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Trigger Warning

February 13, 2015

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.”

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. February 13, 2015 2:11 pm

    I have to say that I liked “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains” and found it interesting, but the illustrations in the book I read it really won me over. This is a book I was hoping would be great, and it seems like it was in most respects.

    • February 15, 2015 5:57 pm

      My copy didn’t have illustrations, which is just as well because I wouldn’t have noticed them much. I went back to be sure–there is a tree branch with birds at the beginning of each story, but that’s it.

      • February 16, 2015 11:52 am

        I only read “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains,” which was published separately from Trigger Warning and included illustrations. I am interested to read Trigger Warning though.

        • February 16, 2015 11:54 am

          Ah, that makes sense. There’s only one story in the volume, “Black Dog,” which hasn’t appeared elsewhere.

  2. February 13, 2015 9:42 pm

    Neil Gaiman never really clicks with me like he does with others, but I usually get around to his books eventually. I am sure I will be reading this one at some point.

    • February 15, 2015 5:57 pm

      I prefer his short stories to pretty much anything else he writes.

  3. February 15, 2015 11:18 am

    I’ve listened to The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains in an audio edition of an anthology of stories by different authors already and it was definitely one of the best in the collection. It’s good to know there are illustrations in Trigger Warning, so maybe I’ll read it instead of listening to it. I like listening to Neil Gaiman’s books, usually; Anansi Boys and American Gods are two of my all-time favorite audiobooks. He narrates more recent ones himself, and I’ve gotten used to his way of reading, although I didn’t care for it at first.

    • February 15, 2015 5:59 pm

      We listened to a library copy of the audiobook of Anansi Boys, and I don’t remember who read it but we all liked it. I think we got through the whole thing on a drive from central Ohio to Branson, Missouri and back.

  4. February 16, 2015 12:54 pm

    Sounds like a fine way to while away travel hours. I’ve been wondering what the book is about and why he would call it Trigger Warning.

    • February 17, 2015 8:36 am

      Some of the stories are disturbing and scary.
      Since I read Harlan Ellison’s The Deathbird Stories when I was young and impressionable, these stories didn’t make as much of an impact.

  5. February 17, 2015 8:49 am

    Gaiman is hit or miss for me so I think a collection of his short stories sound perfect. I can do like you did and skip the ones that don’t grab me.

    • February 19, 2015 8:23 am

      There are a few poems, too. I skipped through them.

  6. February 18, 2015 10:27 pm

    I just grabbed this one on audio because I felt like it would be good for walking at the gym. But it’s taking forever to get through the introduction and the way the chapters are structured I’m not sure how to skip ahead. So that’s a little annoying. But, not really related to the topic of the book — I’m glad to hear that many of the stories hit for you. I’m excited to finally get there 🙂

    • February 19, 2015 8:24 am

      The introduction is really long. I enjoyed most of it; it’s like the kind of introduction a speaker would do for a story before a reading, except it’s for almost everything in the collection all at once.

  7. Jenny permalink
    March 3, 2015 6:06 pm

    (sorry so late, February was kind of a total wash for me.) Neil Gaiman is usually a huge hit for me, so I have been really looking forward to this one, all the bits of it. Thanks for the review; it’s the first I’ve seen.

    • March 15, 2015 9:24 pm

      all the bits include a Dr. Who fanfic. Just saying.

  8. March 15, 2015 1:06 pm

    I tend to love everything Gaiman does, so I can’t wait to read this one!

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