Thursday, March 17, 2016

TRIGGER WARNING: A REVIEW

Trigger Warning
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Paperback: 310 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Language: English
October 2015
Genre: Collection/Anthology/Fiction

Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things—which includes a never-before published American Gods story, “Black Dog,” written exclusively for this volume.

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness.

A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.


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Neil Gaiman is one of my heroes and one that I hope to meet some day. When I need an escape it is his stories I instinctively go to. When I want something with a little bit of teeth, I go to Gaiman. And when I want to let my imagination run wild I reach for Neil’s works. It is through him that I learned to love comics through the Endless and so many more things.

Now if you are new to Gaiman and have no idea what I am talking about when I speak of the Endless or Coraline or Good Omens, or even Shadow Moon, this may be a good place for you to start. As you know I love anthologies. Short fiction is not something that every writer is good at, but I think Neil excels at it. I love short stories, the brief glimpses into a world. I love how there is perfect beginning and end and I don’t have to read thirteen books into a series. They are easy for me to pick up, though not always to put down. And they are usually varied, almost like listening to a soundtrack or seeing Paris Je T’aime.

It took me a while to pick up Trigger Warning and then David Bowie died and I read The Thin White Duke that Gaiman had posted. I also started being in short fiction mode. I needed snippets and episodes. I needed Gaiman.

Trigger Warning begins with an intro by Neil where he tells you about the origins of each of the tales. I prefer to read them after I read each of the entries as I didn’t want his explanations to color my enjoyment of any of them. But it is lovely to read about the ideas behind each of them. I will try to remain as spoiler free as I can on each of the stories. I will say I loved them and this will join the many other beloved books and collections I have on my shelves. It is not perfect, but some of the stories made a definite impact and whisked me away. It was exactly what I needed.

The Stories:
Making a Chair: A simple poem about the writing process. If you are a writer you may relate to it quite a bit. A thought it was a lovely way to begin the collection.

A lunar Labyrinth: A tribute to Gene Wolfe, it features a traveler who loves roadside attractions and oddities. He loves the idea of a maze that forms only when the moon is full, but one must be wary of what else lurks within the labyrinth. I loved this story.

The Thing about Cassandra: The imaginary becomes real. I want to say so much about the tale, but I don’t want to give it away. This was one of my favorites. I love the idea behind it, the twists and the turns, and the fantastical nature of it all. I would love to see this in visual form as an episode of Outer Limits or something.

Down to A Sunless Sea: The sea promises so much. It promises adventure and new worlds, but also so many tears. A woman tells the tale of her son as the rain pours around. So sad and dark. Short as well, but worth the read.

The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains: One of the longest stories in the collection, this is the story of a strange little man who seeks a guide to a mysterious cave. It is a story about the truth, of revenge and regret, and a cave that is said to hold many riches. It is a dark and sad story with amazing imagery. It is also crushingly beautiful in the way that it is told. Maybe I have been watching too many episodes of Lost Girl, but I could see the Blood King making the trek up the mountain. I also envy those who saw Neil read it live with a string quartet and Eddie Campbell’s art. Lucky bastards.

My Last Landlady: The rent may be a bit too high for one tenant. Great. Again I love the imagery. I can see them all, eyes to the shore, watching the landlady.

Adventure Story: Adventure can mean many things. Maybe even Pterodactyls. Fun and light story.

Orange: The answers on a questionnaire for one teenage girl. Quirky and fun, but I didn’t really enjoy the format. Just took me out of it.

A Calendar of Tales: These snippets, the collection within a collection, were based on tweets. What a great idea. One tweet per month, one tale per month. Its a bit of a mixed bag, but there are some standouts (May, July, August, September, and October) I really love the way the way were written.

The Case of Death and Honey: A Sherlock Holmes story involving a trip to China and a certain honey and the bee that made it. It’s a bit odd and yet perfectly Holmes like. I enjoyed it.

The man who Forgot Ray Bradbury: This is a tribute to Gaiman’s mentor and someone who captured my imagination growing up as well. But it also holds some resonance as I remember the friendship between Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I cannot imagine losing pieces of my life, names, faces while strange little tidbits remain. A good story, a nice tribute, but also a sad one.

Jerusalem: A tale about Jerusalem Syndrome. Not one of my favorites. For me it was one of the weakest. Just a little meh for me really.

Click Clack The Rattlebag: Another one of my favorite stories. Perfectly creepy and a tale I wish I could see visually as well. Loved it. I adore it when Gaiman does horror.

An Invocation of Incuriosity: A time travel piece that was bit too odd for me.

And Weep, Like Alexander: Ever wonder why we don’t have flying cars or jetpacks? Cute story. Now if he could just invent the Kardashians that would be great.

Nothing o’Clock: Yay Doctor Who. Seriously Gaiman should write more Doctor stories. I think this would make a great episode. The paper masks of the enemies remind me of the film ‘The Strangers’ except the masks are even creepier because of their simplicity. You know that someone is wearing a mask. You are worried to know what lies beneath the mask or why they are choosing to wear one. It is that creeping horror, the one that is just on the fringe of your sight. So creepy and wonderful and completely Doctor Who.

Diamonds and Pearls: A fairy tale, but one with prostitutes, drugs, stepmothers, and just a little bit of magic. I like the contemporary or modern fairytale nature of it.

The Return of the Thin White Duke: I picked up Trigger Warning after Bowie died and Gaiman posted this story who inspired the story. It is beautiful and I hope Bowie had a chance to read it. ‘You are here to rescue yourself’. What a gorgeous little tale.

Feminine Endings: Be wary of living statues. I can imagine that living statues learn many a thing. I love the love letter as creepy as it might be..

Observing the Formalities: A poem with Maleficent as the narrator. It is a shame that people no longer observe proper etiquette. If they had just followed proper formalities…

The Sleeper and the Spindle: Speaking of Sleeping Beauty. Yay! A lovely mashup of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty/ I always wanted Snow to be a bad ass. I love that Snow has found her own strength and courage. She is her own hero now and I could want for nothing more. My favorite story of the bunch.

Witch Work: A little poem about a witch and her magic.

In Relig Odhrain: Another poem about a Saint or perhaps a druid.

Black Dog: Shadow Moon stops by an old village pub. Everyone seems perfectly nice and harmless, but Shadow knows better. Everyone has ghosts. It is a great story about jealousy and rage, but also about the past. The prose in this story deserves a shiny gold star. Seriously, you have passages like…The mummified kitty that looks as if it ‘had been constructed out of tendons and agony’, or ‘Shadow imagined the black dog squatting on the roof, cutting out all sunlight, all emotion, all feeling and truth’. Amazing story. Makes me want to go revisit Shadow again.

In all I loved this collection. It was exactly what I needed. I absolutely loved the introduction where Gaiman is talking to all of his readers. I like the title, the warning label on the very cover of the book. "Many of these stories end badly for at least one of the people in them. Consider yourself warned."

Buy or Borrow: Buy.

Part of: Standalone

Also Recommended: For more Neil Gaiman short stories please try Fragile Things or Smoke and Mirrors. For more great Anthologies try Strange Brew edited by PN Elrod, Mean Streets edited by Jim Butcher, and Powers of Detection edited by Dana Stabenow

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

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