Saturday, December 10, 2011

Books read in Chincoteague (7 of 7): The Cabinet of Curiosities

ast but certainly not least we have a book acquired from one Jeff VanderMeer, signed by said editor and his accomplice, Ann VanderMeer, and kindly shipped to me for review purposes an embarrassingly long time ago. As is appropriate to such an anthology of bits and pieces, I read The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities in fits and starts, probably beginning by the pool last summer, the majority read at Chincoteague, and finished post-move in the new house. On the other hand, it's a rich and complex enough world to sink into, if one tends towards more efficient, focused reading.

bookstore, books, basement, capitol hill books, dusty, creepyThis level of complexity largely stems from the wide array of contributors to this steampunk confluence, including Garth Nix, Tad Williams, Cherie Priest (of Boneshaker) and Alan Moore. While there were amusing oddities described in brief at various points in the book, the short stories have continued to stand out in my mind. The Relic, a story of a sand-bound church and its odd holy item, has stuck with me most. Some of the content felt mildly forced from the authors' pens, as if they had a story to tell, but had to include that one pesky element (the curiosity). The best written works used the items from Lambshead's cabinet, or snippets about the Doctor himself (because, of course, he was a doctor) to explore into a corner or two of the world set before them. This difference lies between the authors who tried to make the curiosities fit into a world of their own and those who used the curiosity to explore Lambshead's world.

The art is also a wide sweep of varietals, ranging from detailed penwork to signature styles to collaged photographs used to illustrate the [wholly imaginary] cabinet. This is a most impressive anthology, which I will be pleased to keep on my shelf and sometimes flip through to reread a passage or two.

The accidental harmony of the trenches during the war produced, sometimes, odd acquaintances... "Well, that's a proper cup," Russell said softly, as the smell climbed out of the teapot, fragrant and fragile. The brew, when he poured it, was clear amber-gold, and made Edward think of peaches hanging in a garden of shining, fruit-heavy trees, a great sighing breath of wind stirring all the branches to a shake. 
"It'll be all right, you know," Russell said. He rubbed a hand over the teapot. "I don't like to say, because the fellows don't understand, but you see him, too; or at least as much of him as I do... I don't know his name," Russell said thoughtfully. "I've never managed to find out; I don't know that he hears us at all, or thinks of us. I suppose if he ever woke up, he might be right annoyed with us, sitting here drinking up his dreams. But he never has."
Lord Dunsany's Teapot, by Naomi Novik, from The Cabinet of Curiosities. 

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