Trigger Warning is Neil Gaiman’s third collection of short fiction and true to its predecessors (Fragile Things and Smoke and Mirrors) contains stories and poems written in the author’s inimitable, genre-defying style. It’s obvious that Gaiman has had a great time playing with different forms in this collection, whether it’s the questionnaire (which he uses to structure the story ‘Orange’), the monologue (‘Down to a Sunless Sea’) or the love letter (‘Feminine Endings’).
Besides creating new worlds and characters, Gaiman’s collection also harbours one of his reworked fairy tales, ‘The Sleeper and the Spindle’, which was recently released as a stand-alone, illustrated book. This particular story weaves together the tales of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, its premise similar to those that propel revisionist movies like Maleficent and Frozen: the princess being her own savior and not in need of a prince. In his ‘Front Matter’, where he talks a little about the background to each of the pieces in the collection, Gaiman states that ‘The Sleeper and the Spindle’ was born from “pondering what would happen if the two stories were happening at the same time. And what if the women who were already the subjects of the stories had a little more to do, and were active and not passive…?”
The answers he’s provided for those questions make quite a compelling read.
Gaiman has also included a story that should interest his long-time fans. Shadow, the brooding, hulking hero from his novel, American Gods surfaces in a new story, ‘Black Dog’. He’s still wandering around rural England, getting himself into trouble wherever he goes. Gaiman uses this interlude to explore Shadow’s growing powers and elaborate on themes that drive American Gods. In his introduction, he says “there is one last story to be told” about Shadow, so obviously (and thankfully, for his readers), he is not ready to sign off on that god-drenched world just yet.
In conclusion, it is fair to say that Gaiman’s new collection does not disappoint. He has an unparalleled ability to craft a world, insert a measure of tension and chilliness and create utterly believable and sympathetic characters—all in a matter of a few paragraphs. He is a master of his craft and Trigger Warning is an absolute treat, for readers of fantasy as well as those who simply enjoy a well-constructed, superbly told story.