character’s path in some ways, the prose and plot are very effective. Things happen organically in a way that reminded me of the books of William Mayne, whose trick is to have the narrator never in possession of the whole story. Neil doesn’t quite do that, but it hit me in a similar way. Nicely done.
Those are my favorites. Of the shorter ones, I was most amused by “Adventure Story,” which is perhaps the perfect post-modern version of a pulp adventure tale.
Recommended, of course!