(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Nothing makes me happier as a reader than a thick, juicy novel into which I can disappear for days. Getting to know an intriguingly complex cast of characters, wandering through a delightfully colorful setting, or sinking into an absorbingly intricate plotline—it just doesn't get better than that for me. Because of this desire for depth, I shy away from more condensed forms of literature, rarely reaching for poetry, short stories or flash fiction. Of course, exceptions must sometimes be made. Especially when they involve a new collection by none other than Neil Gaiman. The author's unique style never ceases to surprise and entertain me.
Trigger Warning—the title of Gaiman's 2015 anthology—comes from the idea that art, movies, t.v. shows, books, etc. should come with cautions about potentially distressing material contained within. While he understands the need to protect children from adult content, Gaiman had this to say about mature readers:
What we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: enter at your own risk. We need to find out what fiction is, what it means, to us, an experience that is going to be unlike anyone else's experience of the story ... There are stories I read as a child I wished, once I had read them, that I had never encountered, because I was not ready for them and they upset me ... but they also taught me that, if I was going to read fiction, sometimes I would only know what my comfort zone was by leaving it; and now, as an adult, I would not erase the experience of having read them if I could. (Introduction, pages XVI-XVII)
Given his view on the subject, it's not surprising that Gaiman subtitles his book "Short Fictions and Disturbances." Certainly, some of the selections are disturbing. Others are funny, scary, zany, cautionary and downright odd. There's a nice variety of pieces here, from magical yarns to horror stories to fan fiction to poems (which "perhaps might need their own warning for the people [like me!] who are frightened, disturbed, or terminally puzzled by poetry" [XLI].). To my surprise, my favorite story in Trigger Warning was a Doctor Who fan fiction piece called "Nothing O'Clock. I'm no Whovian (all it took was the spooky "Are You My Mummy?" episode to scare me out of watching the show forever), but I found the tale fresh, funny and charming. "Orange" and "My Last Landlady" were also memorable selections. Even the stories I didn't really get sparked my imagination as only a Gaiman creation can.
Besides the variety, one of the things I enjoyed most about Trigger Warning is that Gaiman includes explanations of every selection. He uses interesting personal stories to discuss why he wrote each piece, who/what inspired it, and how it was received by various audiences. These peeks into Gaiman's creative process make his stories even more compelling.
I didn't love every single selection in the eclectic Trigger Warning, but that's okay. Overall, I enjoyed this strange, macabre journey through the mind of one of the most original authors around. If you're a die-hard Gaiman fan, you'll probably like it even more than I did. In fact, you'll probably want to put this one at the top of your Christmas list.
(Readalikes: Hm, nothing is coming to mind. You?)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, and sexual content
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Trigger Warning from the generous folks at HarperCollins via those at TLC Book Tours. Thank you!