Review: Unnatural Creatures

Unnatural Creatures is a collection of fun stories loosely organized around interactions with mythical or imaginary creatures. It is organized by Neil Gaiman, who in addition to his skills as an author, shows off his taste in the fantastic.

The stories in Creatures cover a remarkable period of time.  The oldest, Frank Stockton’s “The Griffin and the Minor Canon” was first published in 1885, and others were produced for the collection in 2013.  While there is probably a slight statistical bias toward recent stories, the publication dates spread out rather well.

The broad range of times and tellers never feels like a stunt.  If one skipped the tale introductions, it would be difficult to tell which stories came from which decades.  This is partially the nature of fantasy stories about unnatural beasts, of course.  More often than not such things take place in Jane Austen-y English heaths, making it as easy to write one looking around in 1885 as looking back in 2013.

As if anticipating that criticism, Gaiman not only picks stories from the past, his setting varies.  Larry Niven’s “Flight of the Horse” was published the same year as the moon landing, but blends science fiction and fairy tale creatures in thoroughly modern ways.  The versatility and inventiveness of many other writers is similarly on display.

Creatures is the kind of collection a kid would do well to stumble across in a school library or other unexpected place and have their ideas about the power of storytelling expanded.

Recommended, even if you already have an open mind on the power of stories.

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