Some stories take place in approximately the present, or a slightly altered version of it. Others are in the future, or in space. Some introduce us to completely foreign worlds, filled with bizarre creatures and vivid landscapes. And, since the stories are so short, we tend to be taken from one extreme to another with lightning speed.
Depending on the author, this lightning speed can either work to the story’s favor or to its detriment. Some succeed in telling complete stories in that time. Others simply paint a world for us or give us a short, but interesting, scene. Some, though, feel like they start in the middle and end before it’s through, leaving us feeling confused and unfulfilled.
The best stories, in my opinion, are generally the ones by McDermott himself. The very first story, “Saint in the City,” shows us a world of human-animal hybrids, wherein a gruff antihero protects a psychic girl and fends off a werewolf. A little later, “Murder Culture” brings us an assassin in a near-future world on a strange job involving immortality. There’s also “Hyper” which gives us an amusing story of a superhero who rescues the passengers of a space cruise line from a terrorist attack. And, “T.Y.M.E.” brings us a mind-bending time travel story. These were the stories that appealed to me the most, and that left me wanting more—in a good way. I’d love to see any one of them fleshed out into its own full-length adventure.
After McDermott, many of my favorite stories were by an artist named Larsen. They’re a bit bizarre, and several of them are entirely wordless, but they create very unique worlds unlike anything else in this anthology. My favorite of his is probably “Cup O’ Noodles,” which . . . to tell you anything about it would be to ruin the surprise.
Perhaps one of the strangest stories of all, though, is a Kafkaesque adventure called “Bottle of Walter.” A man wakes up to find that his head has been replaced by a toaster. Hijinks ensue.
One issue: Somehow, the image resolution on the digital file I got was way too low, which made everything—and in particular, the words—blurry. In some stories it was barely noticeable, but, in others, I had to strain to read every word—and a few times, there were large blocks of text that I couldn’t make out at all. I don’t know if all the digital files will have this problem or not, but just be forewarned, if you get a digital copy, that this may be an issue.
There’s definitely a lot of fun to be had in Imaginary Drugs, though. Sometimes, it’s strange, sometimes, it’s funny, sometimes, it’s unsettling, but it’s never boring. No matter what kind of sci-fi or fantasy you like, you’ll likely find something to appreciate about Imaginary Drugs.