When I saw Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman, in the airport bookstore, I bought it and read it while waiting an hour for my plane, and then during the 90-minute flight. I’m not recommending it as a book to read in transit, particularly, but it includes enough absorbing stories to make it a good distraction from the travails of travel. I skipped through parts of the introduction and any stories and poems that didn’t interest me immediately, and settled my attention on the best stories.
“The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains” was familiar to me, but I enjoyed reading it again because of the clever way it’s told. The most important and chilling line in it is spoken by Calum MacInnes: “perhaps you’d have to have stood where I was standing, to see what I did see.” He is unaware of being in a story about perspective, about how important standing where the other guy is standing will turn out to be in his own life.
In the October story in “A Calendar of Tales,” someone thinks to ask a genie what he would wish for, and the answer is charming.
One of the funniest stories in the volume is “And Weep, Like Alexander,” about an uninventor who goes around uninventing things like flying cars and jetpacks and who is having a conversation with a group in a bar about how his job is done, that there’s nothing more he needs to uninvent. And then, at that point in the conversation, someone’s phone rings and
“the phones came out. Crown Baker took a photo of us all, and then Twitpicced it. Jocelyn started to read her text messages. ‘Tweet’ Peston tweeted that he was in the Fountain and had met his first uninventor. Professor Mackintosh checked the test match scores, told us what they were and emailed his brother in Inverness to grumble about them. The phones were out and the conversation was over.”
Bet you can guess what happens.
There’s a great story entitled “Nothing O’Clock” that I understood better for having bought a British book about children’s games to get birthday party ideas when Eleanor was about seven. We taught a small group of Ohio kids to play the game called “What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf?” So those party guests will understand this story better, too.
“Black Dog” begins with a cliché (“it was raining cats and dogs”) and uncliches it by the end, which is a trick as good as the uninventor’s.
There are a few scary stories (I found “Click-Clack the Rattlebag” pretty scary, myself), but nothing I think would cause anyone to put a trigger warning on the collection. Still, Gaiman is endlessly clever, never more so than in the introduction, wondering “whether, one day, people would put a trigger warning on my fiction. I wondered whether or not they would be justified in doing it. And then I decided to do it first.”