Saturday, July 30, 2011
Edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer, The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities is a fantastical collection of stories, art and brief snippets organized around Dr. Lambshead's cabinet. Being unfamiliar with the first book regarding Lambshead I stumbled a bit to find footing in the opening narrative, but once I did I was rewarded with an entertaining if occasionally uneven experience.
Rather than give you a play by play of the books contents, authors and artists, which are better explained by reviewers by trade I shall endeavor to give you just my unfettered opinions.
First the minor complaints. I was disappointed by the lack of color in any of the illustrations or photos particularly because quite a few of the related stories made use of their color in the narrative. In those cases I think a sprinkle of color would have gone a long way to immersing the reader in the material, instead we're left with what occasionally feels like a bad photocopy of what is surely an amazing piece of art in person. This is not the prevailing case as much of the art is fantastic even in black and white.
The other slight disappointment was in the final section, A Brief Catalog Of Other Items, where small descriptions of items devolved at times to absurd puns. To be fair they were entertaining, well written puns, but they did not fit the overall tone of the piece and thus were a distraction from the other more tangible descriptions. There ends my complaint with the book, so let's go with some questions.
Is the book strictly Steampunk? Though that is how it was presented to me, the short answer is no. It will absolutely appeal to that audience however. The longer answer depends on your definition of steampunk itself, which is a really involved discussion that serves no real purpose at this juncture. It certainly contains steampunk creations, authors and artists, but like my little Wunderkammer here, it expands to hold much more that is slightly odd, disturbing and darkly beautiful.
Is it an easy read? Bloody hell, no. The language and structure of many of the stories requires rapt attention. Occasionally whole sections require flipping to a footnote section to fully understand what is recounted. The various stories are presented as complete narratives, technical descriptions, historical accounts and collections of correspondence. This is a book that requires you to be an active reader.
But is it good? Yes, yes it is. If you enjoy weird tales, Lovecraft, dark fantasy or alternate histories, this is a fabulous read. Trying to pick some things to highlight is difficult as I enjoyed most of them and that's just too long a list, but he stories by Cherie Priest, China Miéville, Garth Nix and Jeffrey Ford are still vividly with me as wonderful stand alone tales. There is certainly nothing that should be skipped.
The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities is available in hardcover now.
So, thank you to whoever got my humble blog on the list to be able to read and share this book with you. Please do let me know how my first review was...kindly. Hopefully this won't be the last Wunderkammer book review.