This is a delightful collection of horror, mystery, modern myth, fantasy, and just plain I-don’t-know-what-to-call-it fun. The very first story was downright evil in a light humorous way, which really shouldn’t work, but it does. The ending was perfection in the form of blobs of ink on wood pulp. There’s also a nice little sci-fi jog with a unicorn, probably the funniest in the collection, but still sophisticated. The whole book is very sophisticated, with one exception, which suits the theme well. The theme being unnatural creatures, of course. This includes a Cockatoucan, a mermaid, a couple of very different werewolves, some safety pins, and Death herself. The feel and perspectives of the stories are about as different as can be, but I loved almost all of them. It’s the sort of book you carry around everywhere you go for a few days until it’s over. This book harbors what is very probably the best drunken dialogue to ever come from a (presumably) sober man, some cartographer wasps, and a very clever, if temporarily so, little girl. There was only one real dud in the whole collection. It’s about a plump, pretty girl who is obsessed with how fat and ugly she is, and that’s about it. The unnatural elements were hard to distinguish from the natural, it just sort of gets on the nerves.
Mr. Gaiman wrote a pleasant little intro for each story, as well as a somewhat disturbing tale himself, so although it was a little disappointing that he hadn’t written the whole book, he made up for it.
In a way, these weren’t actually short stories at all, they were mini stories, feeling more like a whole world summed up in less than a hundred pages than a chapter from a larger book, and not falling short in any way.