The good thing about a collection of short stories, Gaiman tells his readers in the introduction to M is for Magic, is that you don’t have to like them all. This may well be the case in this varied collection of previously published stories which includes fantasy, humour, science fiction and a bit of horror. Neil Gaiman is a best selling, award winning author. With three more books coming out in 2008, it might be a surprising decision to publish this collection now. It includes pieces like ‘How to Talk at Parties’, a story published in 2007 about an adult who looks back to the time when he was a punk music loving teenager, who longs for a girl to kiss but finds himself at the weirdest of parties and a spoof crime story about Humpty Dumpty written in Raymond Chandler style and first published nearly 25 years ago.
On the other hand, you could take the view that this is a collection where there is something for everyone. Two great pieces are ‘The Price’, a short, really scary story about a huge, friendly cat who night after night risks his life to protect a family from the unseen Devil and a fantasy piece about a boy who lives with dead people, which is not actually a short story at all, but a chapter from his forthcoming novel, The Graveyard Book.
One of the things I liked a lot is Gaiman’s explanation of the importance of this genre: ‘Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.’