“Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances” by Neil Gaiman

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances” by Neil GaimanTrigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Published: 2015 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Genres: Fantasy, Horror/Gothic
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: TLC Book Tours
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Trigger Warning is a new collection of short stories (and a handful of poems) by Neil Gaiman, an author much loved for his ability to craft worlds that are breathtaking and disturbing.  I’ve read many of Gaiman’s previous books, and so was delighted to hear that he was releasing another collection of stories.  While I’ve had mixed feelings about every Neil Gaiman collection I’ve read thus far including Trigger Warning, seeing such variety in one volume allows me to really get inside the author’s head and see what’s possible when he’s not confined to a specific theme or a set number of pages.  It’s a chance for Gaiman to experiment, and while I might not call every story a success, such is the nature of experiments.

Read the introduction.  It’s important, because it shows you some of the ways that Gaiman thinks about his own work, and the world, and the nature of writing, as well as bits and pieces from each of the stories behind the stories.  There are Easter Eggs.  And, of course, Neil Gaiman writes a damn beautiful introduction.  Are stories supposed to be comfortable?  And is comfort even a good thing?

There are things in this book, as in life, that might upset you.  There is death and pain in here, tears and discomfort, violence of all kinds, cruelty, and even abuse.  There is kindness too, I hope, sometimes.

And now, moving on to a few of the actual stories, in a completely random order…

Black Dog

This story is set in the American Gods universe, and man, is it dark.  Shadow is on the road and walks into a pub, where he meets a couple that he ends up going home with after having a few drinks.  Oliver, the husband, suffers from depression, and Shadow ends up sticking around to make sure he’s okay and help out while he is under the weather.  However, beneath Oliver’s depression is a terrible secret…

Incredibly disturbing, in a “The Cask of Amontillado” kind of way.  Which of course reminded me of my high school days, because in the tunnel between the girls’ locker room and the gym was a partially bricked up wall with a hole leading to a dark chamber filled with rubble. Fond memories.

 Nothing O’Clock

A Dr. Who story! Yippee!  Twisted and creepy and wonderful, with nary a Dalek to be seen.

(I dream of one day finding a Dalek who will live in my bathroom and exfoliate all humans…)

A Calendar of Tales

I both loved and hated this one.  It’s a collection of short stories, one for each month of the year.  I didn’t think they hung together well, and they felt a bit disjointed.  However, July Tale captivated my imagination with its description of an igloo made of books that the protagonist hides in when his love life goes south.  And the September Tale was rather a rather nice twist on the story of a magic ring.  October Tale was a cute little love story about a genie.  And December Tale was full of hope even when life looked its most bleak.

The Case of Death and Honey

Perhaps one of Sherlock Holmes’ most interesting cases, as he ponders the mysteries of life itself.  And it left me wondering–if Holmes is not dead, then where is he, and what is he up to these days? What does he think about the internet? Does he like Daleks too?

Orange

A rather unique narration style–it’s an interrogation, but we only see the protagonist’s responses, not the questions being asked.  It keeps getting weirder and weirder as her sister turns into a day-glo supernatural being and the aliens show up to make things right.

The Sleeper and the Spindle

This one turns on its head both the story of Snow White and that of Sleeping Beauty.  The Queen is preparing for her wedding, but stops everything to go save everyone as a mysterious sleep plague is overtaking the land.  But unlike the traditional tale, it’s not a princess who is sleeping, and happy ever after isn’t all it’s chalked up to be.

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11 comments

  1. I love that he took something questionable, trigger warnings, and used it as how it should be used! I might have to actually check this out. I’ve been considering one of his graphic novels, maybe short stories is a good way to start with him.

  2. I agree that a part of the pleasure of reading a Gaiman collection is his introductions. I love seeing the inspiration/thought process behind what he was trying to accomplish with a story.

    I really enjoyed this collection. While it is overall a darker collection, I was happy that it wasn’t filled with some of the more disturbing sexual violence that he has in some stories in other collections. At least that is my recollection, I read this when it first came out.

    I enjoy Calendar of Tales, more on audio than in reading it, though I’ve done both. He gives such life to his stories when he reads them.

    One of my favorites of the collection was the Sherlock Holmes story. I like Gaiman writing Holmes. His Holmes/Lovecraft pastiche in Fragile Things was a good one too.

    1. I also noticed that it didn’t have the level of sexual violence as Fragile Things, where one story in particular made me decidedly uncomfortable. This book focused more on the pleasant side of creepy, and I was glad for it. I almost expected worse, given the title.

      1. I did too, because of the title. Was happy to be surprised. The sexual violence in some of Gaiman’s stories is what I honestly hate about those stories. I could do without them. I can appreciate his talent and his desire to tell whatever stories he feels the need to tell, but those are ones where I would be happy to see a “trigger warning” on, so I could just pass them by.