Review of Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by

Book cover for Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances

I am slowly but surely running out of ways to review anthologies. It’s maddening, let me tell you. #firstworldproblems

What can I say about Trigger Warning? It’s another anthology. It’s another Neil Gaiman anthology. Much like Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things, Trigger Warning has its moments, its trademark Gaimanesque departures into clever flights of fantasy—but it’s just not the form for me. Gaiman waxes poetic about short stories in his introduction; it is clear he loves this form and quite enjoys writing them. Indeed, there are many short stories I appreciate (you might say I have “plenty of friends who are short stories”), but at the end of the day, I like to sink my teeth into a nice, juicy novel. None of this rabbit reading.

Did I mix enough metaphors in that last paragraph?

I’m not going to delve into the controversy around the title or his introductory remarks on it, because it has all been hashed out pretty well (just Google it). I will point out that it’s an interesting continuation on the trajectory begun with his first collection. Illusions, and then the suggestion of disruption and disturbance. Gaiman’s fiction has always been, to some extent, about the way magic and surreal experiences go hand-in-hand with the broken parts of our psyches. Just look at any of his protagonists, even the non-human ones like Morpheus. Gaiman is fascinated by the way our flaws and foibles define us, as a kind of negative space, but he also likes subverting our commonly-held perceptions of those flaws. Thus the hero becomes the villain, the god a monster, the monster a god, etc. While Gaiman is far from the only one to do this, he is quite good at it.

I also enjoy his introductions to these collections. Like Gaiman, I enjoy reading what an author has to say about the origin, inspiration for, meaning behind a story. I feel free to disagree, such as I can, if I want to—but I like having that background. It makes me feel more connected, and in turn I tend to enjoy the stories more.

Most of the stories in Trigger Warning have been published elsewhere. It includes The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains and The Sleeper and the Spindle. While I highly recommend reading the illustrated editions of those stories if you can find them, it is nice to have them collected here as well. This collection also contains “Nothing O’Clock”, Gaiman’s Eleventh Doctor story from Doctor Who: Eleven Doctors, Eleven Stories. Although I recalled not being particularly impressed with it when I first read it, I liked reading it again.

None of the stories new to me in the collection stood out for me, however. None of them grabbed me, shook me, said, “This is what a Neil Gaiman short story is all about!” Each is interesting or has a cool premise, in its own way, although that doesn’t always translate to a wonderful story. Each showcases Gaiman’s skills with setting and character and narrative, and maybe others will find the stories speak to them more clearly and emotionally than they do me.

If, like me, you’re just an unabashed Gaiman fanboy, then this is a collection worth getting. It just doesn’t have much to distinguish it, beyond perhaps a couple of stories available elsewhere in even better illustrated forms, so don’t expect too much from this.

Engagement

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