BOOK REVIEW: TRIGGER WARNING / AUTHOR: NEIL GAIMAN / PUBLISHER: HEADLINE / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 3RD
If you’re not an obsessive Neil Gaiman fan, you probably know one, and as the fantasy author’s cult following grows, so does his diverse bibliography, which includes novels, comics, Doctor Who episodes, and an appearance in The Simpsons. Those struggling to keep up with everything Gaiman should be pointed towards Trigger Warning, a collection bringing together many of his short stories from recent years, plus two original pieces.
The book also includes commentary giving fascinating context for each story and an introduction in which Gaiman explains the title, taken from the internet term used to warn viewers of potentially upsetting content – we all have our own triggers, he says, and these “monsters in our cupboards and our minds”, and what we learn from them, recurrently haunt his work. So be warned…
The big selling point of Trigger Warning is Black Dog, a new novella continuing the exploits of Shadow, the ex-convict with a supernatural secret from the author's acclaimed novel American Gods. Shadow's travels bring him to the Peak District, where a visit to the pub (as visits to rural pubs are wont to do) leads Shadow into a typically weird and wonderful mystery including jealous lovers, a Gateway to Hell, and mummified cats. Though nothing could quite live up to the Hugo and Nebula-winning American Gods, Black Dog is an intriguing progression of its world as well as a clever and meaningful story in its own right, with thought-provoking rumination on the nature of depression.
What else can be found in Trigger Warning? There’s Nothing O’Clock, the Doctor Who story Gaiman contributed to the 50th anniversary, in which he captures the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond perfectly as they come face to mask with the terrifying Kin. A Case of Death and Honey asks why Sherlock Holmes would really take up beekeeping in his old age. The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury is a touching tribute to the sci-fi legend who sadly died in 2012. There’s A Calendar of Tales, a social media experiment in which Gaiman adapted 12 tweets from his followers into very short stories, one for each month of the year. And so much more, which you’ll have to discover for yourself.
If there's one thing to criticise, it's that only two of the stories are original to this volume, and so Gaiman fans will be already familiar with much of the material (but then again, the true fan needs everything neatly collected in print, right?). Nevertheless, all the stories old and new showcase Gaiman’s masterful command of the English language, over themes as grand as mythology and as personal as heartbreak, and over what really keeps us awake at night, wondering about that word we can’t remember or that creaking in the floorboard.