I never used to really be one to read short story collections — I always considered myself more of a novel girl.
Yet since writing Hungry For You I’ve had the good fortune to read some excellent collections, including Christopher Ruz’s superb anthology Past The Borders. And I’ve come to realise that there’s something addictive in little bites of fiction, like watching a literary fashion show — every design is crafted by the same artist, but each with a unique flair.
Chuck Wendig’s Irregular Creatures is yet another feather in the short story collection cap, featuring nine speculative fiction tales that will shock, amuse, bewilder and entertain. In the author’s own words, the stories “drunkenly swerve between fantasy, horror and science fiction — with a dash of humour and absurdity thrown in for good measure”.
There are two factors every story in this collection share. Firstly, they each feature an irregular creature, whether a flying cat, alien, mermaid, demon, or something else entirely. Secondly, they’re all very weird, and very good.
One of my favourites is “Dog Man and Cat Bird”, which strikes the perfect balance between supernatural (flying cats) and very believable characters (a suburban family with marital problems). An excellent piece of urban fantasy with a lot of heart.
I was also very impressed by “Mister Mhu’s Pussy Show”, which I somehow enjoyed despite being highly disturbed. The writing is visceral and evocative, the magic gritty and seedy, the plot unexpected. Certainly not for the faint-hearted.
Science fiction tale “Product Placement” is another favourite due to its highly imaginative concept. What if you woke up one day and all the brands you knew had disappeared, to be replaced by unfamiliar names?
Two stories stood out for their strong young protagonists. In “The Auction”, a young boy and his father go to the most bizarre underground market in the world, where anything can be bought and sold — or stolen. This contrasts nicely with the very dark “Beware of Owner”, which takes place on a farm in the middle of nowhere with a psychotic father who doesn’t abide trespassers, be they animal or human.
“A Radioactive Monkey” is short, gory, and disturbing, packing an unexpected punch in very limited space.
“This Guy” takes time travel and zombies and mashes them up together in a way you’ve never seen before.
Perhaps the weakest of the bunch were “Do-Overs and Take-Backs” and “Lethe and Mnemosyne”, both of which I found a little confusing.
Overall, however, this is a consistently strong collection reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s darkly bizarre fiction.
Chuck Wendig has a very distinct writing style, frank and unapologetic, darkly funny and slightly insane. He doesn’t shy away from profanity, sex or violence, but does so without crossing the line into the gratuitous.
If you’re looking to spice up your reading list, I’d highly recommend this collection.
For more information on Irregular Creatures, check out Chuck Wendig’s website, when you can purchase a copy for $2.99!