It’s rare for me to come to an author having read his writing about writing but not his actual fiction work. But that was the case with Chuck Wendig.
This compact collection Irregular Creatures is like a heart-shaped box full of mysterious chocolate delights. And like that chocolate box, not every story is going to be to the taste of every consumer. But currently priced at an astonishing $0.99 for the Kindle, the only way you could go wrong is if you don’t like reading. And if that’s the case, why the great green hell do you have a Kindle?
The first story alone is more than worth your time and dollar. “Dog-Man and Cat-Bird (A Flying Cat Story)” introduces us to a dog-owning kind of guy with a life, marriage, and artistic spark in desperate need of a kick in the pants. Facing mounting pressures from his wife to grow up, get a real job, and stop encouraging their son’s flights of fancy, he is a man in crisis, teetering on the edge. The arrival of a very special cat gives him a chance to re-examine what really matters in his life while threatening to bring it all down around him at the same time. A straight up urban fantasy story with tons of heart and truly terrifying action sequences, this story hits it WAY out of the park.
Are they all heartwarming pieces of fantasy? Hell no. This sampler box has a little something for all tastes. The delightfully perverse (but beautifully realized) “Mister Mhu’s Pussy Show” does for exotic sex shows what Poltergeist did for clown dolls. Likewise, I’ll never look at a sign that reads “Forget dog, beware of owner” again without getting a shudder at the memory of Wendig’s short piece “Beware of Owner.” And “Radioactive Monkey” ensures that I’ll never drink anything a waitress hands me without knowing what’s in it. Hint: you’ll rather wake up in a tub full of ice missing a kidney. If you love the dark, the perverse, the horror tale done well, you’ll find something to savor in those little dark chocolate pieces.
Want some sweet whimsy? “The Auction” bewitches the reader with an encounter between a boy and a mermaid in the most unlikely of places. And “Lethe and Mnemosyne” serves up a tiny taste of surreal Americana so tasty that my only complaint is that it’s so short.
Want a little something weird? Boy howdy does Wendig accommodate! The story I anticipated most, “Product Placement,” didn’t fail to astound. Maybe it has to do with my fondness for fringe candy, those regionally produced candy bars that you can only find in out of the way gas stations and convenience stores. But now I’m going to have to re-think this attraction. Meanwhile, “Do-Overs and Take-Backs” provides some life-changing lessons. These lessons take the form of a mysterious ragged man who binds together the lives of two people: a man of privilege with an empty life, and an inner-city youth who dreams of something more. But if you’re expecting a simple after-school special at this point, you really haven’t been paying attention. As the last story in the collection, it serves almost as a strange mission statement, one that I wonder was accidental or not. In pairing this broad spread of literary flavors in a single volume, the contrasts seem sharper, accentuating and enhancing the flavors of the stories around it. The final result: a singular feast of the fantastic.
My recommendation? Get it while the getting is good. And for the price, how can you possibly go wrong?