Review | Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman

I’ll admit it: I picked up Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman from the bookstore shelf because it carried Neil Gaiman‘s name on the front. A collection of short stories focused on fantastical creatures “that exist only in our minds,” each is a golden nugget by writers both classic and new, every one an enjoyable and creative read.

Which is why I was more than a little disappointed to put Unnatural Creatures down after the last story. Introduced by a short paragraph by Gaiman, each tale was a refreshing and creative new creature, each defying or belying any fairy tale paradigm.

Unnatural Creatures Neil GaimanIn addition to more traditional creatures like the griffin and phoenix, there are the cartographer wasps and anarchist bees, time travelers inadvertently stealing away history’s fantastical creatures, multidimensional dots, and a werewolf against Nazi spies. Some are fun, others dark, and nearly all have a twist that leaves a smile.

In “The Compleat Werewolf” by Anthony Boucher we find Professor Wolfe Wolf, who is mocked behind his back by his associates and students as “woof woof.” It is California in the 1940s, though, and Nazis are more a danger to America than werewolves.

In “Prismatica,” Samuel R. Delany writes an homage to James Thurber with the tale of the poor but clever Amos, who will journey to the deepest swamp, to meet the North Wind, and to a land of many colors in search of his fortune.

The incomparable Larry Niven is here, as well, with a story of a time traveler from a time when the horse is extinct and the General Secretary wants one for his birthday. However, information about what exactly a horse looks like is sparse, almost as sparse as information about the middle ages. The result is a humorous and grin inducing trip to the middle ages.

The sixteen tales of Unnatural Creatures are as creative as the creatures they feature, and with them Gaiman has produced a book as interesting and complete as any that he might have written himself.


 

Review first published as “Book Review: ‘Unnatural Creatures,′ Edited by Neil Gaiman” on Blogcritics.org.


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Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman Book Cover Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman, Maria Dahvana Headley
Fantasy, Science Fiction
HarperCollins
April 23, 2013
Paperback
480
Upstart Crow Bookstore and Coffee House

Unnatural Creatures is a collection of short stories about the fantastical things that exist only in our minds—collected and introduced by beloved New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman.

The sixteen stories gathered by Gaiman, winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, range from the whimsical to the terrifying. The magical creatures range from werewolves to sunbirds to beings never before classified. E. Nesbit, Diana Wynne Jones, Gahan Wilson, and other literary luminaries contribute to the anthology.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog PubliusOnline.com where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.

  • Fantastic review! I am really looking forward to reading this short story collection, especially since these were hand-picked by Gaiman! The story about the time travel sounds really cool and I’m a sucker for anything sci-fi themed, so I think I’ll enjoy it a lot 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂 I just discovered your blog, hope we can connect! 🙂

    • Evie,

      Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy Unnatural Creatures. It’s a great set of stories.

      Just swung by your blog, and I was much impressed. You’ve got an excellent looking operation going over there. I’ll need to add it to my reader.