M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

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M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: A selection of short stories likely to leave readers of all ages entranced. Not for existing Gaiman fans, however, as many appear in his other collections.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: March 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0747595687

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I’ve long been a fan of Neil Gaiman, as he is one of those writers who can mix the fantastical with the real and make it feel somehow natural. His writing has a kind of credibility that means when Neil Gaiman tells you something unbelievable, you start keeping half an eye out for it, just in case.

I’ve read most of Gaiman’s novels and short story collections, but had never dipped into the writing he aims at a slightly younger audience. Given that his writing often makes me feel like a child again, I wasn’t anticipating any major difference in his writing for the different audience, particularly in a collection of short stories.

That is exactly what I got, as M is for Magic is a collection of stories specially selected for the audience, but not written specifically for the audience. Indeed, of the eleven stories contained within, I had read eight of them previously, as four stories are featured from each of his previous collections aimed more at adults; Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things.

As is usual with his collections, Gaiman provides the reader with a huge range of reading experiences. He opens with a story that combines nursery rhyme characters with a Raymond Chandler like Private Investigator, but does so with a humorous touch that keeps you smiling all the way through. This was my favourite of them all, as I’m a huge fan of Chandler as well as Gaiman, but no matter what your interests, there is almost certainly going to be something that will appeal to you on some level.

Many of the stories take old ideas and bring them right up to date. So you get children’s bedtime stories given a modern twist, the Holy Grail legend landing on a suburban street and you find out what happens to the phoenix. Cats fight the devil on a nightly basis and you discover that sometimes when you chat up a girl at a party you may get a little bit more than you bargained for.

I suspect that the reason why Gaiman works so well as a writer for both adults and children is that he has the kind of imagination that allows him to stand with one foot in the adult world and one in the younger world and take the best bits of both of them. The subject matter here suggests that he has a firm grip on that which enthralled him in the past and a way of passing on that feeling that ensures it enthrals the reader as well.

At no point did I pay any attention to the fact that Gaiman was re-telling updated versions of bedtime stories or nursery rhymes, or stories that really should have appealed to me several years ago. He mixes subject matter and style so well that you’re never quite sure what to expect and you’re deeply involved before you know it. Even in his version of a ghost story, you finish wondering exactly who is haunting who. Gaiman keeps the reader off balance, but always a part of things which is what I’ve always loved about his work and love again here.

In the end, the only disappointment for me was that so much of the content here wasn’t new to me. Strangely, it’s because I’m such a huge fan of Gaiman that this happened, as a less dedicated fan or a newcomer to his work would find all the stories new and refreshing, as I have frequently done with his work over the years. In this respect M is for Magic was very much like a 'Greatest Hits' CD, in which the main aim is to attract new fans, with only a couple of new items thrown in to try and appease the existing fans.

That said, as with any 'Greatest Hits' album, for an artist to have reached that point, it means that the content is likely to be amongst the best work they have ever produced and you know it’s going to be good. That is definitely the case here and for any reader, young or old, who can give their imagination free rein, this is a wonderful collection of stories. I may have read many of them before, but they are always worth reading again and again, so I didn’t mind too much at all.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Here at Bookbag we thought that Gaiman collaborated wonderfully with Pratchett in Good Omens

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Buy M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman at Amazon.com.


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