Feeling a little post-holiday blues? Housebound by the Snowpocalypse? Well I’ve got something to occupy your time and cheer you up: Irregular Creatures, the new short story collection from mad genius penmonkey Chuck Wendig.
Except, a little like Benjamin in “The Auction,” I may not quite be able to sufficiently put into words how incredibly amazing the stories in this collection are.
Anyone familiar with Chuck’s always inspired, take-no-prisoners style of blogging over at TerribleMinds already knows how talented of a writer he is. I’ll do my best to convey the sheer awesomeness that is Irregular Creatures, but it’s really something you should do yourself a favor and experience firsthand. Here we go…
“Dog-Man and Cat-Bird (A Flying Cat Story)” – Seems kind of odd to call a short story epic, but this one certainly is. Joe, a struggling sculptor, gets more than a bad night’s sleep when he’s banished to the sofa one night after an argument with his wife. An injured cat shows up at the back door and, when Joe tries to shoo it away, promptly dies. Or so Joe thought: I came back to the garage, only to find that the cat had sprouted wings. This was not a possibility I had considered, nor was it a possibility I accepted upon its discovery. And yet not only does he come to accept it, but when he discovers his son is a pawn in a battle between good and evil Joe realizes that Cat-Bird is much more than a genetic freak. This is my favorite story in the collection, and it’s worth the price of admission for this one alone.
“A Radioactive Monkey” – A cautionary tale about the dangers of drinking strange concoctions, especially if done to impress a beautiful woman you barely know. This one would be right at home as a Tales From the Crypt episode.
“Product Placement”- You wouldn’t think a candy bar could have inter-dimensional ramifications, but buying a “Flix Bar” is exactly the thing that starts Donnie’s trip into a bizarre world where product placement takes on a whole new meaning. Oh, and you’ll never look a 9-volt battery quite the same way again.
“This Guy” – “Every day, I catch him before he makes it to the China Skillet… I drag him into the alleyway, and I beat him with a tire iron. Sometimes, I stab him with a kitchen knife. I do this every day. I think it’s starting to affect me.” A peek into a man’s descent into insanity, this one can be described as Groundhog Day gone murderously, insanely awry.
“Mister Muh’s Pussy Show” – “God didn’t live here. Wouldn’t even show his face lest the sin burn out his eyes.” A gaijin in Bangkok gets much more than he bargains for when he pursues a mysterious beautiful woman after seeing her perform at a sex show. Vegas may be known as “Sin City,” but it’s got nothing on Wendig’s Bangkok. [Warning: Definitely the one story of the bunch not to read if you've got any issues with profanity and/or graphic descriptions of sex.]
“Lethe and Mnemosyne” – Shortest of the collection at a mere two pages, this one is definitely a hit and run of the “What the fuck?” variety. (And I mean that in the best possible way.) The title refers to the Greek goddesses of forgetfulness (Lethe is also one of the five rivers of Hades) and memory, and the juxtaposition of the two perfectly sums up a story that manages to get in both a giant chicken and a mermaid in under two pages.
“The Auction” – My second favorite of the collection. This one truly takes you down the rabbit hole to a place where anything you can imagine – and quite a bit you couldn’t possibly- is up for auction at a mysterious once a year gathering. Young Benjamin finds himself there in the company of his father, a veteran of the gathering whose job it is to procure items for his boss. As young boys are want to do, however, Benjamin wanders off, and finds himself in the company of a pseudo holy man on a mission of ill intent, Bigfoot, a woebegone mermaid, and a mischievous telepathic creature that gives Benjamin an unforgettable lesson in trust and independent thinking. Very Clive Barker-esque.
“Beware of Owner” – Pretty bleak, this one, but with a pitch black vein of humor running through it. Takes the annoyance we all feel with door-to-door salesmen and other uninvited cold-callers to an extreme we may have secretly fantasized about but would never act on… most of us, anyway.
“Do-Overs and Take-Backs” – Wendig’s got a healthy streak of naughty nine-year-old in him, so he likes to pitch this story as being the one with the mystic hobo hermaphrodite. Ok, it does have a mystic hobo hermaphrodite, but there’s really a lot more going on here. At heart, “Do-Overs” is a “be careful what you wish for” tale, with a sprinkling of searching for redemption mixed in… yes, with a mystic hobo hermaphrodite. Grow up already. Sheesh!
The stories in Irregular Creatures run the gamut: from fantasy to science fiction, horror to humor, there’s a little bit of everything going on. And you can get it for only $2.99 formatted for your Kindle (or any device with a Kindle app installed), or as a PDF. If you like short stories, have a sense of adventure, or just want to be a mensch and support an author who really deserves it, give Irregular Creatures a go. You’ll be amazed, amused, entertained, and even potentially horrified, but you won’t be disappointed.