Edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer



320pp/$22.99/July 2011

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities
Cover by Jacob Iacobelli

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The key word in the title of Ann and Jeff VanderMeer's The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities is the word "curiosities." Modeled after Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts's earlier The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases, the anthology is less a collection of short stories so much as a collection of neat ideas for artifacts which could be used as a jumping off point for stories.  It almost reads like an expansion of the description of artifacts in the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons< Dungeon Master's Guide.

The conceit of the book is that it lists the strange, perhaps even supernatural, items collected over the course of a lifetime by the eccentric titular character. Now, several years after Lambshead has died, the stories behind these artifacts can be told. The VanderMeers have collected a disparate group of authors to explore these mystical items. Entries include writings from the imaginations of Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, China Miéville, Ted Chiang, and many more.

Although most of the authors are happy to simply related the description of the item, along with some of its history, other authors, such as Naomi Novik, have written actual stories featuring their relics.  The inclusion of these stories provides a strange change of pace from the vignettes most of the authors offer and causes the reader to change their style of reading when character and plot suddenly gain a new importance.

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities is also copiously illustrated with artwork and photographs which serve to reinforce the mythology behind the book that Lambshead and his collection actually existed.  The artwork is also interspersed with the text in a strong way, providing breaks and illustrations which are an integral part of the book.

With reasonably short entries, the book entices the reader to  move from one entry on to the next, however the book is best enjoyed in short doses, with the entries read and interspersed with other books, stories, or activities, a method of reading which allows each artifact description to stand on its own and make an impression on the reader.

 Aeron Alfrey Mike Mignola
Kelly Barnhill Michael Moorcock
Holly Black Alan Moore
Greg Broadmore Reza Negarestani
S.J. Chambers Garth Nix
Stepan Chapman Jonathan Nix
Ted Chiang Naomi Novik
Michael Cisco Eric Orchard
Gio Clairval James A. Owen
John Coulthart Helen Oyeyemi
Scott Eagle J.K. Potter
Amal el-Mohtar Cherie Priest
Brian Everson Eric Schaller
Minister Faust Ekaterina Sedia
Jeffrey Ford Ivica Stevanovic
Lev Grossman Jan Svankmajer
Vladimir Gvozdariki Rachel Swirsky
Will Hindmarch Sam van Olffen
N.K. Jemisin Carrie Vaughn
Caitlín R, Kiernan Myrtle von Damitz III
Mur Lafferty Jake von Slatt
Jay Lake Tad Williams
Yishan Li Charles Yu
China Miéville  

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