Review: Trigger Warning: Short Fiction & Disturbances

Trigger WArningBy Neil Gaiman

Headline, out now

Consider yourself warned. A must-read.

Trigger Warning: Short Fiction & Disturbances is the first collection from Neil Gaiman since Fragile Things (2006). This time around, the jumping off point for the book was the emergence of the phrase ‘trigger warning’, i.e. a warning that something within a book or film, for example, might be upsetting. And each offering in this collection will certainly make you think, will stay with you – some might well give you nightmares. Upsetting, though? Perhaps, in some cases, but that can also be a good thing – an awakening, of sorts.

The stories and poems contained in Trigger Warning include celebrations of authors such as Ray Bradbury (‘The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury’) and Jack Vance (‘An Invocation of Incuriosity’), as well as characters such as Sherlock Holmes (‘The Case of Death and Honey’ – a brilliantly realised tale told from the perspective of an elderly man meeting a stranger that the reader gradually realises has a very special secret) and the Doctor (‘Nothing O’Clock’ – a short but perfectly formed, not to mention chilling, story featuring the 11th Doctor). There are also stories that live entirely inside the author’s own dark, deliciously quirky domain. The short tale ‘Click-Clack the Rattlebag’ is deeply disquieting; a small boy telling his sister’s new boyfriend the tale of ‘click-clacks’, creatures that drink you, and hang your bones up to rattle. As is ‘My Last Landlady’, a story written for Brighton Shock, the official publication of World Horror Convention 2010.

The final story, original to this collection and possibly my favourite, is ‘Black Dog’, featuring Shadow from Gaiman’s novel American Gods, one of my favourite books. In this story Shadow finds himself in rural England, taken in by an odd couple he encounters in a pub one dark and rainy night as he seeks shelter. The resultant ghost story includes an encounter with the Bar Guest, or eponymous Black Dog, a murder mystery and help from an unlikely source that involves mummified cats. To reveal more would be to ruin an engrossing tale, and an altogether delightful collection.

Verdict: A superb collection of stories ranging from the whimsical to the downright frightening. 10/10

Marie O’Regan

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