Book review: Two Plays for Voices, by Neil Gaiman

This audio book had just two of Neil Gaiman’s stories, adapted as radio dramas. I was familiar with the first (“Snow, Glass, Apples”) but unfamiliar with the second (“Murder Mysteries”).

“Snow, Glass, Apples” is a prime example of a subverted fairy tale (Snow White, of course). Retold from the step-mother’s POV, it becomes an R-rated and truly terrifying story of a vampire child, complete with incest and necrophilia. Not to mention the ending (and beginning) is nightmare-fuel enough.

“Murder Mysteries” was different — less traumatic, more fascinating. I loved discovering a new story by him, and one that awed me again with his creativity. The premise: a protagonist (one of his ambiguously self-insert characters, I wonder) from England is held over in Los Angeles, hooks up with an acquaintance, then wanders the streets in the middle of the night, until he runs into a stranger who tells him an unbelievable tale. A tale from before the creation of the world, from the first-person perspective of one of God’s angels, and the investigation of the very first murder mystery. Lucifer is among the cast, of course.

It’s a lovely tale exploring angels (their purpose, their range of emotions and agency), God, and what existed before the creation of the universe. What it might have been like to plan the creation of the universe and everything in it. And, of course: love. Love and jealousy and rage. The most reliable motives for murder, since before time began. I’m haunted as well by Lucifer’s tears, his breakdown.

Both stories were well performed, visceral in their moments of agony (a character hocking up saliva to spit in the queen’s face; an angel’s screams before incineration). Even if you’ve read both in one of his short-story anthologies, it’s worth checking out these radio dramas.

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