This was my second anthology by Neil Gaiman, and at first I had to check that this wasn’t the same as the first one. There are four stories toward the beginning that are also in M is for Magic (“Chivalry,” “The Price,” “Troll Bridge,” and “Don’t Ask Jack”) , so if you would like my opinion on those you can go here.
The first thing that surprised me was that the introductions for the stories were all in the beginning, instead of before each story. This can work out well in print, because you can refer back to them (if you chose to read introductions at all) but it doesn’t quite work in the audiobook setting. While I understand it may be a bit jarring to go between introduction and story, having all of the intros one after the other was a little confusing. It took me a while to figure out what was happening, and an hour of story introductions (without the stories) was a little much. Once I realized what was happening I enjoyed it more, it was like having a bit of a disjointed chat with Neil Gaiman. Maybe an intro to the intros would have solved the confusion, and directions on where to skip to if one were to choose to go directly to the stories. There was one story amidst the introductions, “The Wedding Present,” which I quite liked, and was like a little reward for sitting through all of those introductions!
Some of the stories stood out more than the rest for me. “Queen of Knives,” a story about stage magic, stuck with me more than it normally would have because of my Netflix queue. (I was watching “Breaking the Magician’s Code,” which reveals the secrets behind all of the big magic tricks. I highly recommend it!)
“Changes” is one of my favorites in the book. It’s about a man who invents the cure for cancer, with the small side effect of the treatment changing your gender. The treatment can be taken more than once, so you could change your gender about every 12 hours if you wish. While the creator cannot really understand the recreational appeal, everyone else does, and a new era begins. Despite the appeal of becoming a different gender (everyone has wondered what it would be like at least once!) there’s the appeal of becoming someone else entirely. Your genetic code resets, and so can you. The possibilities for the changes in society are astounding.
“Murder Mysteries” also sticks out. It’s the story of an angel who investigates the first murder, which takes place among angels in heaven. It takes place before the fall of Lucifer, and you can see glimpses of what is going to happen to him after the story is done. You can also see the manipulation of God.
“Snow, Glass, Apples” is also very good, and is the last in the book. It’s the story of Snow White from a very different perspective. I tend to be very fond of twisted fairy tales anyway, so this was right up my alley. I’ve heard it floating about that the description of Snow White is very similar to that of a vampire, and this explores that avenue. Our protagonist is the Queen, and you really feel for her. She’s not a villain, she’s a victim. She’s not quite innocent, but she’s a good character. (If you’re a fan of twisted fairy tales and/or musicals and a few hours to spare, I highly recommend “Twisted” by Starkid on YouTube. It’s the story of Aladdin from Jafar’s point of view, and it’s absolutely hilarious and NSFW as well. You’re welcome.)
Some of the others that I liked were “The White Road,” which reminds me vaguely of Bluebeard’s Castle, but with a twist, of course, and “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar,” about a man touring England and coming upon a town not exactly on his list. “We Can Get Them For You Wholesale” is about getting a bargain on assassinations, and it has what feels like traces of good old Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar from Neverwhere. “Babycakes” takes an interesting view on animal testing. I wasn’t in love with all of the stories in the book, but I didn’t hate any of them, which is something. So a solid 4.5 out of 5!