If you ever talk to someone who’s read The Lord of the Rings books, it’s inevitable that you get to that question: Did you read the songs?
For me the answer was not a straightforward “no” because I did read some of them, then I read fewer as I worked my way through the story, then I just plain stopped. But I still had a great time reading The Lord of the Rings.
The same can be said of Neil Gaiman’s latest collection, Trigger Warning, which intersperses a few poems–the equivalent to Tolkien’s songs–in among the short stories. In his second collection, Fragile Things, he describes the poems as “bonuses for the kind of people who do not need to worry about sneaky and occasional poems lurking inside their short-story collections.”
I read some of the poems, then read fewer of them, the just plain stopped. But I still had a great time reading Trigger Warning.
This is a hodgepodge of stories, covering everything from modern horror to high fantasy, all of it presented with Gaiman’s usual dry wit and depiction of the world as a place both dark and beautiful.
I enjoyed all of the stories but being who I am, the ones I enjoyed most were the Twilight Zone-esque “The Thing About Cassandra” in which imagined loves are perhaps not so imaginary, “Orange,” which uses a question and answer format to show the transformation of a young, tanning-obsessed woman into something rather more cosmic and “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury,” which paints a chilling portrait of a man who forgets words, with more impact than one might expect. Stories based on Dr. Who and Sherlock Holmes are well-executed and the final and original piece, “Black Dog” features Shadow from American Gods, in a story about murder, ghosts and the power of the mind to both protect and destroy.
This is an easy recommendation for anyone who enjoys Gaiman’s writing, but I feel there is enough variety here to entice those unfamiliar with his work.