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Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman Paperback – April 23, 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 101 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up-The 16 short stories in this anthology contain accounts of delightfully fantastical creatures, ranging from the familiar (werewolves, mermaids, griffins, and unicorns) to the chillingly mysterious (an ever-expanding, flesh-eating blob; a strange bird that spurs unpredictable changes to its surroundings; and even Death herself). Classic science fiction and fantasy authors Anthony Boucher, Frank R. Stockton, Peter S. Beagle, E. Nesbit, and Diana Wynne Jones are represented, as are contemporary authors such as Nnedi Okorafor, E. Lily Yu, and Gaiman himself. From the first page, Gaiman appeals to a sense of imagination, prefacing each story with a brief personal commentary, causing readers to stop and ponder questions they never knew they had. Who would a griffin eat? What does a phoenix taste like? What happens when you question an invisible dragon? Why are there always too many coat hangers? All of these questions, and more, are answered here. Some of the stories are silly, some heartbreaking, and some profound, but all are guaranteed to make readers' hair stand on end.-Liz Overberg, Darlington Middle School, Rome, GAα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

From darkly menacing to bizarrely surreal, these 16 fantasy stories featuring mythical and imaginary creatures combine work from such luminaries as Saki, E. Nesbit, and Anthony Boucher, as well as more contemporary writers. Larry Niven’s The Flight of the Horse is on the sillier side of the spectrum: a time traveler is sent to the past to retrieve a horse, which he has never seen except in picture books, and he mistakenly returns with a unicorn instead. In Nalo Hopkinson’s A Smile on the Face, a self-conscious girl is bullied for her size and pressured into an unwanted sexual encounter, but she finds inner strength—and an inner fire-breathing monster—thanks to an accidentally swallowed cherry pit from the hamadryad in her front yard. Gaiman’s contribution, Sunbird, recounts the adventures of the Epicurean Club members, who, grown bored after tasting every available thing on the planet, enjoy the best (and last) meal of their lives. In true Gaiman fashion, these stories are macabre, subversive, and just a little bit sinister. His fans will eat this up—ravenously. The book will benefit nonprofit 826DC, which fosters student writing skills. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Gaiman’s name should draw a wide readership. Grades 8-12. --Sarah Hunter --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1St Edition edition (April 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006223630X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062236302
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Harper and editor Neil Gaiman have a novel strategy for marketing an anthology: omitting the authors' names from the table of contents.

For those who don't find listing the titles AND authors in the table of contents to be too louche, here's the information the editor and publisher have declined to include. (The original publication dates are a bonus I decided to throw in.)

"Inksplot" by Gahan Wilson (1972)
"The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees" by E. Lily Yu (2011)
"The Griffin and the Minor Canon" by Frank R. Stockton (1885)
"Ozioma the Wicked" by Nnedi Okorafor (original to this anthology, 2013)
"Sunbird" by Neil Gaiman (2006)
"The Sage of Theare" by Diana Wynne Jones (1982)
"Gabriel-Ernest" by Saki (1909)
"The Cockatoucan; or, Great-Aunt Willoughby" by E. Nesbit (1900)
"Moveable Beast" by Maria Dhavana Headley (original to this anthology)
"The Flight of the Horse" by Larry Niven (1969)
"Prismatica" by Samuel R. Delany (1977)
"The Manticore, the Mermaid, and Me" by Megan Kurashige (original to this anthology)
"The Compleat Werewolf" by Anthony Boucher (1942)
"The Smile on the Face" by Nalo Hopkinson (2004)
"Or All the Seas with Oysters" by Avram Davidson (1958)
"Come Lady Death" by Peter S. Beagle (1963)
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Format: Hardcover
It's rare to find an anthology where I like the vast majority of the works in it. This is one of them! I loved the stories in here and I loved how unexpected some of them were. The page introducing each story was nice and the illustrations were quirky and fitting. All of the stories would also be appropriate for young adults as well which is always nice.

The stories I liked best were:

the first one (seriously can't type the title; I read it and I knew I had to buy the collection! It is a fantastic combination of illustration and text that catches you right away.)

The Griffin and the Minor Canon (I love The Lady or the Tiger? so I was thrilled to find more stories by Stockton. I thought the story was sweet and surprising.)

The Flight of the Horse (fun and read a bit like Douglas Adams)

The Compleat Werewolf (I have a huge soft spot for werewolves and I thought the Professor was very endearing.)

The Manticore, the Mermaid, and Me (Didn't like it much initially but upon thinking about it I think the "moral" is very truthful.)

Or All the Seas with Oysters (Such a clever idea! Brilliant!)

Come Lady Death (The ending has a nice sting to it. Better than I expected it to be!)

Stories I didn't care for:

Gabriel-Ernest (pretty basic werewolf story)

Moveable Beast (I loved the twist at the end but the story was so heavy-handed and aggressively not feel-good that it was tacky.)

Prismatica (Felt like I was cheated out of the ending the reader deserved. Good story but fell flat.)

The Smile on the Face (I liked the refrain of the poem throughout but it was trying to shoehorn in far too many ideas with the trees and the cherry pit and the dragons. Cheapened a good story.)

Overall I definitely recommend the book!
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Format: Hardcover
"A griffin, a werewolf, a sunbird . . .These are just some of the fantastical creatures you'll encounter within these pages. From the cockatoucan, whose laugh rearranges an entire kingdom, to the roving shapeless Beast that lurks in a forest, herein is a collection of rare and magnificent species. Each one will thrill, delight, and quite possibly unnerve you. Selected by master storyteller Neil Gaiman, the sixteen stories in this menagerie will introduce you to a host of strange, wondrous beings that have never existed anyplace but in the richness of the imagination.With stories from Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, E. Nesbit, and many more." I do thing the way the book is described is a bit misleading. I was under the impression that the stories would be all new ones written for this collection. But the majority of them have been published before. One, "The Griffin and the Minor Canon", I'd even read before! But the stories are still really good. I was pleasantly surprised to find a paperback edition even though the book had just come out.

As with any short story collection, there are some great stories, some good ones, and some that just didn't work for me. The first one was very fun. Its title is very difficult to say (you'll see why if you read the book). There's a story about bees rebelling against wasps, a girl in an African village who can talk to snakes, an epicurean society looking for new subjects and more. The one about the epicurean society, "Sunbird", is written by Neil Gaiman. The other authors in the collection are Peter S. Beagle, Anthony Boucher, Avram Davidson, Samuel R. Delaney, Maria Headley, Nalo Hopkinson, Diana Wynne Jones, Megan Kurashige, E. Nesbit, Larry Niven, Nnedi Okorafor, Saki, Frank R. Stockton, and E. Lily Yu.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I think Neil Gaiman's talent for choosing stories is almost as remarkable as his talent for writing them.

These stories range in publication date from 1885 to 2013; two stories had never been published before. Despite that, the only one I had ever read before was Gaiman's own contribution, which I was pleased to read again. I didn't feel there were any stand-out stories; they were all great reads. I do have to say that the Larry Niven story made me laugh aloud, and that's rare when I'm reading.
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