There have been doorstopper fantasies and sci-fi epics that have kept me enraptured for every page. Short fiction has a bigger task, as it needs to grab me, pull me in and keep me in the nuances of its story not with every page, but with every single word. Not every writer can do it.
Chuck Wendig does.
Irregular Creatures captures the madness, the brilliance and the desperation of ten years in a writer’s life. It has pieces long and short, narratives that tug the heartstrings and images that chill the blood. It’s a literary roller-coaster, the long hill of the opener coupled with quick drops and sudden, neck-snapping turns that surprise and confound. Any reader with the savvy and intestinal fortitude to pick this up will not be disappointed, and may ruminate upon the stories within for days to come or longer.
Okay, hyperbole and back-cover-copy aside?
It’s 3 bucks. For 8 stories. That will completely blow your mind.
Scroll back up and click “Buy.” You won’t be sorry.
Disturbed, surprised, impressed? Yes. Sorry? No.
So that’s the Amazon version. Was trying to keep it short for the benefit of bleary-eyed Amazonians just looking for a quick fix to get them through the cold, white months. Hopefully they found it helpful.
Here’s the longer, blow-by-blow version. There are synopses for these over on the page where you buy the thing, so let me tell you how each one hits you and where, and why each of them work on different levels.
Dog-Man and Cat-Bird (A Flying Cat Story) is that long hill before the initial big drop I mentioned. This one doesn’t just tug on your heartstrings, it gives them a hearty pull and then throws you over its shoulder into its dark but uplifting world. It’s a ride, start to finish, a microcosm of the entire work. Even if it weren’t part of an anthology, it’d be a stand-out bit of modern supernatural fantasy/horror. The protagonist is instantly relatable and earnest, the characters are realistically drawn to a one and it never feels contrived on any level. It justifies the entire project in and of itself. It’s no wonder Cat-Bird is on the thing’s cover.
A Radioactive Monkey follows the long drop with a short twist. A good little cautionary tale that still plays with our expectations. Clearly, whatever the reality taking unknown drinks from strange women is a bad idea.
Product Placement takes us to a place that is instantly familiar and thoroughly alien. You may take a closer look at the contents of your nearest vending machine the next time you’re craving a candy bar.
This Guy is you. Maybe. It could be. That’s the hook, the horror of it. The narrator’s an everyday guy, at least he starts out that way. But every day for the everyday guy is and feels the same, and that can change you. It feels like a straight on the coaster before it drops again.
Mister Muh’s Pussy Show feels greasy, dirty, delicious and very much a guilty pleasure.
Lethe and Mnemosyne. It uses every single fucking word precisely. Brilliant.
The Auction brings us back to fairy tale land. With a child protagonist and something that’s two parts Dahl and two parts Barker, we’re in for another wild ride. It front-loads with promise and, like the rest of the tales, does not disappoint.
Beware of Owner is another short that quickly yanks the rug out from under us. You can almost hear Chuck giggling as the full scope of the situation dawns upon us. Bastard.
Do-Overs and Take-Backs rounds out the anthology with another cautionary tale and a fine example of dual plot tracks slowly but surely becoming entwined. It has the horror, the humor, the weirdness and the brilliance of all that came before, and still remains its own creature. (See that? See what I did there?)
So, yeah, like I said. 3 bucks for 8 stories that’ll blow your mind. Basically, we’re robbing Chuck blind. He’s poured years of his heart and soul into this and we walk away with it for a song. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal pretty much anywhere.