I’m going to risk offending a lot of die-hard Gaiman fans with this review, so if you fall into that camp, kindly ignore the next few paragraphs or move on to a dark (but not really dark) poem about incubi or fairytale witches or dwarves and dragons. I apologize in advance.
Now, let’s get down and dirty.
First off, let me say that I absolutely loved “Ocean at the End of the Lane.” “Neverwhere” was a decent read, “American Gods” I didn’t find quite as epic as it’s made out to be, but nonetheless I like Gaiman’s writing. I even enjoyed most of the stories in “Smoke and Mirrors,” his other short story compilation. He’s unapologetically his own writer. He doesn’t imitate, and doesn’t try to be anything other than what he is. I deeply respect that.
I have also come to realize I am not his target reader. Just as I respect Tim Burton for his vision and unique style but find his movies rather boring, I feel the same about Gaiman’s work. His prose is often simplistic, his ideas tipping their hat to themselves in their “cuteness” (almost like he’s winking at a camera in almost every story), and like Burton, he tries for such strange creations that it doesn’t always work.
I had a particularly tough time getting through his narration at the beginning of this compilation. It was WAY too heavy handed with an “aren’t I amazing yet so humble” aloofness that turned me off before we even got started on story one. Then, the stories themselves …
I devour short stories and have read over a dozen collections in the past year alone, yet in all of these stories in Gaiman’s collection there was only one that I enjoyed. “Click-Clack the Rattlebag.” There were a few that were okay, but nothing like Gaiman alludes to at the beginning of the collection that require a “trigger warning” prior to reading. All in all, it was painfully boring. I listened to the audiobook version with this one, and each time I got in my car I was wishing I was anywhere else, like a dentist’s chair waiting for a root canal without any novocaine. I gave up on the collection half-a-dozen times, only to keep telling myself it’s got to get better (it doesn’t), and then it became more of a foolish pride sort of thing, like how much pain can I humanly tolerate?
Let me tell you, I came closer to death with this one than any past experiences, and that’s says a lot for those who know me well.
So Gaiman fans, forgive me for being that a-hole who casts a shadow over your land of Oz. But if you’re going to title your collection Trigger Warning, even touching upon that theme in your opening, please have something in there deserving of the title. A little shock, a little horror, a little something that is interesting … these things go a long way to keeping a reader happy. Or at least reading.