Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
A hugely varied collection, unified best by the word ‘tale’, for that is what each story is, whether ghostly (as several are), mysterious, playing with time or simply weird. Gaiman’s virtuosity as a storyteller is on display here, and many of the stories are very enjoyable indeed, reminding me of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected which, unlike Dahl’s writing for children, were almost all plot, with little characterisation. The problem in a collection as diverse as Trigger Warning is the lack of a distinct voice. It made me think of a well-known TV impersonator from my childhood called Mike Yarwood, who could impersonate anyone brilliantly, but who couldn’t ‘do’ himself. Gaiman therefore gives huge value, but the style of some of the stories feels self-consciously derivative, sometimes of Maugham, sometimes of Saki sometimes even of fairy tales. It’s a virtuoso performance, but he’s playing other people’s music.