Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman Review

Title: Unnatural Creatures: Stories
Editor: Neil Gaiman
Age Group: All Ages
Genre: Anthology/Short Stories
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: This darkly glittering selection of beautiful, creepy stories, selected by one of the most treasured authors in America, completely captivated me.

I bought this book and chose to review it.

Neil Gaiman--this is a household name, in fiction. Though I have never read his any of his major work (yet), I will always be a fan. So when I was at Books A Million! last weekend and it caught my eye, I decided to go with my gut and buy it. And I am so glad that I did! Creepy, dark, and unnerving tales pepper this anthology, peppered with stars of the last generations of writing. Though, as with every anthology, not all of them were necessarily my cup of tea, the majority of them captured my imagination, and in some cases, made my skin crawl..

Because this is a short story collection--I will, though I have given the anthology an overall rating, give each of the stories their own separate rating. That's the beauty of short story collections--more often than not, a reader can find something in them for everyone, and for every taste.

The title of this story--literally--is a sketch, by Gahan Wilson: Wilson is a cartoonist, and uses his unique talent for drawing to tell a creepy, spooky story about a blot that seems to be appearing throughout Reginald Archer's grand house.. A blot that seems to be a monster, capable of disposing of one of the people in his life. 4.5 out of 5 stars. Creepy, unique, and well-told. Highly enjoyable!

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu: A curiously compelling dystopian tale, I really enjoyed the writing style of this story, as well as its unique angle: Wasps and bees, fighting subtly for control over their hives! 5 out of 5 stars. An extraordinarily unique tale, told in a classic style. This one vies for the spot of my favorite in the collection.

The Griffin and the Minor Canon by Frank R. Stockton: A classic from one of the great vets of fantasy storytelling, I liked the writing style of this story--as well as the use of the theme friendship between the quiet, intelligent Minor Canon and the rough, gruff manner of the Griffin. 4 out of 5 stars--brilliantly told, but at times it dragged.

Ozioma The Wicked by Nnedi Okorator: A strange tale taking place in the magical, dangerous setting of Nigeria, this story also is another favorite: Ozioma is a girl shunned in her small village because she can talk to snakes. But when something strange demands a tree, she is the only one to help her fellow villagers--and she may just receive something beautiful along the way. 4 out of 5 stars. I liked the mythological angle of this story, but at times it got a little confusing.

Sunbird by Neil Gaiman: A darkly amusing tale about a club of unusual eaters--literally--this story just rang of Gaiman's signature charm and humor. When the group decides to taste the elusive Sunbird, they find that they just might be in for a lot more than they bargained for.. 5 out of 5 stars. Hilarious, dark, and charming--even a little chilling at the end! Even sweeter is that Gaiman wrote the story for his daughter!

The Sage of Theare by Diana Wynne Jones: I have always been a huge fan of Wynne Jones--I was very upset at the great fantasy writer's passing a few years ago. With the Sage of Theare, she tells a story of gods, riddles, and a sage capable of tipping the balance of the very world. Exquisitely told, rife with humor, wit, and wisdom. Highly enjoyable, though at times the gods' names were confusing.

Gabriel-Ernest by Saki: Though I'd never before heard of this author, I really enjoyed the dark, creepy tone of this short story about a mysterious, wild little boy a family takes in--and in doing so, unleashes something dark! I loved the tone, the writing style, and the ending--I also enjoyed the tentative promise in how short the story was. 5 out of 5 stars

The Cockatoucan, Or, Great-Aunt Willoughby by E. Nesbit: Nesbit has had great influence on children's literature. This story was an absolutely delightful treat about a little girl named Matilda who finds her way to another world, and where a bird's laugh has the ability to turn things upside down! I really, really enjoyed this light, humorous tale with a hint of a darkness. (Also, a bird is a villain! That's awesome!) 5 out of 5 stars.

Moveable Beast by Maria Dahvana Headley: A darkly delicious tale of werewolves, a town that isn't so politely named, and a young woman who just wants to get out. The odd, unique tone helped sell this story's creepy factor, and I loved the ending--it reminded me of a Brothers Grimm tale, almost. 4 out of 5 stars. Great dark setting and tone, but one character kept throwing me off.

The Flight of the Horse by Larry Niven: Another veteran of science fiction, Larry Niven's tale of horses and time travel was intriguing at first, but overall, it was too confusing for me to follow, despite the novel concept. Good base, but bad execution. 2 out of 5 stars

Prismatica by Samuel R. Delany: An entertaining, rollicking adventure of a tale! I really liked this story. A young man volunteers to help another, and in turn, ends up saving a magical kingdom! This story was highly enjoyable, a romp and a riot to read! 5 out of 5 stars

The Manticore, The Mermaid, and Me by Megan Kurashige: A strange little tale about two kids stealing from a museum--and meeting a mermaid. The tone was a little weird, but I liked the idea of it. 2 out of 5 stars.

The Compleat Werewolf by Anthony Boucher: A hilarious tale about a shy, awkward German professor--who happens to be a werewolf, practices white magic, and his girlfriend just might be a spy! A darkly humorous story that definitely didn't take itself too seriously. Wonderful voice, great premise, and I loved the tone and main character. 5 out of 5 stars

The Smile on the Face by Nalo Hopkinson: This story was one of the scariest and creepiest in the collection. A young woman named Gilla swallows a cherry from an ancient tree--and ends up with some deadly abilities! I loved the way gender and sex played into the story, and the role of Gilla. Definitely a girl power story, dark and powerful. Wonderful! 5 out of 5 stars

Or All The Seas With Oysters by Avram Davidson: Two bike salesman part on less than great terms, and something strange is happening in their shop.. Told backwards, I liked the unique format. I also liked the creepy tone, but I didn't really like any of the characters in the story. 3 out of 5 stars

Come Lady Death by Peter S. Beagle: Peter is a household name nowadays--his novel The Last Unicorn is a children's classic. In this lovely, finely wrought tale, the Lady Neville has grown bored of the parties she has thrown throughout the years. Struck by an idea, she decides to invite Death to her last party--and ends up with a proposal she can't refuse.. I loved everything about this particular story: the prose, the characters of Lady Neville and Death--it was just beautifully written, and I loved the ending. One of the best tales of the volume.

Overall, this anthology is worth buying--I enjoyed every tale present in the volume in some way. A wonderful collection! Next on deck: The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney!

 


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