The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, harper Voyager, ISBN 978-0-06-211683-3, 320 pgs, $14.99

English: Ann VanderMeer accepting 2009 Hugo Award

English: Ann VanderMeer accepting 2009 Hugo Award (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a tradition in Science Fiction of not only creating a future but in creating the facts that go along with that future. One of the more favorite panels at conventions is when a group of writers (designated as future archeologists) are given items to which they must create a plausible explanation.  This is often funny and amusing and is the SF version of improv.  This tradition also carries over to books.  While most of the books in this category fall into those tied to a major universe: i.e. Star Wars, Star Trek, etc, some are free floating.  This book is one of those.

The premise here is that Dr. Lambshead was a collector of the esoteric and odd, of the steampunk variety but definitely of the weird contraption variety.  Upon his death, the collection was unearthed, or part of it was.  There were journals and books which referenced a great many additional items which have never been seen, although many were referenced in other places as well.  And, so, we have the The Auble Gun, Lord Dunsany‘s Teapot, The Singing Fish, The Singular Taffy Puller, The Very Shoe, The Gallows-Horse, The Electrical Neurheographton, and St. Brandon’s Shank, to name a few.  Each is copiously explained and many are illustrated.  Most also contain historical figure references.  Some have endnotes and additional references.  Each addition is written by a different scholar, to wit, Alan Moore, Holly Black, Lev Grossman, China Mieville, Michael Moorcock, and others.

This can be interesting stuff–if it is the kind of stuff you find interesting.  If you are one who likes to delve behind things or wants to know how the devices on Firefly work, then this may be the book for you.  In many ways it is a form of creativity that we do not usually see.  It is more than story telling.  Rather it is the bastard child of the marriage between fiction and mental illness, for only a deranged mind can think of things that never existed but explain them as if they were, just yesterday, on the kitchen counter, or, perhaps in someone’s cabinet of curiosities.

There are two levels to looking at a work like this. The first is simply the crafting of it.  Does it all fit together, does the logic hold, does it make fictional sense and the second is the skill of each entry and the framing pieces.  This book succeeds on both of those levels, perhaps most so in the first.  This is no surprise.  Jeff and Ann Vandermeer are two of the best surreal fantasists now alive.  Perhaps the best two ever.  And they’ve been at it for a long time.  They are so good at it that, at times, I have wondered whether they don’t believe most of what they write to be the truth.  As for the second, they have gathered some fine writers, to contribute to this effort.  And to top it all off there are the numerous illustrations, all detailing, visually, the oddities and curiosities described.

Surely, by now, you realize that this book is not for everyone.  But, if it is for you, and you should know who you are, then you are in for a delight and a surprise unimagined prior to the writing of it.  Perhaps you have stumbled upon an oddity or two yourself and wondered from whence it came and where it would end up.  Perhaps you have always wanted to do so but lacked the courage of conviction to pursue such a question.  If so then this guide is meant for you and for those times when you settle back and reflect on what has gone and what has been lost and what may still be sitting on a shelf, somewhere, some place.  Maybe near or maybe far but waiting to be discovered once again.

Go, buy, discover for yourself.

And if you would prefer to not wander in searching then just click here to get your own copy: The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Exhibits, Oddities, Images, and Stories from Top Authors and Artists



About damnaliens
Writer, reviewer, home provider to the Damnaliens

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