I suggested a review-swap with Chuck Wendig between Choose Your Doom: Zombie Apocalypse and his book Irregular Creatures, and, to my surprise, he agreed.
A note: Chuck self-published Irregular Creatures as an e-book (even going so far as to commission the cover art from the excellent Amy Hauser). I am really impressed with the way he handled the production; it looks super-sweet, and I only caught one typo. A few days ago, he sent out updates for the book to fix a typo; this also impressed me.
Irregular Creatures is a collection of nine short stories. I had been expecting a collection full of grim noir, but this was not the case. This was a collection of deceptively simple fantastic and weird stories; a few of them made me jealous with the offhand way he seemed to succeed with them. A couple of them fell a little flat but were not without merit–obscure b-side stories to supplement the hitmakers among them.
Overall, I would have to say that the stories were more Gaimanesque than anything else, if a bit less dark than, say, Smoke and Mirrors. Chuck tends to use ordinary settings as a springboard for the fantastical in this collection, as if to give us myths to allow us to see what’s really happening in those settings.
Here were my favorites:
Dog-Man and Cat-Bird. A tale of a man in the middle of abandoning himself, unaware that the changes he’s seeing around him are coming from his cowardice more than anything else. Finally, a muse that doesn’t need to be raped to inspire…
This Guy. A time-travelling zombie tale. Just so.
The Auction. In which a boy learns you can buy a thing, you can sell a thing; you can steal a thing, you can take it for granted; you can raise hell for the hell of it, you can raise hell to sneak in a bit of justice. A kind of goblin’s market populated by the strangest creatures of all: us.
Do-Overs and Take-Backs. This was the most chancy of the stories, I think, and I’m not sure whether he pulled it off. The things that happen offstage give me the willies – for example, what happened to the real son? Is the horror of it that it doesn’t matter? But you don’t get any explanations from the Rag Man, as it were. Now that I think of it, the story makes a good metaphor for writers and writing. I’m not going into more detail than that; you’ll just have to read it.
I recommend Irregular Creatures if you’re a lover of tales–ghost stories, campfire tales, things whispered under the covers by flashlight at a grown-up slumber party, if you will–or have a fondness for Neil Gaiman’s short stories. You’ll be grossed out; you’ll be horrified; you’ll roll your eyes at the bad jokes; you’ll find hope.