Narrator: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Harper Audio
Pub. Date: 2015
Genres: Short Stories
Length: 11 hours, 1 minute
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Gaiman collected a bunch of his short stories that could be triggering, but he spends a good hour in the introduction explaining his thoughts about trigger warnings and the short story collection. I can’t explain well what Gaiman’s strategy for the book was or what his main motivation was, but I found a quotation that explains it much better. I found this quote from the introduction to the book on Goodreads:
There are little things that upset us. That’s not quite what we’re talking about here, tough. I’m thinking about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. Our hearts skip a ratatat drumbeat into our chests, and we fight for breath. Blood retreats from our faces and our fingers, leaving us pale and gasping and shocked. And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead.
This probably accurately describes how all of these stories were selected and put together, but they don’t feel otherwise connected. I know most, if not all, of the stories have been published previously. That makes it even clearer that these don’t feel very related. I tried to figure the triggers he was going for in these stories, but some of the stories were too dull to me to care after a point.
I have listened to two children’s books read by Neil Gaiman, and I love his voice. I didn’t realize he was his own narrator again until I was a few minutes into the introduction.
I did learn something about audiobook technology while reading this. I had a few issues with the audiobook technology I used to read this. I used a PlayAway system up through “Down to a Sunless Sea,” but it kept shutting down and restarting the chapter first at specific times slots and then every two-minutes. The tech issues played a significant part in me not wanting to bother with trying to listen to the audiobook anymore, so I stopped reading the book altogether.
I was also bored, overall, with the selected stories for this collection. One reason is that I can’t find what exactly would be the triggers in each story, and the stories weren’t really meant to go together. Another reason is that the stories weren’t that particularly interesting to me after a point. I wanted to like all of the stories, but it’s hard when those I have read thus far are not that great to me. So, instead of making an overall statement about the book, from here on I will share my thoughts on the individual stories I read from this audiobook.
Making a Chair
This three-minute story sounded like a soft continuation of the introduction with its relating the making of a chair to writing. It’s pretty good to read a few times over.
A Lunar Labyrinth
The title alone reminds me of Pan’s Labyrinth and the Greek myth about the Minotaur in the labyrinth. It’s pretty typical to what I read of his children’s literature with that soft, nostalgic air that grows ever creepier. I like the twist at the end.
The Thing About Cassandra
I liked this one. It’s about a man who invented one of his first girlfriends, and no one ever discovered that she was never real. I love the detail and creativity of the story. (The thing about Cassandra is that she’s imaginary and so is the narrator.) I would like to hear it again without technical issues from the PlayAway system.
Down to a Sunless Sea
I’m not sure what to make of this story. A woman recounts her son’s death at sea. It’s an okay, sad story.
“The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains…”
I started listening to a digital audiobook on this story and read through the rest. It was easier to deal with.
This story is so long (50 or 60 minutes) that it’s very easy to lose track of it and fall asleep during its narration. There’s a guide who promises to take him to the cave but not go in it, some kind of witch and a man with dwarfism. It’s kind of a quest story about trying to get gold, but it’s not quite my cup of coffee.
My Last Landlady
“My Last Landlady” is about five minutes long. It took a dark turn fast. The things that landlady says…. (Gaiman’s performance here is superb in rushing over sentences that would freak you out faster if they weren’t said so fast.) I’m not sure if I would rather lock up the landlady or this tenant.
The previous story was a good warm-up for this one, what with the mother’s stories about her late husband. The landlady and this widowed mother would probably be fast friends. I understand the title meaning different things to the mother and to everyone else, but this title seems to more illustrate what the adventure story of the narrator’s father is.
This is a listicle type of story. It’s harder for me to follow this type of story by just listening to it. I think it would have been better to read the text here. There was some mystery it was trying to give a story for, but it was hard for me to get into it. For the way this story goes with the sister’s transformation, it reminds me of Seven Deadlies: A Cautionary Tale by Gigi Levangie, but the story is not funny to me.
A Calendar of Tales
This is another long story, and each month is its own tale. I think these sub-stories make it more digestible. They seem more interconnected than that. There are children named years, people who seem immortal, people who make you worry, and talking animals. I suppose it exposes the fears and desires of the characters who belong to each month. Some of these sub-stories remind me of some of Gaiman’s children’s books, but these stories are only okay.
On a side note, I would like to submit this story to be food-for-thought on Jace’s origin story for his fear of ducks. See the tweet below.
The Sleeper and the Spindle
Now, I have read this before in it’s picture book form, and it’s beautiful in that format. The Sleeper and the Spindle is a combined retelling of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. A woman postpones her wedding to go save a kingdom struck with a sleeping plague. The story is very entertaining, and I love the twists in the combined retelling.
It was different hearing Neil Gaiman read this one. I prefer the picture book to the audio recording because I fell in love with Riddell’s illustrations first.
I think Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances will be well received by Gaiman’s fans, particularly those who love his short stories. If you want to listen to the audiobook, Gaiman’s narrations are almost always wonderful if technology doesn’t get in the way.