Book Review – ‘Creatures Set Forth’ by Roppotucha Greenberg

I downloaded a digital version of this book from Amazon during a giveaway period.

In the Thicket lives a collective of the most marvellous Creatures, breathed to life by Roppotucha Greenberg. The world they inhabit is a blend of the almost-true and the vividly imagined; as though close by but ever so slightly out of step. These Creatures spend their days contemplating questions both deep and absurd, finding answers that elicit smiles but also sometimes ease the jolt of an uncomfortable truth.  It is into this world, of sunken libraries and witch’s huts and old wells, that we journey in Creatures Set Forth.

Roppotucha Greenberg’s Creatures are a whimsical delight. Creatures Set Forth is their third outing and slightly different from their originals. Where Creatures Give Advice invited Greenberg’s Twitter followers to consult the Creatures for advice (obviously), this book is a collection of micro-pieces, accented with delightful hand-drawn images, that delves into the Thicket and beyond, following the Creatures on their journeys through time and place. 

It’s a thread of magic that runs through all these stories that binds them together. In some there is a twist of deeper emotion that adds a resonance, as in the piece ‘Meteorology’:

Angels are made wingless. If they slip, they fall through the clouds. Some grow wings. Some hurtle too fast towards the ground. They shatter into white light. And this is why tonight, with all the frost outside, you feel so deeply sad.

Woven between are moments of humour – cows, the wise and the splendid, appeared this morning when you were asleep – and a sweet yearning as the Creatures consider the concepts of home, journeying, and the inescapable passage of time. 

This book has a lilting, musical quality. Delicious language and a richly imagined world with ties to this one create an engaging read. Roppotucha’s word choices seem unlikely matches on the surface but blend together to create lush images:

We used to cook with the wind. Seaweed and wild berries, angel wings, and lashings of star-ice. That food made us so wise we didn’t hate each other. Death was just a spice. 

In considering time and displacement, Greenberg examines the emotional turmoil of being removed from the familiar, and the reconstruction of self in the wake of change:

In the post-chthonic period, we were often sad, and we didn’t know if this sadness had deep roots and if it would ever morph in to something useful like mushroom soup or even happiness.

Where the tales veer towards the dark, Roppotucha uses a gentle touch, easing through the discomforts of winter with an eye towards spring. This hopeful element draws the reader forward through the book with a sense of wonder. 

Creatures Set Forth is a masterclass in the beauty and flexibility of language and how it lends itself to unexpected and striking combinations. Roppotucha Greenberg has created a whole world of tapestried words and unique imaginings, with micro-fictions coming together like glass beads on filament; each one is individual but the thread brings them together into something extraordinary. Fans of the form and those who enjoy flights of fancy with tendrils in the real should thoroughly enjoy a journey with the Creatures.

Creatures Set Forth is available now from Amazon.

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