Listening to Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning: Short Stories and Disturbances on Audible wasn't quite what I expected. In a voice of treacle and honey, Gaiman warns the reader that things usually end badly for at least one of the characters in his stories. His voice comes as a surprise to me. I don't quite know what I expected him to sound like, perhaps more like a mad genius like the Doctor (about whom he writes in this collection) or an evil scientist capable of creating the surreal and fantastical worlds that he brings to life in these pages.
But Neil Gaiman sounds cool and collected, quite a reasonable and credible narrator as he guides the reader through tales both tall and bizarre, inventive and catastrophic. I find that I am daunted. In Trigger Warning there are stories about stories, meta fiction and stories that bend time and space. How can I, a mere mortal with a limited command of the English language, possibly write a review of such an impressive body of work?
Neil Gaiman is the type of writer that makes readers fall in love with the English language and reading all over again. He dares you to imagine and dares you to suspend disbelief for just a little bit more than you may be comfortable with. He creates worlds out of paper and books and human weakness and invites you to share in his secrets. This may sound like high praise but my sole exposure to his work, before Trigger Warning, was in the episodes he wrote for Doctor Who.
Trigger Warning: Short Stories and Disturbances is a collection of 24 short stories ranging in listening time from a couple of minutes to an impressive one-and-a-half hours. Realising that I can't do this collection justice, I have decided to list five of my favourite tales, in no particular order. If you cannot get your hands on the entire collection then these are the five that you must not miss:
“The Thing About Cassandra” is a cautionary tale of how our little white lies and innocent fabrications come to gain a disturbing life of their own, often continuing to thrive once they have long since disappeared from our memory. As a former teenager prone to quite fanciful tales of my own, I loved this story and entirely related to the bemusement of the narrator.
“My Last Landlady” is a story especially for anybody who has visited a summer resort out of season or been to a once-glorious seaside town long after its heyday. This is a lovely tale about joyless English seaside towns, tired old B&Bs and a landlady who will be the death of you.
“Nothing O'Clock” (A Doctor Who story). Fans of Doctor Who must not miss this adventure of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, set shortly after he meets Amy Pond. It occurred to me that I haven’t ever read (or listened to) a written story about the Doctor and it was interesting to see him from a third-person perspective. It reminded me of just how subjective the Doctor Who experience can be. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale about the fugitive Kin and a journey beyond the Dawn of Time.
“The Truth is a Cave in a Black Mountain” is an epic tale about revenge and a journey to the end of the world which won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novelette in 2010. The story was first commissioned by the Sydney Opera House for their Graphic Festival and was performed in a unique multi-media setting with Neil Gaiman narrating, renowned graphic artist Eddie Campbell illustrating the story and the FourPlay String Quartet providing the musical underscore. Neil and his entourage have since travelled around the world to perform this piece with notable performances in San Francisco, the Barbican and Carnegie Hall.
“A Calendar of Tales” was my favourite of all of the tales. It is a collection of twelve short tales, one for every month of the year and was written in response to a series of prompts that Neil asked on Twitter. He asked questions such as “Why is January dangerous?” and out of the tens of thousands of responses, he chose his favourites and used those responses to craft these twelve stories. I couldn’t possible pick a favourite but out the the twelve, I will always remember January’s war of the years, July’s igloo of books and December’s unique “it gets better” message.
I give Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman a superb five out of five stars and would highly recommend listening to the audiobook version, narrated by Neil himself, on Audible.
An advance, electronic copy of this book was provided to me for the purposes of this review and all opinions contain herein are my own. This review contains affiliate links.