Sort of Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark – Trigger Warning Review

trigger warning coverTitle: Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances
Author: Neil Gaiman
Published: February 2, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Short stories
Rating: ★★★★☆

One can always expect the same thing from Neil Gaiman: he’s going to take you on a weird ride. Trigger Warning, his newly release book of short stories is no different.

Comprised of 23 of Gaiman’s short stories and poems, this compilation was inspired by one of the most, in my humble opinion, misused terms on the internet: “Trigger warning.” The term, Gaiman describes in his introduction, exists to warn us of things that might upset us, where I find it often is used by people who are trying to provoke a reaction, as opposed to protect from it. While I suppose it’s nice to know if a book contains something that will deeply disturb me, I tend to agree with Gaiman’s assessment on the adventure of reading: “We are mature, we decide what we read or do not read.”

And so, from the introduction Gaiman promises to explore these “triggers,” the creepy and upsetting: “Many of these stories end badly for at least one of the people in them. Consider yourself warned.”

The book winds its way through these stories and poems, and aside from the occasional chill, these stories have little to do with each other. So little, in fact, that the mood is quite hard to keep up with. Some stories were a creepy delight, such as “Click-Click the Rattlebag,” a ghoulish sort of boogeyman story, and “The Thing About Cassandra” – fake high school girlfriends gone wrong, while others like “Making a Chair” (which is about making… a chair) and “The Truth is a Cave in The Black Mountains” (a long-ish tale that had too many details and not enough sense) were more confusing than scary.

One particularly interesting one was “A Calendar of Tales,” which is a bunch of short stories, compiled in this book of short stories (Yo dawg, I heard you like short stories so I put short stories in your short stories.). They most certainly do not intertwine, as I expected them to, but rather share brief glimpses into windows of time, each leaving you wishing to see more. What’s really interesting is “A Calendar of Tales” came from a Twitter contest. Crowd-sourced story prompts! Delightful.

Other favorites: “The Case of Death and Honey” – a sort of epilogue for Sherlock Holmes; “Black Dog” – a mystery featuring Shadow Moon from American Gods, a creepy spectre-dog (uh, Prisoner of Azkaban, anyone?) and cats; and two Sleeping Beauty tales: “Observing the Formalities,” from the evil witch’s perspective and “The Sleeper and the Spindle,” a wonderfully creepy take on both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. (BONUS: I reviewed the Sleeper and The Spindle for Literary Happy Hour a few months ago!)

Honorable mention: I didn’t love this story, but I appreciated that Gaiman included it: “Nothing O’Clock” is about Doctor Who. I love Doctor Who, and I love that Gaiman loves it (he wrote my all-time favorite episode of DW!).

Overall, I found this enjoyable, but consider myself to be entirely biased because I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan. I’m not sure someone new to Neil Gaiman would appreciate it so much.

Weirdly enough, my favorite part was his introduction, as well as his insights into each of the stories (I decided to read them after I read the stories, which made it a little more fun). I enjoy his passion for literature and adore his kind-hearted, dry humor. He pokes fun without ever talking down or being cruel – truly the best sense of humor one can have. And he spins a heck of a spooky story.

“…If I was going to read fiction, sometimes I would only know what my comfort zone was by leaving it; and now, as an adult, I would not erase the experience of having read them if I could.”


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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