Unnatural Creatures, stories selected by Neil Gaiman
Mr. Gaiman has recently become one of my top favorite writers. I’ve recently read, enjoyed, and reviewed American Gods, Stardust and The Graveyard Book. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is currently in my kindle library, waiting to be read. So I snatched up this story collection as soon as I saw it on an eBook sale. I like unnatural creatures and I like Gaiman so this is a win-win right? Except it’s a story collection, not a book by him. So I didn’t like the whole book, just a few bits and pieces. However, this gives me a nice chance to talk about short story collections in general because I have LOTS of thoughts about them!

First, my actual review of Unnatural Creatures. I really liked the first story so I was excited after reading it. The title of the story is not words but an image that basically looks like an inkblot. And the tale is about a creepy dark spot that haunts this really proper gentleman type dude. Check out this great bit from the story:

“He shoved both hands, together with their attendant knuckles, into his pants pockets. It showed the extreme state of his agitation, for he loathed nothing more than unsightly bulges in a well-cut suit. Who would know about this sort of thing? Who could possibly handle it?” (Referring to how to deal with the rogue dark spot, text by Gahan Wilson.)

I just love great writing such as this.

Mr. Gaiman did write a story for this collection called “Sunbird” and it’s great. His writing, as per usual, is fantastic. Clever characters and an intriguing plot where an eccentric group of food-lovers who’ve tasted just about everything in the world go to great lengths to try the one thing they haven’t. And I truly liked the very last story in the collection, called “Come Lady Death”. Wherein a bored, rich old gal throws a lavish dinner party and invites a very dubious guest.

The rest of the tales where here and there for me, not great, not bad. The overall feeling was the book was simply OK. But that’s pretty much exactly how a story collection always turns out, isn’t it? The beautiful thing is - different people really like one story or the other, and don’t care for the rest. It’s hard to make a collection really pristine and perfect all the way through. Trust me, I know this, because we tried to do this at Knowonder several times. That’s the small publisher I worked with for a time and we collected short stories from all sorts of writers and we loved some and liked many. We put them into collections, and could never figure out how to sell them.

The one really good book we did was Dr. Franklin’s Staticy Cat, And Other Unbelievable Tales by a great writer/artist named Rolli. Perhaps it turned out really well because all the stories were by one excellent writer. Maybe that’s the secret. However, we never could figure out how to sell that one either, no matter how much we loved it. So long story short, I like short story collections, I want them to succeed, I think they are fun to write and easy to make, as long as you don’t expect too much from it!

Anyways, back to Unnatural Creatures. Get this one from the library if you do anything. Or if you are on the free kindle unlimited system, it’s worth perusing. Try out the stories I liked - the first one, the last one, and Gaiman’s. Then go from there. And if you like Neil, check into his other stuff, he’s awesome!

Happy Reading!