Adult · Neil Gaimen · Stand Alone

Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman

Synopsis

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 (goodreads.com).


Review

Unnatural Creatures is one of the first short story anthologies I have read. I am not much into short stories because if they are good, I am always left wanting more. I thought it would be most helpful if I briefly reviewed each individual story since, for me, they differed greatly.

This first story has more of a picture for the title so I thought of referring to this one as The Dot by Gahan Wilson:

In this story, Archer and his servant Faulks are mystified by a strange black dot that appears on the kitchen tablecloth. After looking away for a second they happen to find that it has moved and grown larger. With the help of unnaturalSir Harry they find out what it is and what it does. That is all the information I will give about this story because I don’t want to give anything away, but if you ever watch Dr. Who people say this story is kind of like the episode entitled, Blink. The plot of this story moves very quickly and gets straight to the point. I wish it would have moved a little slower because I was greatly enjoying it. There are also pictures of “the dot” that accompany the story, which portray how much the dot grows as the story progresses. I quite enjoyed these illustrations and it added something to the story. Once the story ended I pretty much said “what the fuck” because it ended much sooner than I would have liked. I was left wanting a lot more.

My rating: 5/5 stars!


The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu

This was a strange story about a group of wasps who invade a hive of bees. There is a treaty, but that works in favor of the wasps, and later on there ends up being a rebellion by some of the bees. I thought the story was odd and confusing and poorly executed. I wasn’t really sure what was going on especially when it switched between the bees/wasps and humans. I wasn’t a fan of this one and if it would have been longer than it was I would have skipped to the next story. Even though it didn’t appeal to me, it may appeal to others, but it wasn’t what I was expecting in a collection of stories about unnatural creatures. I was at least able to finish it.

My rating: 2/5 stars!


The Griffin and the Minor Canon by Frank R. Stockton

I enjoyed this story a lot more than its predecessor. It is about a Griffin who goes to a town to see a sculpture of his likeness on top of a church because he has never seen himself. While there, he befriends a minister, but the village people are threatened by him. There is a lot more to this story, but you will have to read if for yourself. The Griffin is not what you would expect him to be and that is why I enjoyed the story as much as I did. The plot moves at a great pace, and the story was well written. By the end, I was actually satisfied and didn’t need anything more. It was a perfect length.

My rating: 4/5 stars!


Ozioma the Wicked by Nnedi Okorofor

Ozioma the Wicked  is a story about a girl who is shunned by her tribe because she is able to speak to snakes. One day however, when a giant snake enters the village everyone turns to her for help. Will she help them despite how they treat her? Will she be able to stand in its presence?

I liked this story quite a bit, but it isn’t my favorite. It was well written, interesting, and kind of frightening (I do not like snakes). There is also plenty of detail in this story to the point where you become familiar with the village and its people. Although I did enjoy the story, a talking giant snake isn’t what I really expected to read about in this collection. I was hoping for something a little more strange. However, it is still a good, rather short story that may appeal to many readers.

My rating: 3/5 stars!


Sunbird by Neil Gaimen

 In this short story a group of people have a goal to eat everything they possibly can, but they believe they have done so already. Then, someone mentions that there is a Sunbird, which lives in Egypt, that is supposed to be quite delicious. So the group decides to travel to Egypt to try to catch and eat the Sunbird.

This story is pretty good! I think it is one of my favorites in this collection. The writing is stupendous and the story flows perfectly. It wasn’t too slow nor too fast and I loved the ending. I wasn’t left wanting more even though I wouldn’t have minded a longer story. One thing I didn’t like was the number of characters in the story. Far too many for something so short. I think it would have been even better with only 2 or three characters. I also wish there would have been a bit more about the Sunbird. Such an interesting creature! Overall, it is a good story and a great addition to the collection.

My rating: 4/5 stars!


The Song of Theare by Diana Wynne Jones

Wow! I couldn’t even finish this one! I think I got about 10 or so pages into it and I finally gave up. It is about a group of Gods who are worried about a prophecy that will bring about their dissolution. One of the Gods realize that it his son that could bring about this dissolution so he brings him to another world. It ends up not being him, but I didn’t get any further than that. I just didn’t find this very interesting. There is a brief intro before the story, which made this one so super interesting, but I was let down. It wasn’t anything like I expected, and it just didn’t feel like it should have been apart of this collection. If it sounds interesting to you, then give it a try! You may like it, but I couldn’t finish it.

My rating: 1/5 stars!


Gabriel-Ernest by Saki

Right away you realize that this is a werewolf story, but I thought it was interesting because the beast is just a young boy. It is very well written and extremely short. I wish it would have been longer, but it had a great ending nonetheless.  Since, it is so short there isn’t too much to say about it. I believe this is one of the better stories in this collection and a must read.

My rating: 4/5 stars!

 


The Cockatoucan; or Great-Aunt Willoughby by E. Nesbit

I have wanted to read books by E. Nesbit for quite some time, so to find her short story in this collection was incredible. I absolutely loved it! When Matilda enters an unknown land she befriends the King and princess who reside there. The princess has a pet called a Cockatoucan who can do some unusual things. A lot of bizarre, yet amazing things ensue. Can’t say anything more about the plot. You will really have to read this one for yourself! This is the kind  of story I expected to be in this collection because it really contains an interesting and unusual creature! I so wish this one would have been a novel because I really wanted to read more about the Cockatoucan, but it had a spectacular ending, so I can deal with that.

My rating: 5/5 stars!


Moveable Beast by Maria Dahvana Headley

 This is a rather peculiar story about a girl who lives in Bastardville where a Beast lurks in the mini-forest. She meets a beast collector who wants to use her as bait to collect the beast. I thought the story was pretty intriguing because I was trying to figure out what the beast was. It isn’t at all what you think. This is a well written story that has a good twist. It is pretty short, which is rather unfortunate. It seems like all the good ones are way to short. However, it has a decent ending, but I still want to know more about this strange creature.

My rating: 4/5 stars!


The Flight of the Horse by Larry Niven

 The Flight of the Horse does a marvelous  job of blending sci-fi and fantasy into one amazing story. Sven goes back in time to bring back a horse. He only has a picture from an old story book to go on, so he finds it a bit odd that the horse he finds is different from his picture. He blames the difference on the domestication of the horse. This is a great story and I thought it was really interesting as well as being well written. It is a good length and has a terrific ending! I really enjoyed this story!

My rating: 5/5 stars!


Prismatica by Samuel Delany

This is a very fairy-tale like story about a poor man who is hired by a grey man to collect three pieces of a mirror. It is a quest story and rather intriguing. I enjoyed it a lot. It is also one of the longer stories in this collection and is divided into many small chapters. The writing is impeccable and the story itself was entertaining and kind of humorous. The ending is great and I wasn’t left wanting more. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the lack of an interesting unnatural creature.

My rating: 4/5 stars!


The Manticore, the Mermaid, and Me by Megan Kurashige

 This is a fascinating, unusual story about creatures in the Natural History Museum that are not what they appear to be. It is very entertaining and a must read in this collection. The ending was good and there wasn’t anything else that needed to be added to the story.

My rating: 4/5 stars!


The Compleat Werewolf by Anthony Boucher

I loved this one because it is such a different take on a werewolf story! It was so unique. It was well-written, interesting, and engaging from the very beginning. This story ends up being one of the longest ones in this collection and it had a fantastic ending. I wasn’t left wanting more even though I could have read more. If you love werewolf stories you will love this one. This werewolf is definitely an unnatural creature!

My rating 5/5 stars!


The Smile on the Face by Nalo Hopkinson

I didn’t think this story was interesting at all. It took forever to get to the point and by that time I became uninterested. It is about a young girl who swallows a cherry pit and when threatened by sexual assault can turn into something bestial. The writing was okay, but I just didn’t like the story or what there was of an unusual creature.

My rating: 2/5 stars! 


Or All the Seas with Oysters by Avram Davidson

So this was a very peculiar story. I still don’t know what to think of it. It is about two guys, Oscar and Ferd, who run a bike shop together. Ferd thinks something strange is going on and has an incredibly strange theory about it. The ending was good and unexpected and the story was pretty short. However, I just couldn’t get that into it. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Just a bit different. You may like it more than I did. Definitely give it a try.

My rating: 3/5 stars!


Come Lady Death by Peter S. Beagle

Well, this wasn’t what I was expecting! I loved this story! Lady Neville, a noblewoman, is getting bored with all of her parties so to spice things up a bit she decides to invite Death himself. Death isn’t quite what I expected! I thought this story was really unique and entertaining. It was a great finish to the collection!

My rating: 4.5/5 stars!


This was a decent collection. I haven’t read very many short-story anthologies, but my husband tells me they are pretty hit or miss. This one had several stories I enjoyed a lot and others not so much, but it was a success overall. I hope you give it a try and read a few or even all of the stories contained within.

 

*photo provided by goodreads.com

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4 thoughts on “Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman

  1. Well, I do like Neil Gaiman so I may pick this up although tbh I’m not overly fond of short stories. I like something to sit down and get comfy with and short stories feel like they’re just over before I’ve had a chance to get to know the characters.
    Nice review.
    Lynn 😀

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