Once upon a time I went to a local bookstore and the guy behind the counter asked me what kind of books I liked to read.
I said, “Weird ones, mostly.”
He got the strangest look on his face. I’m sure he’d been expecting me to say, Mystery or Horror or some other easily defined genre. At last he said, “Well we’ve got some Steven King stuff over there.”
I’m not sure why “weird” isn’t a genre by now. If I was running a book store it would have a section labeled “Weird Stuff,” You’d go over there and find books like Three Bags Full, House of Leaves, The Beasts of New York, and the Thursday Next Series. And if you went a further down the row, nestled somewhere between Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede and When Graveyards Yawn you’d find a little book by Chuck Wendig called Irregular Creatures.
Reading this book was a strange experience for me. See, when I was a kid we used to go to the creek and swim. I remember dipping my toe into the freezing water, and then my feet, and then my legs. Finally, I’d take the plunge and sink my whole body into the water. After a minute or two I was wondering why I had been so freaked out by a little cold water.
Getting into this book was a lot like getting into that creek. It took me a while to acclimatize to the style of prose Wendig employs to deliver his stories. At first it struck me as overly simplistic and far too direct. But gradually as that first story slowly unfolded I began to understand. From that point on there was no turning back. I plowed forward through each increasingly weird tale and loved every minute of it.
There are books that you will read for the sheer beauty of the sentences, the perfect poetry of the prose. This isn’t one of those books. This book takes every hint of artificial adornment and crushes it beneath its hobnailed boot; it spits upon subtlety, and gleefully defenestrates that worn out old saw that the writer must show and not tell.
If Chuck Wendig wants us to know that he hates Mondays he does not muck about with an entire paragraph describing the process of waking from a fitful dream only to realize that the cat has peed on the floor and the alarm clock reset itself in the night culminating with a final horrified glance at the calendar.
When Chuck Wendig wants us to know that he hates Mondays he writes, “I [bleep]ing hate Mondays,” and moves on with the story.
And I for one am fine with that. In fact that’s part of the beauty of this book. Because what Wendig has to say is far too important to let it be overshadowed by how he says it. It is clear from the get-go that the stories are the stars of the show in this book and they are amazing.
I will not do you the disservice of summarizing the tales, but I will say they’re probably unlike anything you’ve ever read. The best of the bunch is a tiny tale called “Beware of Owner.” Reading this story is like having someone slide a rusty machete into your belly and then twist it hard. And I mean that in a good way.
The other stories are good too, though some better than others. One in particular, “The Auction” had a fantastically well-developed setting that felt as if it could contain an entire novel’s worth of action, but the story itself didn’t quite live up to the incredible world that had been created for it. Also when reading “Lethe and Mnemosyne” I got slightly confused. Even after looking up the mythological characters of the title I still didn’t get what any of it had to do with a giant killer chicken. If any of you know I would love to be enlightened.
But anything critical I can say would be insignificant compared to the wonder and the awe contained in this oddly charming menagerie of monstrosities. Irregular Creatures is a fantastic book, fully worth the pittance of a price its author is asking. So slap your three dollars down on the digital barrelhead and prepare to be amazed.
Irregular Creatures will take you on a journey you will never forget.
Still don’t believe me? Seriously? I’m hurt. Okay, well if you need extra incentive, you can check out some of the stories from this book including my favourite, “Beware of Owner,” here.