Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (Audiobook)

trigger warningMixed bag…

😀 😀 😀 🙂

This collection of short stories turned out to be something of a mixed bag. Ranging in length from a couple of minutes to an hour and a half (I was listening rather than reading), some of the shorter ones are so fragmentary as to be rather pointless, while a couple of the longer ones feel too long for their content. However there are some excellent stories in here too and, as I’d been told by so many people, Gaiman is a wonderful narrator.

As a fairly new convert to Gaiman’s work I was surprised to find that there are several stories in here that I had already come across elsewhere in other formats. This made me wonder how much new stuff there would be in the book for established fans, so it would probably be wise to check the contents list before purchasing.

There is a long introduction in which Gaiman explains the rationale for the collection. This may have been better if I’d been reading rather than listening, but on the audiobook it takes over an hour, most of which is made up of short introductions to each story explaining the inspiration for it. Some of these short introductions are as long as the stories themselves. I fear I clicked out of the introduction after 20 minutes – snippets of how a story came about because of something some bloke called Jimmy said down the pub one night failed to hold my attention. One of the drawbacks of audio is that it’s not possible to scan read sections like this, as I would with a paper or e-book.

Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman

I found the first few stories quite disappointing to be honest. The title, cover and introduction had all led me to think that the stories would be dark and chilling, but a lot of them aren’t. And while I think Gaiman does dark and chilling exceptionally well, I was less enamoured of his musing on the writing process by using a metaphor of making a chair, for example. I also found, and this is down to personal preference, that, of the stories I knew, I had on the whole preferred them in written format. Both Down to the Sunless Sea and The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains had worked brilliantly for me when I read them – the first as straight text and the second as a graphic novel – but didn’t have quite the same effect when listening, mainly because, although Gaiman’s narration was excellent, the voices didn’t gel with the ones I’d heard in my head. However, where I hadn’t read a story before, Click-Clack The Rattle Bag, for instance, then the narration often worked superbly.

These three stories were still amongst my favourites in the collection though, and here are another few that I particularly enjoyed:

Adventure story – a son sits with his elderly mother having tea and discussing his father, now deceased. In the course of the conversation his mother reveals the story of an adventure his father once had long ago as a young man. The adventure becomes progressively more fantastical, and the appeal comes from the matter-of-fact way the mother tells it and the son’s astonishment. Quite a short story this one, but cleverly done and enjoyable. I suspect the narration made this one work better than it would have on paper.

The Case of Death and Honey is a rather good spin on the Holmes stories, which provides an explanation for why the great man went off to keep bees at the end of his career. It’s set in China with Holmes on the trail of the answer to the ultimate mystery, and while it is somewhat far-fetched it’s well-written and interesting, and Gaiman’s Holmes feels quite authentic. This is another one I had already come across elsewhere – in the Oxcrimes collection published last year.

Nothing O’Clock is a Doctor Who story and I found it thoroughly enjoyable. It fits perfectly into the Doctor Who style and Gaiman’s narration of the many characters gives a unique voice to each. The story is imaginative and nicely chilling, but of course with the traditional happy ending we expect the Doctor to provide.

So quite a lot of good things in here overall, but also some that I found rather dull or a bit lightweight. A mixed bag – I’d say most readers will find some things to like in the collection but, like me, may also find there’s quite a lot that leaves them a little underwhelmed.

NB This audiobook was provided for review by the publisher, Audible UK.

Amazon UK Link
Audible UK Link
Amazon US Link
Audible US Link

54 thoughts on “Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (Audiobook)

  1. Oh, that’s a shame – I had high hopes for this. The hour-long intro has rather put me off, actually. It sounds rather self-indulgent and I can’t imagine too many people being that interested – I am always uneasy about a writer talking about their own writing at length, as it tends to spoil things for the reader. And, as you point out, there’s always the danger that the ‘voices’ won’t sound quite right – that happend to me with a Pratchett audio book. It made it unlistenable. Great review, though, FF!

    • Yes, the hour-long intro nearly did for me. I know lots of people enjoy it, but I get really fed up with writers talking about the writing process – as a non-writer, it’s about as interesting as listening to a plumber explain how toilets flush. In both cases, I’d really rather move straight to the end-product, so to speak! I’m lucky to get offered audiobooks for review, so I felt a bit cheeky when I told them I had to know who the narrator was in advance of agreeing to take them – but the narration is as important as the text. I have favourites who could persuade me to listen to a book I wouldn’t otherwise think of, and others that I wouldn’t listen to even if they were narrating the best book in the world…

      • It can be such a personal thing, can’t it? Even if it was my favourite book, if it was narrated by someone I didn’t like, it would be ruined.
        I cannot STAND to hear writers bleating on about ‘the process’ – like it’s some kind of mystical thing that heathen non-writers need to have explained to them, at length. No one cares. Not even other writers, I imagine. And if they do, then, well, they should really get a life. Or wine. Now – there’s a genius idea for a Friday evening!

        • Yes! Wine! That’s the answer! What was the question again? Oh, who cares…pass the bottle!

          I must say when they write a whole book about how hard the writing life is (yes, Ruth Ozeki, I’m talking about you) I often feel like telling them to go work in McDonalds then. At least there they’d have ready access to doughnuts on the dark days…

          • Haha! Yes, like it’s such a dadblame chore putting words on a page! Of course, it isn’t the easiest thing in the world and writing is very important. But I’ll bet there are a few nurses, dustmen and soldiers who are having a more difficult time of it…
            Wine… yes… that’s far more important!

            • Oh, I know! And I’m very grateful that people do write, or where would us readers be. But to compare it to the difficulty of making a self-assembly chair – well! It can’t possibly be as hard as that… 😉

  2. I’m not entirely sure I could get into an audio book for that very reason, FF — the voices won’t sound the way I “hear” them! Outstanding review, by the way, and thanks for the heads-up about the overly-long intro. Perhaps something like that would play better on the printed page??

    • I find it easier when it’s a book I’ve not read, or if the ‘voice’ already relates to the book in my head – like Joan Hickson’s brilliant narration of the Miss Marple books. But even a brilliant narrator won’t work if they don’t sound like my impression of the character – I love both Meryl Streep and Colm Toibin, but didn’t enjoy her narration of The Testament of Mary nearly as much as my own reading of it. And in general I do prefer the printed page… a narration has to be superb to win me over fully…

    • Hmm…I hope I haven’t put you off – there is lots of good stuff in here, it was just unfortunate that most of the stuff I liked best I’d already read elsewhere. But overall I do still think it’s worth listening to – most of it anyway…

    • For me, certainly. I really prefer factual or pretty short stories – I find longer fiction works better on the page. My attention tends to drift and I find I’ve missed crucial bits and have to backtrack, which is harder to do with audio. Some of the really long stories in this collection took me ages because I kept having to go back – but that’s more of a comment on my concentration than the stories…

  3. I was wondering how you were enjoying this one. FEF, are there any sound sound effects or music in this collection?

    The Adventure Story sounds rather nice. What did the father do? Maybe kill a bear? Storm a castle? You should give just a bit more information on that one, I’m thinking. And how’d he die?

    Don’t you suppose he looks like Kenny?!

    • No, it’s straight narration all the way through. He’s very good at it though, so all the different characters have different voices which stops it from becoming too samey. But I still found some of the stories a bit dull.

      *laughs* I did actually give more info on that one and then took it out as possible spoilers. I shall merely mention goddesses and pterodactyls… You’ll be disappointed to know the father died of natural causes – old age…

      Yes, he does! I wonder if he can snort…

      • Well, I think it’s cool he can manage without all that extra stuff. He does have a top voice. That’s why stories need plenty of action. Like train robberies, gun fights, and turtle races.

        Pterodactyls! That sounds interesting. I asked for information and you gave me two words!! Heroes never die from natural causes!

        Probably did lots in his youth!

        • Yes, on the whole I prefer no sound effects in a narration – keep them for dramatisations, I say! Turtle races! I knew there was something missing in this book!!

          Two words is plenty for a man of your imagination! I bet the story you’re thinking is better than the actual one… He was a most unheroic hero – that was partly why it worked. Here it is but the quality of the vid is awful – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-F2Jv7ar2o

          *laughs so much she ends up snorting too*

          • Oh, dramatizations! That’s what I was trying to think on. There sure was! I hear turtle races are good for testing one’s patience.

            I don’t have any sort of imagination. That’s the problem, see. *laughs* Now that sound like an anti-adventure of sorts. I mean, it was supposed to be exciting. But adventures aren’t to be able to be believed.

            *laughing lots too*

            • S. Not Z. (Americans! Tchah!) I’d like to be a turtle… an nice, relaxed pace of life, and no-one expects them to use wrinkle cream…

              Uh-huh! It’s just as well the Punchy Lands are real then. I liked the way she’d mention pterodactyls and then say ‘More tea, dear?’ as if she hadn’t said anything out of the ordinary. *laughs*

            • Why do you hate Z’s so much?! They’re like a fancy S, I tell you! *laughing lots* Would you rather be a turtle or tortoise? I bet you’d hide in your shell and read all day. I’d try to climb, if I was one.

              *laughs* I think he brainwashed her. Or, she was crazy. Maybe a mixture? TPL is real! And I”m stuck there, you know.

            • I don’t hate Zs – they’re fine when they stay in their place. Zoos, for example. But I won’t join in the American habit of discriminating against certain letters – Go, Ss!! I think I’d rather be a turtle so I could float around tropical oceans. I’d swim on my back if I was a turtle… that way I could hold my book without it getting wet.

              I’d go with crazy! I know, you know, you know…

            • If I invented American, I think I’d use a lot more silent V’s. *laughing lots* Why can I picture that? You’d have to watch out for sharks and Ned Land. (He made his guitar out of a turtle shell.)

              That’s so many ‘knows’ it boggles the mind.

            • Then how would we know they’re silent? V-shhh-ince? No, I think I prefer Shhhvince… I bet he didn’t! I hope he made a banjo out of Ned!

            • It must be strong! (Though the fact that you can’t remember your own name does rather suggest the ageing process is happening rapidly in your case…) But not fickle – you seem to be extremely loyal to your Amelia! *spits*

            • (I did?!? Well, but that must have been before I knew how easily dazzled you would be by their shameless flirting. You see, I believed you to be a heartless warrior back then… *shakes head sadly*)

  4. It sounds like a mixed bag indeed, FictionFan. I think that’s often the case with short story collections. Or perhaps that’s just been my experience. Anyway, I’m glad you found some things to really like here. And don’t tell anyone, please, but I’d probably have clicked through the intro, too…

    • Yes, I find that with short story collections too, and it was just unfortunate in this one that I’d already read several of what I thought were the best stories. But overall it was still worth listening to for the other good ones I didn’t know. But the intro did nearly finish me off, I admit… 😉

  5. I was glad to read your review. In some ways, I guess I’m not surprised that the stories were a mixed bag. I’ve felt that way about Neil’s books lately. He’s so busy and has his fingers in so many pies.
    Have you read Neverwhere, Coraline, or Anansi Boys?

    • I haven’t read any of his novels, only a few of his short stories that have been in various anthologies and the brilliant graphic novel version of The Truth is a Cave. So far I’ve found my reactions to him a bit mixed – I’ve loved some stories but have found others maybe trying to be too clever or something? Can’t quite put my finger on it, to be honest. I have a dramatised version of Neverwhere to listen to when I get time…

  6. Nicely done review! “The Case of Death and Honey” was my favorite of the bunch. Gaiman found a fun way to treat an aging Holmes that paid respect to the original character. His attempt was inexpressibly better than Chabon’s The Final Solution… Oy.

    For “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains,” I’d really like to get a look at the graphic novel… Your review of it, and everything I’ve heard about the story+art, makes it sound like it’s the best way to read this story.

    Gaiman is always wonderful in an audio format. He has a swoon-worthy voice!! 😀

    Also, reading this reminds me of how far behind in my own reviews! I’ve been busy, but I’m fast running out of excuses…

    • I haven’t read the Chabon, and after the mammoth struggle I had getting through Kavalier and Clay it’ll be a while before I feel the need for more Chabon, I think! Yes, I liked Gaman’s take on Holmes – it was different enough to be original and steer away from being too much of a pastiche.

      The graphic novel of The Truth is a Cave is absolutely fantastic – as far as I’m concerned a million times better than the story just on its own, even though I thought his narration of it was very good. But the art adds so much, and the way the art and text are interwoven is just brilliant.

      Me too! I have a pile of reviews waiting to be written and if I don’t hurry up I’ll have forgotten the books completely! 😉

  7. I read one of his novels and found it good. Then life intervened and I never got another one. I think I dove into Stephen King for about a year. How disappointing that is, though.

    • I haven’t read any of his books yet, just some of his short stories. But I think I’ll probably read The Ocean at the End of the Lane next. Hope you enjoy this one if you get a chance to read it!

      Thanks for popping in and commenting! 😀

Please leave a comment - I'd love to know who's visiting and what you think...of the post, of the book, of the blog, of life, of chocolate...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s