Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Unconsumed: The Thackery T Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases

Wednesday, August 16, 2006
There are not many books which I do not finish. As do most people, I typically only read books which I think I might like. Even those books which turn out to be a disappointment I generally finish because I've already spent a good deal of time reading the book and maybe the book will get better. I did not finish The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases. There have been a great many good things said about this book and the creativity and the talent involved. It's all true. This book is written as if it were a guide to some strange and funky fictional (we can hope) diseases. So, each "Chapter" is a new disease with a case history, first known outbreak, symptoms, cures, and some thoughts on it. Each entry is written in as medical and technical sense as possible. Editor Jeff Vandermeer has gathered a very impressive collection of authors to submit entries. Some of the authors in this collection include Michael Moorcock, Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Alan Moore, Liz Williams, and many others. In short, this is a very talented field, including 8 (according to the book jacket) World Fantasy Award winners. Great talent. The nature of some of these diseases is sickeningly creative.

So far so good, right? Wrong. The fault lies in my reading preference. I prefer novels or at least stories. This is a literary game. It was a challenge for the authors to put together a collection of fantastic diseases complete with case histories. This is a fascinating exercise of literary invention. The readability factor here is much lower because each entry is independent of the rest and there is no continuing narrative to tie the book together. It is difficult to sit down and just read the book because every four pages is something new and in a very formal style of presentation.

With that said, this is a quality collection of fiction. It is simply not something that I had any desire to finish. I suspect others will love this book and make room for it in their bookcase. The book is not for me.


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