The Bestiary

Image of The Bestiary: A Modern Bestiary of Untrue Tales
Release Date: 
February 29, 2016
Centipede Press
Reviewed by: 

“Writers on Dr. Who ought to consult this strange little book for ideas.”

Fans of mythology and its many creatures will love The Bestiary. Out of the modern imaginations of fabulous writers, the most popularly known is China Miéville, and fantasists from Michael Ajavaz to Jeff Vandermeer grace these pages to create the horrific, amazing, and strange beasts that run the gamut from A to Z, as well as an ampersand and an invisible letter.

Intriguing histories and dubious sightings make up the best in this bestiary, living up to its historical medieval counterparts. Some creatures are almost believable with their earnest descriptions and the accompanying “scholarly” information, as if this were a game in which a player must make up a definition and the most believable one wins.  

“G Is for Guest,” written by Brian Conn, uses second person POV, and the guest is something out of M. Night Shyamalan’s imagination. A creature known as a guest will replace “all your belongings . . . by false belongings made of pale honeycomb wrapped in colored and textured foils that dimly suggest the colors and textures of the original objects.” Conn goes into the surreal to create his creature, and the illustration is something like a creepy Magritte.

Every entry contains an introduction, and some entries go in depth by offering “tales” about the creature from the past like old manuscripts from forgotten languages. Readers will learn where to find some of these terrifying beasts, like the Ible, and what scholars have said. Illustrations always accompany the text.

At the end of each entry is a brief biographical entry of the author that is as fantastical as their tale and is written like an entry in a bestiary: “The Dexter Palmer lives in the darkened corners of libraries, dining on ink and wood pulp.” Some tight editing to make the narrative more cohesive would’ve benefited this otherwise nifty book.

Readers will want to find original bestiaries and check their mythology books to see if perhaps some of these creatures aren’t really a modernization of older tales. Fans of cryptozoology or Edward Gorey ought to have this on their shelves. The Bestiary is not meant to really be read in a single sitting, cover to cover, but rather explored like strange continents, a little at a time. Writers on Dr. Who ought to consult this strange little book for ideas.