Thursday, November 28, 2013

Book Review: Unnatural Creatures

UNNATURAL CREATURES: For an anthology, this has very consistent quality

Unnatural Creatures is a collection of stories selected by Neil Gaiman. It features fantastical beings that exist only in the imagination, from the familiar werewolves, mermaids, and unicorns, to the unfamiliar and yet-to-be classified plants, birds, and many other beings that could either fascinate or horrify you -- or both.

I’ve mentioned in my other reviews that anthologies have the tendency to be inconsistent; some stories will turn out to be greater than the others, outshining them. But this is not the case for Unnatural Creatures. I don’t mean that the stories have the same quality. I’m just saying that each of them is good enough not to be left out. Each story has something unique to offer. Each story deserves to be highlighted.

This positive trait seems to be inherent. Since each story is featuring its own unnatural creature, each story feels really different from the others. It’s not like horror anthologies whose array of horrific places, creatures, and themes, is very limited, so the stories therein will have the tendency to feel the same.

Another thing that makes the stories different from each other is the ways they have been written. The stories are from different generations of writers. They range from years mid-1800’s to 2000’s, so there is variety in the writing style and voice.

We have the classical styles in Inksplot, The Sage of Theare, The Flight of the Horse, Prismatica, Or All the Seas with Oysters, and Come Lady Death. We have the contemporary styles in The Cartographer Wasps and The Anarchist Bees, Moveable Beast, The Manticore, the Mermaid, and Me, and The Smile on the Face.

We also have the fairy-tale style, direct storytelling, in The Griffin and the Minor Canon, Ozioma the Wicked, Gabriel-Ernest, and The Cockatoucan; and the comedic styles of Sunbird and The Compleat Werewolf. You could just see the variety in the writing styles!

Another thing that gives variety is the orientation of the stories. Some are very plot-oriented, while some are very character-oriented.

The stories, however, also have their similarities with one another. Aside from the fact that all of them feature an unnatural creature, what unites them all is the surreal impression I’m feeling while reading them. All of them seem to interweave the fantastical with the ordinary, in a way that makes the experience both real and dreamlike. Perhaps the only exception to this is Sunbird, because it’s straight out fantastic because of its pure personifications.

So far, this is the anthology I’ve enjoyed the most, primarily because the stories contained in it are so different and so similar at the same time. What make reading them more worth it are the underlying messages contained in them, which are not blatantly presented but are just there to be interpreted freely. I recommend this book to those who are looking for imaginative creatures who are fed up with the usual vampires, fairies, elves, and goblins. For sure, they’ll find the creatures in this anthology to be Unnatural indeed.

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  1. I read Sunbird a while back and I absolutely adored it. I really should pick this novel and read the rest soon.

    1. If you liked Sunbird, you'll like the other stories in this anthology too! It's also a good book in discovering authors that you could read soon, since it's written by many.