If you're fanatical follower of all things Gaiman it is almost inevitable that your first encounter with “Trigger Warning” will be one of disappointment. It is a wonderfully designed package packed tight with content but the problem lies with the fact that almost all of the stories and whatnots contained within have been previously published, some many times over. However, for the rest, myself included, this is something of a dream come true. Short fiction has always been one of Gaiman's most enduring qualities and I'll admit straight away that I found it very troublesome to track down most of this stuff. And what glorious stuff it is! It's surprisingly versatile and finds Gaiman willing to explore his boundaries. Think of it as a deluxe version of your favourite album. Apart from hits, it also comes with all those experimental b-sides and some dodgy home demos.
“Trigger Warning” opens with an introduction that explains where the phrase trigger warning comes from and the power it can wield over the readers. I've never thought about it in that way before and those some of its uses admittedly come over with a whiff of manipulation, it is in a way perfectly suited to a collection like this especially when you consider “disturbance” from its subtitle. It is certainly a mixed bag that will, at least partially, please every one of his readers. “Adventure Story” thematically most closely resembles “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” while Nothing O'Clock” is a Doctor Who story. And then there's “The Case of Death and Honey”, a Sherlock Holmes tale told in that dreamy Gaiman way. Most familiar of the included pieces will be “A Calendar of Tales”, a pastiche about months of the year which was freely available for some time and “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains...”, a superb short story published many time over, most recently as a glorious picture book which due to its visuals far surpasses this, original, version. Also included is “The Sleeper and the Spindle”, his take on fairy tales, also known for its recent illustrated edition. However, the most appealing piece is 40-odd pages long new story called “Black Dog” which is available for the first time in this collection. “Black Dog” is set in the world of “American Gods” and feature Shadow. It is a wonderful new addition to the canon, at least until that elusive sequel rears its head. Also worth mentioning are short introductions that accompany the pieces and offer an insightful look behind the inspiration and the writing process.
So should you buy “Trigger Warning”? By all means do . It's a mixed bag, for sure, but excellent pieces far surpass those few obvious misses. It is a collection that is best read slowly, a piece a day. Only then you'll have time to properly appreciate imagination of one of the finest minds of our generation. Personally, I'm still waiting for Gaiman's next adult novel but until then, this is the most you can get - Gaiman at his playful best.
Review copy provided by HarperCollins
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