Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Appraisal of a Unique and Fascinating Tome - The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities - Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities
Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Editors)
Harper Voyager
Publication Date: July 12, 2011
320 Pages
ISBN: 9780062004758


A Word Concerning the Discovery

After the death of Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead eight years ago a startling discovery was made at his manor house in Wimpering-on-the-Brook, England. Buried beneath the stacked detritus of antiques and collectibles in the basement of his Victorian-era cottage and nearly reduced to ash by fire was discovered the most remarkable cabinet of curiosities ever encountered. In it was a vast accumulation of extraordinary artifacts and curios. For the first time since that astonishing unearthing a select group of artisans (authors, fantasists, illustrators, and artists – hypnotists all) have assembled together to catalogue and craft to life the oddities recently found in Dr. Lambshead’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

The Curious Contents of the Cabinet (Incorporating Active Uniform Resource Locators)

- The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

- Introduction:

The Contradictions of a Collection, Dr. Lambshead's Cabinet - The Editors

- Holy Devices and Infernal Duds: The Broadmore Exhibits

The Electrical Neurheographiton - Minister Y. Faust , D. Phil

St. Brendan's Shank - Kelly Barnhill

The Auble Gun – Will Hindmarch

Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny – Ted Chiang

- Honoring Lambshead: Stories Inspired by the Cabinet

Threads – Carrie Vaughn

Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of East and West – Garth Nix

Relic – Jeffrey Ford

Lord Dunsany’s Teapot – Naomi Novik

Lot 558: Shadow of My Nephew by Wells, Charlotte – Holly Black

A Short History of Dunkelblau’s Meistergarten – Tad Williams

- Microbial Alchemy and Demented Machinery: The Mignola Exhibits

Addison Howell and the Clockroach – Cherie Priest

Sir Ranulph Wykeham-Rackham, GBE, a.k.a. Roboticus the All-Knowing – Lev Grossman

Shamalung (The Diminutions) – Michael Moorcock

Pulvadmonitor: The Dust’s Warning – China Mieville

- The Mieville Anomalies

The Very Shoe – Helen Oyeyemi

The Gallows-horse – Reza Negarestani

- Further Oddities

The Thing in the Jar – Michael Cisco

The Singing Fish – Amal El-Mohtar

The Armor of Sir Locust – Stephan Chapman

A Key to the Castleblakeney Key – Caitlin R. Kiernan

Taking the Rats to Riga – Jay Lake

The Book of Categories – Charles Yu

Objects Discovered in a Novel Under Construction – Alan Moore

- Visits and Departures

1929:The Singular Taffy Puller – N. K. Jemisin

1943: A Brief Note Pertaining to the Absence of One Olivaceous Cormorant, Stuffed – Rachel Swirsky

1963: The Argument Against Louis Pasteur – Mur Lafferty

1972: The Lichenologist’s Visit – Ekaterina Sedia

1995: Kneel – Brian Evenson

2000: Dr. Lambshead’s Dark Room – S. J. Chambers

2003: The Pea – Gio Clairval

- A Brief Catalog of Other Items

- -- An Inquisitive Review of Cabinet Curiosities by The Alternative One

Paragraph the First: Being a Failing on the Part of the Critic While Indicating a Certain Genius on the Part of the Editors.

The fault on my part is that due to a set of unfortunate circumstances I had never heard of Thackery T. Lambshead before purchasing a copy of the very unique and satisfying Cabinet of Curiosities. The brilliance of the editors is that for the first 20 pages or so (the entire introduction actually) I firmly believed that there really was a collector of oddities named Thackery T. Lambshead. So much so that I had to conduct a Google search to find that he (and the books about him – however vaguely) are pure fabrication. But oh, what beautiful curiosities I have been witness to here. I was spellbound and entranced from the moment I opened the tome. Unique devices, eerie tales, colossal inventions, peculiar stories, and hypnotic illustrations by the likes of Carrie Vaughn, Greg Broadmore, Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, Tad Williams, Cherie Priest, Lev Grossman, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, and China Mieville, among others, make this one of the very best collections of dark ephemera, exhibits, relics, keepsakes, antiques, artifacts, illustrations, things in jars, and curiosities ever brought together under the cover of one beautifully etched and illuminated tome.

Paragraph the Second: Being a Review of the Contents in no Logical or Discerning Order but with an Eye Pointed Squarely at the Most Curious of Oddities.

The Introduction overflows with anecdotal information concerning Dr. Lambshead and his wife Helen. Unfortunately, much of Lambshead’s story is missing at this point. Fortunately, it appears that the remaining stories in the collection are rumored to shed more light on the mysterious doctor and his bevy of curiosities and indeed do not disappoint. Entries of significant import include (in order of personal enjoyment by this critic): Naomi Novik’s captivating Lord Dunsany’s Teapot; Cherie Priest’s (a perennial favorite of mine) Addison Howell and the Clockroach; Michael Moorcock’s addition Shamalung (The Diminutions); China Mieville’s always strange and imaginative Pulvadmonitor: The Dust’s Warning, and Amal El-Mohtar’s The Singing Fish.

Paragraph the Third: In Which a Brief Outline of Indelible Art and Outlandish Illustrations is Revealed.

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities contains some of the very best Steampunk art you may find. With unforgettable illustrations by the hands of esteemed artists such as Greg Broadmore, Sam Van Ollfen , James A. Owen , Jonathan Nix , and John Coulthart there is steampunk curiosity enough for everyone here. Honestly folks, I would own this book just for the artwork alone, sans stories. Fortunately for all, the text matches the illustrations in beauty and elegance.

Paragraph the Fourth: Recommendations by Variety of Like and Kind.

If you enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke , Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs , Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy , or Billy Sunday by Rod Jones then The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities will certainly be an entertaining distraction for you.

5 out of 5 stars

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

Thackery T. Lambshead series:
1. The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases (2005)
2. The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Exhibits, Oddities, Images, and Stories from Top Authors and Artists (2011)

Jeff VanderMeer site

The Cabinet of Curiosities

Functional Nerds Review

Harper Voyager Page

SF Signal Review


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