Recommended Reading: Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman

photo (26)The first book of Neil Gaiman’s that I read was Smoke and Mirrors, a long, long time ago, and so I’m used to to thinking of him as a short-story writer; Trigger Warning was a bit like getting reacquainted with an old friend (don’t get me wrong: I love American Gods as much as the next Gaiman fan).

Trigger Warning (the subtitle is Short Fictions and Disturbances) is a wildly varied collection. In it you’ll find poems, a fairy tale or two, a story set in the world of Dr. Who (comprehensible even to me, who’s never seen the show), a novelette, small horror stories, a Sherlock Holmes mystery, a story that brings back Shadow, the protagonist of American Gods, and more.

Not all readers will love every piece; I found some stronger than others, but no piece left me cold (chilled, in some cases, by creepiness). The standouts for me were varied, and included “Jerusalem,” “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” (among other things, it’s a meditation on language and memory and literature), “A Calendar of Tales” (itself widely varied), “My Last Landlady” (a poem that’s a fabulous twist on Browning’s “My Last Duchess”), and “The Sleeper and the Spindle” (best. fairytale. ever.).

Essentially, if you like Neil Gaiman’s writing, you’ll find something to like in this collection.

And I have to say, as someone who always reads introductions, forewords, acknowledgments, and rights listings (yes, really), that this is one of my favorite introductions of the last five years. Mr. Gaiman talks about why he called the book Trigger Warning (a tricky concept that he approaches with attentiveness), his own feelings about and history with disturbing fiction, and, delightfully, the background of each of the book’s pieces. I love having that kind of information, and Mr. Gaiman’s generosity of spirit shows in the way he tips his hat to friends and fellow writers.