1 Following

Shelf Indulgence

Books. Reviews.

Currently reading

Chuck Wendig
Samuel R. Delany
Charles L. Grant

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances - Neil Gaiman A collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman is always an event for me. I mean, sure, any Neil Gaiman release is an event for me, but the short stories are always the most fun. They remind me of the time when I had a collection of Ray Bradbury stories (the huge one; you know which one I'm talking about), and I could open up to any one of them and find some hidden treasure inside. One of the things I liked about his stories is that I could depend on them to give me just the right amount of wonder and chills in equal measure, without being graphic and without being long-winded. Novels can be spooky, but tend to lose impact the longer they go, as the reader becomes insulated by the reassurance that the heroes will win in the end. Short stories offer no reassurances; oftentimes, they end horribly for the main character. Usually the stories ends at a shock, leaving you to wonder what the long-term story around it would be.

The first story in the collection, "The Lunar Labyrinth," is a perfect example of that kind of story. One could cover the entire plot of the story, giving everything away, but the reading of the story would still be effective because of the way Gaiman ends it. In a novel, this story would be an opening scene, which would trigger the remaining 300 pages, where we could see the full trial of the protagonist over the course of the narrative. In a short story, though, we're presented with an opening scene and then asked to take it to its logical conclusion. Without the lengthy exposition and development of a novel, sometimes that logical conclusion takes us to bad places.

Not all of Gaiman's stories end that way, but, like Bradbury's, many of them do. The stories are ones of revenge and darkness, underworlds and secrets, fantasies and mysteries, and stories like that aren't without their own little spooks and twists. It's no surprise that there's an homage to Ray Bradbury hidden among the stories, and now that I think about it, having been such a fan of Bradbury as a child, it's no wonder I like Neil Gaiman as much as I do. The similarities in style, voice, and theme are hard to miss once you make that connection.

Trigger Warning isn't strictly a collection of scary stories, but neither were any of Bradbury's collections. Consider "The Veldt" or "Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed"; those stories weren't really horror stories, but that little spook was a large part of making them effective. Many of the stories in Trigger Warning fall into that same category.