Edited by: Bruce Gehweiler
Published By: Padwolf Publishing
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
What is cryptozoology? Simply put, the study covers numerous creatures that have yet to be proven to exist. Take for instance the Loch Ness Monster. Many have claimed to have seen it, but none can prove its existence. A cryptozoologist studies the accounts of those who claim to have encountered this creature and attempt to surmise just what it is these people have seen. Could this actually be a leftover dinosaur? Is it a giant worm of some sort…a sea cucumber? What about the Sasquatch? Could this possibly be another species of homo-sapien that has evolved in a differing fashion than that of humans? Could Bigfoot actually be an evolutionary cousin of man? Cryptozoologists also study creatures of myth and folklore such as mermaids and dragons. Sometimes, the efforts of a cryptozoologist yield nothing more than theoretical hypothesis, but on a rare occasion, it can actually yield some pretty fascinating and tangible results, such as the Komodo dragon and a previously uncategorized species of water buffalo recently found in Vietnam.
Crypto-Critters is a compilation of stories revolving around cryptozoology edited by Bruce Gehweiler. The introduction of this book describes cryptozoology in full. It offers a glimpse into the study and hypothesis formulated about some of the most famous of monsters, such as the Loch Ness, the Yeti, Bigfoot and more. Each of the stories contained in this book are creations of speculative fiction based upon one or more of these theoretical creatures. Some allude to possible origins of the creatures. Others merely have some fun with the idea of their existence. The writers selected for this volume of work include C.J. Henderson, Patrick Thomas, Bruce Gehweiler, Graham Watkins, James Chambers, Scott Thomas, Jeffrey Thomas and R. Allen Leider.
In reading through these stories, I found some to be much more enjoyable than others based upon the theories they presented. I have come across C.J. Henderson’s work before and I had mixed emotions about it until reading the two stories submitted for Crypto-Critters. One of the tales, Memories, is an enjoyable tale about two cytpozoologists with differing scopes of study – one of the scientists specializes in ghosts and paranormal activity, while the other is solely focused on the animal aspects. Working together, they seek to discover the creatures besieging a wildlife preservation group seeking to create a wildlife preserve upon the sacred lands of a nearly extinct Indian tribe. I enjoyed the banter between the two scientists and found that it added necessary levity to an otherwise distressing tale. The theory behind the creatures in this story is that as an Indian tribe dies out, the last surviving member chooses a creature to represent that tribe’s spirit. If we go by this theory, it would certainly explain why there are so many unexplained sightings here in North America.
Relic, by Graham Watkins, seeks to explain the reason behind the lack of dragons in the world, while in Valley of Fear, Bruce Gehweiler, hypothesizes that the Yeti are actually aliens living amongst us. Mosqueto, by James Chambers is a spooky tale of a lake monster drawn to people who are experiencing devastating loss or depression. Better stay away from that lake if you’re having a really bad day! Jeffrey Thomas’ Pool of Tears was a mixture of cryptozoology and a father’s loss. In this tale, a cryptozoologist who has lost touch with his daughter begins to find the fabled creatures of his daughter’s favorite fairy tale, Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately, each of the creatures he finds – the caterpillar, the Cheshire cat – he discovers posthumously, adding to his despair; for each animal that he finds dead represents one more lost belief in the adventure that he and his daughter once shared, until he fears he shall lose her forever to the distance that has come between them.
My favorite tales have to be the ones written by Patrick Thomas. They added some levity to an otherwise serious bunch of tales. In Night Cries, two teenagers discover that one of the many conspiracy theories out there is actually true – Mothmen do exist! The fun part of the tale is not how they discover this, but the craziness that ensues after their discovery as the “Men in Black” try to stop the two from revealing their find to the world at large. Pink Elephants is a tale featuring characters from Patrick Thomas’ Murphy’s Lore series of novels about a NYC bar owned by a leprechaun and staffed by all manner of gods and mortals. In this tale, the god known as Coyote seeks to scare the living daylights out of a drunk whose main goal in life is to steal money from those who can least afford to lose it. Although I am not quite sure how this fits into a crypto-critters book – unless you count the idea that a pink elephant could be considered a fantastic creature of myth – I enjoyed it all the same for the chuckles it elicited.
Least favorite of the eleven tales included in this anthology was The Elephant Box by Scott Thomas. I probably would have enjoyed it more if it had been included in a dark fiction anthology – the story was downright spooky. However, I just didn’t see why it would be included in this anthology as it didn’t seem to have anything to do with cryptozoology – unless it’s about some creature I’ve never heard of with the face of a woman and the tusks of an elephant.
My biggest criticism of this anthology would have to be that I found quite a few typographical errors that should have been edited out prior to publishing. They were a tad bit distracting, but didn’t truly take away from the enjoyment of the material.
Overall, Crypto-Critters was a highly enjoyable collection of tales based upon the study of cryptozoology written by very talented authors. Eleven stories for the U.S. price of $15.00 is a terrific bargain. I can’t wait to read the sequel to this anthology, Crypto-Critters II!