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When I was offered a copy of Neil Gaiman’s newest short story collection, Trigger Warning, for review, my first thought was to jump on it. I adore Neil Gaiman’s work. He is one of only about three authors who get their own shelf name on my GoodReads account. And then I remembered that I wasn’t particularly happy with The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I know I’m in the minority and I’ve never even written a review for it, but all I can say is that it was too weird, even for me. I hate feeling honor-bound to review a book that I didn’t love so I wavered. Then I decided to go for it. I’m so glad I did!
Overall impression: It started off with a couple of stories that I didn’t particularly care for so I was getting worried. I’d read the third story earlier (In George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s Songs of Love and Death) and enjoyed it, but still, it was a re-read. The fourth story started to catch my attention and by the fifth, I was hooked. There were probably one or two others I didn’t care for in the remaining nineteen stories, but the collection overall is fantastic.
And because I find it impossible not to mention what I think of every single story in a collection, here’s where I get long-winded.
“Making a Chair”–A poem about–you guessed it–making a chair. I assume Gaiman was pushing through some writer’s block with this one. Haven’t we all been there? You have a million real things to do but something unimportant proves to be a welcome distraction?
“A Lunar Labyrinth”–Normally short horror stories scare me to death. So much is left unsaid. I can generally read Stephen King novels and sleep like a baby, but hand me one of his short stories and I’ll be up all night, jumping at every sound. This story left a bit too much unsaid. I was uneasy but I didn’t really understand what was going on so it stopped there. I’d completely forgotten about it until I started looking back through the book to write this review.
“The Thing About Cassandra”–I like the way this story turns completely upside down about halfway through. Even as a re-read it felt surprising.
“Down to a Sunless Sea”–I suspected where this atmospheric creeper was going but I still liked it.
“The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains…”–Probably my favorite in the collection. It has a dark, twisted fairy tale feel to it. Gaiman writes so much that he’s practically impossible to categorize. This is written in the style of his that I like best.
“My Last Landlady”–I had no idea where this was going but it got darker and darker. I liked it.
“Adventure Story”–This one was just a lot of fun. The narrator’s mom refers to meeting someone unexpectedly in the grocery store as an adventure. But she occasionally hints at some real adventures his dad (and possibly her? I don’t remember now) had when they were younger. It made me think about the untold stories that people walk around with every day.
“Orange”–I love the format. It’s written as a sort of police report so it unfolds gradually, leaving the reader to piece everything together. It’s the story of an ordinary family and the extraordinary things that happen to them when the older sister is–well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it? I enjoyed it.
“A Calendar of Tales”–I’ll try to restrain myself from reviewing each of these. I read about the idea for this mini collection on Twitter and I was excited to see the end result. It was a bit hit-or-miss for me.
“The Case of Death and Honey”–Sherlock Holmes. I liked it well enough but it dragged on a bit too long and moved through time a bit too much for my taste. I prefer Gaiman’s Sherlock tale in Fragile Things.
“The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury”–I enjoyed this while I was reading it but now that a little time has passed, I find that I’ve, well, forgotten it a bit. Not even trying to be ironic.
“Jerusalem”–Apparently there is a real disorder-y thing where people visit Jerusalem and then find themselves sort of spreading God’s Word through the streets. Who knew? Not this girl. Of course this is fodder for a good story in Gaiman’s hands.
“Click-Clack the Rattlebag”–Now this is the kind of horror story I like!
“An Invocation of Incuriosity”–I liked the idea but the story felt like the introduction to a novel. I really wanted to know more.
“‘And Weep, Like Alexander'”–Fun enough. What if there were an uninventor running around out there, erasing some of our more egregious inventions?
“Nothing O’Clock”–An unsettling Doctor Who story. I’ve only watched the show a few times because my husband can’t stand Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, but this feels like it fits right in that world.
“Diamonds and Pearls: A Fairy Tale”–This apparently went along with some artwork on one of Amanda Palmer’s albums. It was okay but I would like to see the photo it went with.
“The Return of the Thin White Duke”–This was one of those stories that, in your heart of hearts, you know works best as a story, but you really, really want to know what came before and after. It felt cyclical in a way that I can only compare to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. There’s definitely more to it but we’ll never know what it is.
“Feminine Endings”–Another creeper. It reminded me a bit of “Stilled Life” by Pat Cadigan, a short story that I think about surprisingly often.
“Observing the Formalities”–A story poem told from Maleficent’s point of view. Pretty good.
“The Sleeper and the Spindle”–Another fairy tale. This has a bit of a feminist slant so of course I liked it.
“Witch Work”–Another poem but I can’t say that I really understand it.
“In Relig Odhráin“–I took this to be about religion and the inconvenient truths that get buried under dogma. I think this is one of those things that everyone will interpret differently though. I liked it well enough.
“Black Dog”–Shadow from American Gods turns back up. I really need to re-read that someday. This was a solid story that kept me turning the pages.
Read an excerpt from the introduction.
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