Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an internationally published Australian cyberpunk author with a taste for the dangerous and obscene aspects of life. His work ranges from the sarcastic to the satirical. Links to his work can be found at www.JamieMarriage.com.

gibson_trigger-warningTrigger Warning; it’s a phrase that carries with it a freight-train of emotional baggage. A physical manifestation of the term would not be dissimilar to a road-sign, glimpsed in the dark of a stormy night, reading “Treacherous Roads Ahead”. And in this newest collection of short stories by renowned British author, Neil Gaiman, the title is all too apt.

Gaiman’s collection is many things: it’s stories of bite-sized lengths that conjure brief glimpses of other times or worlds; continuations of long held narratives that deserve one last visit; standalone tales of truth and fantasy; and, as the title warns, deep and darker elements.

As a tome,Trigger Warning is a strange yet poignant collection of works by a man who has made it his life to get under the reader’s skin. And while every piece is distinct from every other, somehow, with true Gaiman style, the pieces fit together as one wondrous whole of lyrical poetry, vast sadness, and shy beauty.

The introduction itself is a lengthy and evocative description on the notion of Triggers, of those things that set off long buried fears, and serve as an unspoken agreement that to continue reading is with knowledge that the road you travel is risky, and that you have been warned.

Gaiman goes on to break down the backstory of each piece, describing the trigger that set the author to write each story and poem. These are worth reading either before or after the work itself.

A few of the stories that stand out the most must include The Thing About Cassandra–a twisted tale highlighting the dangers of imagination, and how the things we create can be more real than we could imagine.

A Calendar of Tales is a collection of flash fiction told under the headings of months. No story here is longer than a couple of pages but each has depth and hints at worlds fleetingly glimpsed through windows.

Nothing O’Clock is an episode of Doctor Who that never was to be. A humorous, if dark, incident in which the human race is being wiped from existence by its own greed.

And finally Black Dog, a title that fills those who have gone through depression, or those who have known those who do, with chills. This final tale continues the legacy of Shadow from Gaiman’s earlier novel American Gods. Shadow is waylaid in a quiet English town that is haunted by a dark spectre that is both an illness and a myth.

Trigger Warning is honest with its title; there is much to be cautious about in this book. There are some happy endings, some not so happy, and a few that are bound to induce fear, sadness, or revulsion.

All great literature strives to evoke reaction; Neil Gaiman has just done the gentlemanly thing by being honest about what you are getting yourself into when you turn the page.

 

Alayana Cole

Alayna Cole loves to write stories when she’s not studying for her Bachelor of Education/Bachelor of Arts.

gAIMAN_The Ocean at the End of the Lane CoverNeil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a masterful work of speculative fiction, which recollects an unnamed narrator’s childhood, which he is reminded of upon visiting a property known as the Hempstock Farm.

The novel relies on a framing narrative where the narrator is driving around the town where he grew up. He is inexplicably drawn to the property where his childhood home once stood, and then further along the lane to the Hempstock Farm and the pond that his friend Lettie had referred to as ‘her ocean’.

Framing narratives that surround a recollection generally work to instil confidence in the reader that the characters will remain safe from harm within those memories. However, Gaiman manages to destabilise this belief as events unfold, successfully creating discomfort and mystery for the audience. This destabilisation is increased by the unreliability of the narrator.

There are several factors contributing to the unreliability of this text’s unnamed narrator. Firstly, the fact that he isn’t given a name works to distance him from the reader and makes it more difficult to trust his narrative. Anonymity can sometimes give a person the freedom to be honest without judgement, but can also cause a person to lack the accountability required for them to tell the whole truth. This uncertainty is combined with the idea that many decades have passed between the narration and the narrated, and the impact of time can cause memories to shift and change. The story is told predominantly from the perspective of a child, and the memories of a child are often skewed by a misconception of time and space. The narration is made more unreliable still through the recurring theme of memory; it is highlighted that different people remember situations differently, and the inference that the Hempstocks have the power to change and manipulate time to suit themselves makes it difficult to determine what actually happened and what has been altered. The unnamed narrator has duplicate memories of some events, so it’s impossible to determine which are the ‘true’ events and which were changed, or didn’t happen at all.

The contrast between adult and child in this text is apparent through the shift of time and also through language use. Characterisation is achieved through the language utilised within the narration and dialogue. The Hempstock family has a slightly different dialect than the unnamed narrator and his family, and this is different again to the language used by Ursula, the opal miner, and other secondary characters. This highlights the age difference between characters, as well as their differing social contexts. It also works to separate the unnamed narrator in the framing narrative to him as a child in the recollections, while showing similarities between the Hempstock woman that he meets at the farm and those in his memories, adding to the mystery of who the Hempstocks are and how long they have been at Hempstock Farm.

Mystery is an important element in this text and is introduced through the strange, unexplained and magical themes. More importantly however, the mystery is continued through the questions that remain half-answered or entirely unanswered, even after the novel is finished. Throughout the book, it’s accepted that certain areas and people have magical properties or inexplicable traits, and the importance of these elements is described without their origins being explicitly stated for the reader. In this novel, Gaiman refuses to hold the reader’s hand, revealing the idea of different worlds, immortality and a magical ocean without truly explaining how or why these things exist, or if they were really any more than the fantasies of a child with a passion for reading about and creating stories.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a magical tale, with setting descriptions and characters that transport the reader to the lane where the unnamed narrator and the Hempstocks once lived. But its these mysteries and unanswered questions that truly cause this narrative to linger with the audience and encourage a second read-through.

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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