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Unnatural Creatures Paperback – 13 Feb 2014
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"In true Gaiman fashion, these stories are macabre, subversive, and just a little bit sinister. His fans will eat this up--ravenously."--Booklist
Teens with a yen for the fantastic would be hard pressed to find a better place to start. --Publishers Weekly (starred review)"
In true Gaiman fashion, these stories are macabre, subversive, and just a little bit sinister. His fans will eat this up ravenously. --Booklist"
"Teens with a yen for the fantastic would be hard pressed to find a better place to start."--Publishers Weekly (starred review) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Chosen and introduced by Neil Gaiman, this thoroughly beguiling collection of short stories is inhabited by an amazing menagerie of creatures from myth, legend and dark imaginationSee all Product description
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Gaiman too, contributes his own piece "Sunbird" (found also in his earlier collection "Fragile Things"), about a group of epicureans who have exhausted their quest for every known kind of animal, and still seeks for more. Gaiman credits children's author E. Nesbit for introducing this creature to him, and I was pleasantly surprised to read her story, "The Cockatoucan; or Great-Aunt Willoughby", in this collection. I have never associated her with fantasy writing, being more familiar with her children's classics like "The Railway Children", though I had read her trilogy about five children and the mythical "psammead" as a child. Elsewhere in the collection are also tasty nuggets by familiar names like sci-fi writer Samuel R. Delany, Diana Wynne Jones, and even Saki, whose "Gabriel-Ernest" make up the other werewolf story in this collection.
In a collection about fantastical creatures, it seems fitting that the last story "Come Lady Death" by Peter S. Beagle is about death, which Gaiman acknowledges as "the most natural of all unnatural creatures". A bored and aging socialite Lady Neville has grown tired of her own parties, fine as they are, and she decides to invite Death to up the ante, so to speak. The result is a truly engaging tale with a chillingly unexpected conclusion.
Highly recommended by anyone who has even a vague interest in imaginative fiction.
For those who don't find listing the titles AND authors in the table of contents to be too louche, here's the information the editor and publisher have declined to include. (The original publication dates are a bonus I decided to throw in.)
"Inksplot" by Gahan Wilson (1972)
"The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees" by E. Lily Yu (2011)
"The Griffin and the Minor Canon" by Frank R. Stockton (1885)
"Ozioma the Wicked" by Nnedi Okorafor (original to this anthology, 2013)
"Sunbird" by Neil Gaiman (2006)
"The Sage of Theare" by Diana Wynne Jones (1982)
"Gabriel-Ernest" by Saki (1909)
"The Cockatoucan; or, Great-Aunt Willoughby" by E. Nesbit (1900)
"Moveable Beast" by Maria Dhavana Headley (original to this anthology)
"The Flight of the Horse" by Larry Niven (1969)
"Prismatica" by Samuel R. Delany (1977)
"The Manticore, the Mermaid, and Me" by Megan Kurashige (original to this anthology)
"The Compleat Werewolf" by Anthony Boucher (1942)
"The Smile on the Face" by Nalo Hopkinson (2004)
"Or All the Seas with Oysters" by Avram Davidson (1958)
"Come Lady Death" by Peter S. Beagle (1963)
Sadly, this book is not written by Gaiman. It is a collection of mixed quality short stories loosely held together by lame introductions from NG. The stories are mostly young teens level.
If you read the small print on the cover you can see the Gaiman is not the author. Not so easy if you are buying on a kindle.
A perfect way to get to know new authors, read good stories and understand a little of what Neil Gaiman finds inspiring. So what's not to like?
Initial impressions were not great, the first story was not a bad idea, but really needed an edit, there seemed to be some random text and it fluffed the ending by being a bit garbled. Subsequent stories seemed to struggle on, each with an underwhelming resolution. By the half way point the standout story was by Saki, and surely anyone who enjoys reading has read all the Saki stories already. But from the midway point the quality of the stories seemed to be on a constant upward trajectory, with quite a few that would warrant the purchase price on their own.
If you are less inclined to persevere with dull stories, then probably best to just read a few pages per story to decide whether you want to stick with it.
The book itself is attractively presented and arrived well packaged and on time.
But while packaging past stories by other authors and putting a very popular name on the front may help the readership find new writers they haven't considered before, it's still, to my mind, lazy publishing. The publishing world needs to find and promote new names - we can't and shouldn't go on living in the past!