Neil Gaiman has had a very long career and has written an awful lot of things. As a result, some of his less well known short stories and novellas can be a little tricky to find. The Neil Gaiman Reader is a collection of works by the man who brought us The Sandman, Anansi Boys,American Gods and much more.
It’s presented in chronological order and at over 700 pages we aren’t going to go through each work in this short review, but we can certainly run through some of the many highlights. The collection opens with We Can Get Them For You Wholesale, a splendidly creepy tale about how sometimes bargains aren’t what they seem. It was written way back in 1984 and it’s still distinctly Neil Gaiman in style and approach. Nicholas Was.. is a short piece from a Christmas card Gaiman and McKean sent round back in 1989, and it’s still very chilling.
As we get into the 90’s, Gaiman’s famous blend of whimsy and horror becomes more obvious. 1994 brought us the werewolf noir story Only End of The World Again and 1997 gave us the utterly sublime tale The Price, a classic little piece about angels, stray cats and the things we do for love. 1998 gives us Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar which is very Good Omens in tone and narrative, as well as a playful swipe at some of the many things wrong with HP Lovecraft.
By 2003 we’re still having fun with the Mythos, thanks to A Study in Emerald, Sherlock Holmes vs Lovecraftian horror. Gaiman’s take on both is a treat. The 00’s also brings use How to Talk to Girls at Parties, one of those short stories with a single big idea that sits in the corner and changes the narrative throughout. The later stories are distinctly darker in tone as we continue and the story-craft continues to delight throughout. Also of note is The Monkey And Lady, which has only been seen so far in one other anthology.
The book also has extracts from Gaiman’s novels, namely Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Anansi Boys and The Ocean At The End of The Lane. These are pieces that work well stand-alone and help bring the author’s development and style into focus. Overall, this is a big book filled with some of Neil Gaiman’s greatest hits. One to devour after dark.