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McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales Paperback – March 25, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Chabon teams up with the editors of Dave Eggers's McSweeney's magazine to create a fiction anthology with an innovative, simple concept: the stories are driven by adventurous plots and narrative action, in contrast to the current trend toward stories that are "plotless and sparkling with epiphanic dew," as Chabon writes in his introduction. The roster includes such heavyweights as Michael Crichton, Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, Nick Hornby and Harlan Ellison. As the retro title might suggest, the collection is heavy on sci-fi and detective stories, often updated with contemporary twists. Crichton offers a detective yarn called "Blood Doesn't Come Out," in which a disgruntled PI takes out his frustration on his wife in a cheeky spin on the domestic violence that punctuates the pulp fiction of Jim Thompson and James A. Cain. Hornby's contribution is an entertaining sci-fi story called "Otherwise Pandemonium," about a man who buys a VCR that fast-forwards into an apocalyptic future. In Rick Moody's "The Albertine Notes," a debilitating drug called Albertine wreaks havoc by sending users back in time to relive their memories. Dave Eggers's "Up the Mountain Coming Down Slowly" is a thoughtful story in which a woman climbs Kilimanjaro to bolster her self-confidence after experiencing a personal crisis, but proves oblivious to the deaths of three porters when the weather on the mountain turns ugly. Half a dozen or so stories are markedly slight, but overall this is a strong collection.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Set up five years ago, this was a literary magazine and here is the tenth issue. It is now well established in America and this issue includes new work from Aron Chabon, Eggers, Stephen King, Nick Hornby, Elmore Leonard and others. I particularly enjoyed Nick Hornby's tale of the end of the world as seen first on a video recorder. It is chilling and vastly readable. Also, the Elmore Leonard story of fearless young Carlos, who shoots a bank-robbing killer who has eaten his ice-cream cone, is a humdinger. This volume makes first class bedside reading. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (March 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140003339X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400033393
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on May 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales was a book I really wanted to like. After all, it featured short stories from some really great writers, and the emphasis was going to be on adventure. I really wanted to like it, and found it disappointing that the book was only entertaining in spots.
The goal of the book, as Chabon states in the introduction, is to have an anthology of short stories in a more "classic" vein: the sort of stories that were published in decades past, filled with fun and mystery as opposed to the more literary, plotless, "moment-of-truth" stories of today. Unfortunately, this book did not make me long for yesteryear, but instead made me think that the passing of short genre fiction was not necessarily a bad thing.
The biggest flaw in the book is that the authors - almost all excellent at long fiction, seem to be unable to write a truly good short story. A couple stories, such as "The General" and "The Albertine Notes" are borderline unreadable. Most of the others are just so-so. Even Stephen King - who has shown over the years that he is adept in short fiction as well as novels - has contributed an only mildly okay story which is probably only best enjoyed by his Dark Tower fans. And Harlan Ellison - a master of the short story and an author who I really enjoy - is also a disappointment here, with a story which comes more as a Harlan Ellison parody than the real thing.
There are one or two gems in the bunch (but not much more). Nick Hornby and Elmore Leonard have written a couple good stories, but that's around it.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 3, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The premise of this anthology was terrific-- round up a bunch of first rate (mostly "literary") writers and have them do stories that are unpretentious, unaffected, rip roaring good reads. Just look at the cover illustration and you know what I mean. But the more the literary the writers here, the more it's plain that most of them saw the project as a kind of fun-slumming and as a result, their work wreaks of condescension and self-parody. The only good stories here are written by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock and Kelly Link. Genre writers all, but nevertheless heads and tails better than the likes of Rick Moody, Dave Eggers, Jim Shepard, Chabon, etcetera. If you want to read a knockout anthology that wonderfully achieves everything this antho doesn't, check out "CONJUNCTIONS:39-- The New Wave Fabulists" The contrast between the two collections is profound.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
As might be expected with any collection such as this, it's uneven. I appreciate the idea of re-creating the old pulp style stories and the roster of authors are all top-notch, but a lot of the tales are too cute by half. I love stories that have a flair to them, but sometimes that gets taken to the extreme and damages the narrative. It would seem to me, as someone who has made a hobby of collecting the old pulp comics and magazines, that you can't have it both ways. If you want to throw a curveball at your reader, you can't do it in a lackadaisical manner, which some of these authors tend to do.
I made a conscious effort to read each story and give each one a chance and there was really only one that I gave up on, mostly because it was too long. The best, for me, were the contributions by (no real surprises)Glen David Gold, Elmore Leonard, and Neil Gaiman. I was a little surprised by how much I didn't like the Stephen King story and editor Michael Chabon's contribution was also a bit thin. Indeed, Chabon's story seemed to exemplify what was wrong with the stories that just didn't seem to work. He tried too hard to capture the pulp spirit and in doing so ended up with an interesting story but not a very entertaining one.
I thought overall the book is worth reading, although I think perhaps it's better to read the stories piecemeal when your appetite for that type of story is piqued.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Blake Petit VINE VOICE on May 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
Any collection of short stories, especially those anthologizing the works of various authors, will by its nature be a hit-or-miss proposition. Some of the stories will be better than others, some could be excellent, some could be outright duds. This collection, put together by Michael Chabon, has a much better average than most such books -- very few of the stories in this collection disappointed.

Elmore Leonard's "How Carlos Webster Changes his Name to Carl and Became a Famous Oklahoma Lawman" stands out as one of the best in the book, although Gaiman's "Closing Time" and Moody's "The Albertine Notes" are also standouts. Hornby's "Otherwise Pandemonium" is something of a departure for him, a sci-fi short that's quite unlike his more famous works, and Sherman Alexie's "Ghost Dance" is a really good little horror tale. Stephen King's "The Tale of Gray Dick" is entertaining in and of itself, although his hardcore fans have already read the story, which is actually an excerpt from his (at the time of this volume) not-yet-published Dark Tower novel, "Wolves of the Calla." Chabon closes off the collection with a story of his own, but "The Martian Agent, a Planetary Romance" is not a complete story, but the beginning of a serial (and if anyone can tell me if or where the rest has been published, please do so -- it's not in McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories as I expected).

Chabon's goal, he says in the introduction, was to put together an anthology of that endangered species, the plot-driven short story. He succeeded by leaps and bounds. The collection showcases a lot of different voices and a lot of different kinds of stories, but all in all, it's far more entertaining than most short story anthologies.
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