Neil Gaiman’s latest release, Trigger Warning, is a collection of short stories and poems that I think, perhaps more so than his other collections (though it has been awhile since I’ve read them), shows off his range as a writer. There are horror stories like “Click-Clack the Rattlebag” about monsters that drink humans; some humorous tales like “Orange”, wherein a girl’s teenage sister turns into an alien deity; and the more whimsical types of stories one might expect from Gaiman like “Thing Thing About Cassandra”, a story about a man whose make-believe high school girlfriend turns out to be real.
There are also some stories from other properties, like “The Case of Death and Honey”, which is a Sherlock Holmes story about the later years of Holmes and a strange adventure he has in China. Then there is “Nothing O’Clock”, a short story featuring Doctor Who and Amy Pond going up against a time traveling beast called The Kin.
I think the two stories that really stood out to me the most were “The Sleeper and the Spindle” and “Black Dog”. “The Sleeper and the Spindle” is a take on Sleeping Beauty that I found both fresh and fun. It involves an adventuring queen, rather than a prince, and sleep walkers who act very much like Romero zombies. I won’t ruin any more for you. I do think Gaiman’s adaptations of fairy tales are incredible though. “Snow, Glass, Apples” from one of his earlier collections, Smoke and Mirrors, is an adaptation of Snow White that sticks in my mind after many years, and I can see “The Sleeper and the Spindle” doing the same.
“Black Dog” is another adventure in the life of Shadow following the events of American Gods. This time he is journeying through the English countryside when he encounters a dangerous and legendary black dog that he needs to defeat with the help of his old friend/lover Bast. American Gods is one of my favorite novels, and it was great to read about Shadow in action once again.
Both of these stories were also proceeded by poems that tied into them, in a way. “Observing the Formalities” feels like it is a prologue of sorts to “The Sleeper and the Spindle” giving some insight into the witch’s thoughts when she decides to attack Snow White and her family. “In Relig Odhrain” is about a saint who is buried in the foundations of a chapel, and, without giving much away, the idea of being buried inside of a building plays a rather large role in “Black Dog”.
While each of the stories and poems in the collection is distinct, it is this sort of thematic flow between them that gives Trigger Warning a grander and more unified feel than being simply a collection of shorts. Naturally any fan of Neil Gaiman is going to pick up this book, but I recommend it anyway. And if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Gaiman before, I think this is a good place to start, as you’ll get a real feel for the breadth of his work and style…though you may want to read American Gods before you tackle “Black Dog”, the collection’s last tale.