Review: Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman (Editor)



Unnatural Creatures  is a selection of fantasy and science fiction short stories chosen by Neil Gaiman (including one of his own), all featuring some kind of creature. The definition of creature is stretched a bit  to encompass beings that are more plant-like and even Death, but the stories hang together well, following this loose theme.

The book is aimed at teenagers, though not all the stories are written specifically for that age-group, and acts as a kind of introduction to science fiction and fantasy. There is a diverse range of older stories by well-known writers with stories by newer writers, and Gaiman writes a short paragraph before each story about the writer and/or the story. Only three of the stories have not been previously published.

Avram Davidson’s classic “Or All the Seas With Oysters” is one of the stand-out stories, in which safety pins begin to take on a sinister presence, as is Nalo Hopkinson’s “The Smile on the Face” which draws on myths of dryads to tell the story of an insecure teenager and her bullies. E. Nesbit’s “The Cockatoucan; or Great-Aunt Willoughby” is a delightfully whimsical tale of a girl who ends up in a strange land after getting on the wrong bus and E. Lily Yu’s “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” is an original idea beautifully written.


The full contents:

An untypeable sort of ink splodge- Gahan Wilson

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

The Griffin and the Minor Canon- Frank R. Stockton

Ozioma the Wicked- Nnedi Okorafor

Sunbird- Neil Gaiman

The Sage of Theare- Diana Wynne Jones

Gabriel-Ernst- Saki

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

Moveable Beast- Maria Dahvana Headley

The Flight of the Horse- Larry Niven

Prismatica- Samuel R. Delany

The Manticore, the Mermaid, and Me- Megan Kurashige

The Compleat Werewolf- Anthony Boucher

The Smile on the Face- Nalo Hopkinson

Or All the Seas With Oysters- Avram Davidson

Come Lady Death- Peter S. Beagle


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