- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 11 hours and 1 minute
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: HarperAudio
- Audible.com Release Date: February 3, 2015
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00RAY8ZQA
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Without further ado, I’ll give a rundown of the included works:
1.) “Making a Chair”: This is a poem about writer’s block.
2.) “A Lunar Labyrinth”: An homage to Gene Wolfe’s work, “Solar Labyrinth.” This short story is about a maze that was destroyed, and that wasn’t to be walked on full moon nights.
3.) “The Thing About Cassandra”: This is among my favorite stories in the collection. What happens when your friends and family start bumping into the girl who you made up as a girlfriend back in school?
4.) “Down to a Sunless Sea”: This was written for a water-themed event. It’s about a person riding in a lifeboat down the Thames toward the sea.
5.) “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains”: This one was inspired by an island off Scotland called Skye, but the story is fantasy with magic elements. A man strikes out in search of revenge and closing, regarding a daughter who he thought had run away. This is one of the most engaging pieces in the collection.
6.) “My Last Landlady”: This is a story, conveyed in poetic form, about a mean landlady.
7.) “Adventure Story”: In the Introduction, Gaiman calls this a companion piece to his novella “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” However, I didn’t make that connection, (and I’ve read that story.) At any rate, it’s a great story about an intriguing artifact left behind by a [deceased] father whose stories were always painfully dull. It’s told by a mother to a son who is incredulous that his, seemingly milquetoast, father lived through such a fascinating event.
8.) “Orange”: Like several of the pieces in this book, this one is unconventional / experimental. However, it’s creative, and it works. It consists of answers to a questionnaire, from which the reader pieces together the story. One doesn’t have the questions, but most of them are fairly clear from the context of the answer.
9.) “Calendar of Tales”: This is what it sounds like, 12 stories each matched to a month. It’s another of the unconventional and unusual pieces. Each story was spun from a tweet response to a question about a given month of the year.
10.) “The Case of Death and Honey”: Few characters in the public domain have spurred as many offshoot stories as Sherlock Holmes, and this is Gaiman’s entry in the pool. Holmes’s interest in bee-keeping is central to the story.
11.) “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury”: An homage to Bradbury. If one forgets a person, did they ever exist?
12.) “Jerusalem”: This work was influenced both by a poem by William Blake and a trip the author took to said city. The story is about a couple of tourists and the unique mental illness associated with this locale.
13.) “Click-Clack the Rattlebag”: A scary bedtime story told by a child about a different kind of monster.
14.) “An Invocation of Incuriosity”: A story about one of the strange and colorful people one might meet at a flea market.
15.) “’And Weep, Like Alexander’”: A light-hearted story about an “un-inventor,” one who keeps you from having flying cars and all the other promised technology from sci-fi.
16.) “Nothing O’Clock”: This is a “Doctor Who” story. It’s not necessary to be familiar with the series (necessary backstory is provided), but it could make it more appealing—i.e. the inside joke effect.
17.) “Diamonds and Pearls: A Fairy Tale”: This is from “Who Killed Amanda Palmer?” Palmer is a cabaret-punk singer/songwriter and Gaiman’s wife, and the aforementioned booklet consists of a series of photos of Palmer looking deceased with brief stories to go along. This is one of the stories that could stand alone. It’s a fairy tale of the adults-only variety.
18.) “The Return of the Thin White Duke”: Another fairy tale, this one about a Duke that strikes out on a quest for adventure in order to rescue a Queen who doesn’t need rescuing.
19.) “Feminine Endings”: A story about a human statue—by that I mean one of those people who deck themselves out and stand on a box in the town square in touristy places in many parts of the world.
20.) “Observing the Formalities”: A poem about one who doesn’t get invited.
21.) “The Sleeper and the Spindle”: A take on the story of “Sleeping Beauty,” but from a different point of view.
22.) “Witch Work”: This is another poem. I believe it’s the only one that’s not free verse. It’s about the life of a witch.
23.) “In Relig Odhrain”: This is a true story about a saint, written in free verse.
24.) “Black Dog”: This is a spin-off from the novel “American Gods” and it features that book’s protagonist, Shadow. You don’t need to have read that book, but you might have a greater affinity for the story if you have. It should also be noted that this is the one piece that is original to this collection, and it’s one of the most substantial pieces in the collection. i.e. it gives fans a reason to pick up the book even if they’ve read a lot of it from the original source.
I enjoyed this book. Gaiman is a masterful story teller. Whether it’s one of conventional pieces based in established worlds (e.g. “Doctor Who” or that of Sherlock Holmes) or one of the off-the-wall, experimental pieces, these stories and poems are a pleasure to read.
And all those things come up in "Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances," Gaiman's third collection of his short stories and poems -- while these stories can be as different from each other as humanly possible (an ode to David Bowie, a few twisted fairy tales, a historical story about a Scottish dwarf with revenge on his mind), they share a sense of magic and cosmic wonderment, misting through his elegant, versatile prose.
Among the tales here:
* "Black Dog," a story set a few years after "American Gods." Shadow is wandering through England on his way back to the US, when he meets a kindly couple who allow him to stay in their home. But the specter of a faerie dog brings death, mystery, and an ancient magic that could be fatal even to an American god...
* A Scottish dwarf asks a former reaver to help him find a certain cave, supposedly filled with magical gold. As the two men journey to the Misty Isle, the dwarf gradually reveals his true reason for being there.
* A haunting look at the old age of Sherlock Holmes, reflecting on the decay of the British empire and solving one final mystery.
* A timid young artist hears that his first teenage girlfriend has been in contact with some of the people he knows... and the problem is, he made her up.
* Jemima Glorfindel Petula Ramsey's questionnaire, and exactly what happened to her fake-tan-loving sister Nerys. Hint: it involves floating, glowing, claims of godhood and dark chocolate.
* A year's worth of mini-stories, involving ghosts, pirates, genies, preteen soldiers, vicious ducks, a brazier, a homeless kid, a mysterious string of bizarre deliveries, disagreeing parents, igloos made of books, Australian fires and what they create, and a magical ring that keeps coming back.
* A handful of poems, about chairs, landladies, Saint Columba, a witch who "hid her life in a box made of dirt," and the evil fairy from "Sleeping Beauty."
* A flea market seller who has a strange story of time travel, interdimensional rooms, ancient empires, tiny statuettes and a boy named Farfal The Unfortunate.
* Obediah Polkinghorn, the Uninventor, who has the ability to alter reality so that certain inventions (flying cars, jetpacks, the Wispamuzak) never come into existence, and what he does when he finished uninventing forever.
* "Nothing O'Clock," a Dr. Who fanfic (does it count as a fanfic if it's professionally published, and is by a man who has written actual episodes?), where the Doctor and Amy arrive on Earth... only to discover that it is devoid of humans, after being officially sold to the Kin. How to fix it? Go back to when it was first sold by an unwitting family!
* A pair of fairy tales retold in Gaiman's sensibilities -- an update of "Diamonds and Toads" set in a bleak, dreary urban environment, and "The Sleeper and the Spindle," a sort of mash-up of "Snow White" and "Sleeping Beauty," starring a queen who decides to rescue a legendary sleeping princess with the help of her dwarf sidekicks.
* And several other stories that linger on the fringes -- a "lunar labyrinth" that grants wishes to people who successfully navigate it, a love letter, a mother lamenting her son's horrifying death at sea, a pleasantly unimpressive mother who knows of interesting "adventures," a man struggling to remember the name of a great author, a guy who learns of the madness that comes from visiting Jerusalem, a spooky little story about the terrifying Click-Clacks, and a mythic sci-fi ode to David Bowie.
Many authors are commonly called "magical," but Neil Gaiman deserves the label more than most -- he has a special knack for unpredictability that few authors can even approach. Not only can anything happen in his collections of short stories, but you have no idea what KIND of "anything" will flow from the wellspring of his mind. There's no obvious pattern, no overarching theme that might restrict his imagination.
And that is one of the best aspects of "Trigger Warning." In this collection, Gaiman deftly leaps from the macabre to the whimsical, the gloriously weird to the dramatic, the haunting to the magical. No matter how mundane the setting, he can draw back a veil and reveal something that was hidden from our eyes, whether it's dark magic ("Black Dog," "About Cassandra"), personal tragedy and drama ("Down To A Sunless Sea," "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains") or just the strangeness of the world we live in which we otherwise might not notice ("Jerusalem").
And his writing is no less versatile. While every story is written in a crisp, shimmering style that is very recognizably his, he drifts around through different kinds of stories -- one is told through a questionnaire, another is an overheard monologue, and some are just conversations. What unites them is the glimmering clarity of his writing, full of beautiful similes ("His hair framed his face like a wolf-grey halo") and snappy cleverness ("And pterodactyls have been extinct for fifty million years." "If you say so, dear. Your father never really talked about it").
Neil Gaiman at his best is on display in "Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances" -- a collage of shorter pieces, ranging from darkly enchanting novellas to magical little puffs of whimsy. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy, but a few of them can be found here.
Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. The title and introduction annoyed me somewhat; the original purpose of a trigger warning was, very specifically, to prevent someone with a serious mental illness (PTSD or an eating disorder) from having a debilitating flashback or harming him/herself. It wasn't intended to be a "this might upset you"-- which Gaiman seems to suggest in the intro. I asked him about it on Twitter and he clarified that he meant to target the misuse of trigger warnings (as "this might upset you") rather than the proper, as-originally-intended use.
In any case, Gaiman's stated purpose with Trigger Warning is to stir up disturbing feelings, and indeed, many of the stories are disturbing. A throwaway line in the first story made me nauseous... in a good way. I agree with his premise that being disturbed, being forced to confront things we find very upsetting, can be good. Character-building.
I didn't enjoy every story in Trigger Warning, but I enjoyed most of them. Gaiman is a master storyteller and he uses his craft well here.