Book Review: The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

Book: The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

Edited by Ann VanderMeer, Jeff VanderMeer


Publisher: Harper Voyager

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities is a follow up* to one on my favorite collections of all time, 2003’s The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases.

The basic conceit remains: we get a look into the world of long-lived** eccentric doctor and weirdo collector, the eponymous Lambshead. This is done (primarily) by giving us descriptions of the strange things that have ended up in his (massive) cabinet of odd discoveries.
As such the items in this collection are discussed in assorted short stories, observations and brief (frequently hallucinatory) snips of remembrance and range back a thousand years.

The power of this concept (and the pieces included in the book) is that this isn’t just a set of fantasy stories or off-beat sci-fi***, the Lambshead books practically define their own genre: the Secret History. What makes this book feel potent is the idea (excellently convey by authors like Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, and China Mieville) that everything is inside is real *but forgotten* or more acutely HIDDEN. Purposefully obscured/occulted. There’s a lost reality that seems just beyond our fingertips. It feels alive, and this vitality points out why so many folks find themselves drawn to steampunk and the like.

It feels like it ~happened~, as if is should have been, as if we could have been there.

If I have any minor quibbles it’s with the one or two pieces of traditional fiction that pop up here. It’s not that they’re bad^, it’s just that they seem almost quaint and lacking in the penetrating power of the brief descriptions of the weird that make up the rest of the collection.
Also, the editors may have wanted to keep the descriptions of mechanical nursemaids/teachers down to one.

But overall this is a fabulous^^ collection and I’m proud to set it next to it’s older sibling on myself.
And how can you not love any book that makes you want to say “CHOO! CHOO!” when you walk past Cherie Priest?

*Calling this a “sequel” is not only misleading, it also makes the project sound weak and disposable, which it is not.
** and remarkably well preserved
*** or even proto-sci-fi for that matter
^ Garth Nix’s “Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of the East and West” feels like it could easily have come from the secret files of Mignola’s BPRD. And Jeffrey Ford’s “Relic” is a lovely bit of fantasy.
^^ in that is both amazing and filled with fables.

Publisher: Harper Voyager
http://www.harpgervoyagerbooks.com

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