I’ve said it a bazillion times already on my blog: I suck at short stories. My attention wanders. I get impatient. I feel as though I’m just serving time until I can get back to my “real” reading… meaning reading a full-length novel.
And yet — after attending a talk by Neil Gaiman last spring and coming home with a signed copy of his latest book, I felt compelled to actually READ Trigger Warning, instead of just sticking in on a shelf to be admired for its prettiness.
Trigger Warning is a story collection (or, as the cover states, a collection of “Short Fictions and Disturbances”). While I love Neil Gaiman’s writing, pretty much always and no matter what, my dreaded aversion to short stories was keeping me from starting Trigger Warning, until I finally had the brilliant idea of listening to the audiobook.
I listened to (almost) the entire audiobook of Trigger Warning during the past week, and I must admit that I really enjoyed it.
Of course, the fact that Neil Himself is the narrator does not hurt. Nope, not one bit.
Neil Gaiman is in fact a terrific, animated, nuanced narrator, and his reading of the stories is never dull. I loved the tiny inflections and emphases, the slight accents for different characters, and the pacing and delivery. And there’s an odd sense of rightness in hearing the author read his own book. He, of all people, should know which parts are meant to be spoken boldly, which to trail off, when to be quiet, and when to practically chant. The eerie stories were read eerily; the funny bits had laughter hiding in the tone of his voice. Simply marvelous.
As for the stories themselves, this is really a very mixed assortment. Most (all?) appeared elsewhere originally, whether in other anthologies or written for special projects or events. I’d read two stories previously, “Orange” and “The Thing About Cassandra”, and enjoyed them immensely here in spoken format.
Other standouts for me are “Down to a Sunless Sea”, a short but entirely chilling tale told by a mysterious woman one rainy day along a wharf. “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains…” is a long, mythical-feeling piece involving a quest for gold, truth, and revenge, and I loved it. “A Calendar of Tales” grew out of a Twitter project, with a brief story for each month of the year. I especially loved the March tale, about the pirate Anne Bonny, and the wonderful October tale about a genie.
Weird, scary, funny, epic — the stories in Trigger Warning range from fairy tale to science fiction to horror, but all have a twist and a tone that make them surprising, entertaining, and captivating.
The only small irksome thing about the audiobook is that the description of the context for each story appears in the book’s introduction, and with an audiobook, there really isn’t a good, easy way to flip back and forth. I was glad I had the hard copy on hand so I could reference the intro again and again, and would suggest that if you’re going to listen to the audiobook, get your hands on a printed book or e-book so you can follow along.
Even if you’re — like me — not normally into story collections, it’s worth the time to give Trigger Warning a try, especially if you’re a Neil Gaiman fan. The audiobook definitely worked for me, and I’m so glad that I had the idea of listening to the stories rather than trying to force myself to concentrate on reading them in printed book form. An added bonus for me, based on my experience with Trigger Warning, is that I think I can use audiobook listening in the future to enjoy story collections that I might otherwise have skipped.
And even more than that, having now listened to Stardust and Trigger Warning, I’m super motivated to listen to even more by Neil Gaiman. I’ve been wanting to re-read The Graveyard Book for a while now, and I think audio might be just the ticket!
Title: Trigger Warning
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: February 3, 2015
Audiobook length: 11 hours, 1 minute
Printed book length: 310 pages
Source: Purchased (hard copy)/Library (audio download)