Imagine – somewhere in the world, in a dark and hidden alley of a big city – a museum, one of those strange museums only a few people know about and visitors only go once in their lifetime to see the exhibitions.
Imagine even more – this museum contains replicas of some of the strangest creatures you may or may not have been able to imagine and one evening you and your friend accidentally land on the very doorstep and decide to give it a try. Greeted by a museum attendant you enter a huge hall, nothing that would’ve been expected and this person takes his time and by leading you from room to room he tells you one story after the other.
In this very case, Neil Gaiman – a wonderful storyteller of such tales – is the curator of this museum and takes some time to lead you through the rooms and tells you stories about each of the unnatural creatures. He did this by collecting 16 stories of other storytellers and quite well he did. The collection contains tales about a griffin, a mermaid, a sunbird and at the very least, Lady Death herself. Some of them were filled with fantasy, humour and some of them gave me goosebumps, even it was only a little. Most of them were entertaining at least.
Most of the stories were well told – some of them I didn’t quite get, but two of them I liked most. The one by Frank R. Stockton, titled “The Griffin and the Minor Canon” where I especially liked the relationship between the griffin and this Minor Canon, who by description within the story filled a subordinate position in the church but becomes much more during the events and the dialogues with the Griffin. What moved me was also the reaction of the townsfolk, their fear, their actions and the consequences that were shown. The other one is by Peter S. Beagle, how is quite famous for his book “The Last Unicorn”, titled ” Come Lady Death and how the author builds the story here is wonderful. Here we meet a person who is famous for holding one amazing party after the other and one day – after realising that her parties bore her – decides to invite Death to one of her parties. Needless to say that Death arrives, in form of a young Lady and what happens next is for the reader to find out. Without spoiling too much of the fun it can be said that it becomes a remarkable evening.
Furthermore I thank Neil Gaiman for considering a short story by Samuel R. Delany within this collection. His story and especially the remark to one of the other stories of this author, titled “The 13 clocks” made me curious. I immediately tried to get my hands on this, got lucky and fell in love with this one. Give it a chance, this is one of the best short stories I have ever read.