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The Ocean and All Its Devices Hardcover – June, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Pathos, poignance and gentle humor accent the nine stories in this stellar fantasy collection from Spencer (Zod Wallop), whose characters engage readers' sympathies through their efforts to accommodate the tectonic shifts of wildly unpredictable life experiences. "The Oddskeeper's Daughter" begins as a fantasy of a man's love for an otherworldly woman before revealing itself to be a moving meditation on the frailty and tenuousness of romance itself. In the title story, a family's annual visit to a seaside resort ends with a tragedy that reveals the awe and terror of the sea to the jaded innkeeper who has long taken it for granted. The book's best selection is the giddy "The Essayist in the Wilderness," whose unreliable narrator—a writer who looks to the natural world as inspiration for his philosophic reflections—is blissfully ignorant that the animal activity he is reporting is not only unnatural but potentially horrifying. Spencer includes an insightful introduction on the importance of fiction that the contents of his book bear out magnificently. (June)
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From Booklist

Spencer's second story collection, after The Return of Count Electric and Other Stories (1993), is a slim but extraordinary volume of strange and haunting tales beautifully told. The title story, which has a certain Lovecraftian atmosphere, concerns the puzzle of an enigmatic family's annual off-season visit to a seaside resort. "The Essayist in the Wilderness" takes on both the writer's search for inspiration and an infestation of alien creatures that, in fact, are not crayfish. In "The Oddskeeper's Daughter," Spencer reveals the relationship of a woman from Sweeper City, where chance is sacred and gambling is not a game, and a man of our world. In "The Lights of Armageddon," the world is threatened by lightbulbs, both those sold by a magician, which summon the Fair Ones, and those sold by his rival, which summon something from the Immutable Abyss. Spencer's stories are scintillating creations, disturbing and beautiful, and his introduction about the perils of being a short story writer is an illuminating diversion, too. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 195 pages
  • Publisher: Subterranean Press; Sgd Ltd edition (June 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596060476
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596060470
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,387,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Tom Knapp VINE VOICE on February 7, 2007
"The Ocean & All Its Devices" is a rich, lyrical exploration of William Browning Spencer's imagination. But, while the ocean of the title story provides a deep, dark setting for this collection's first story, Spencer's most remarkable explorations take place in the realms of future cyberspace.

This is Spencer's first collection of stories since 1993's "The Return of Count Electric & Other Stories," a collection I unfortunately have overlooked to date. Still, with just nine stories, The Ocean proves a splendid introduction to a writer whose short fiction encompasses more satisfying world-building and character development than many a novel. Spencer paints his stories with a subtle hue of horror that is often more unsettling than frightening, and that lingers in the back of your thoughts long after you've turned your attentions elsewhere.

Reading this collection left me wondering why Spencer has so selfishly deprived me of his writing over the years. These stories -- rich, deep and fully realized -- are the work of a writer who should, in a fairer world, be far better known and, we can only hope, far more prolific.

by Tom Knapp, Rambles.(n e t) editor
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Just wanted to say how happy I am to see that Mr. Spencer is still writing! I've loved all his other books with Irrational Fears being my favorite. Ordered this and once I read it will post an actual review.

Keep writing Mr. Spencer!

Update: Just finished reading this. Excellent collection! There were the usual Lovecraftian feel stories that never seem to get old or dusty in Mr. Spencer's hands and the stories that explored other themes that were just as good.

My favorites would be Your Faithful Servant, the title story, Halfway House, and Essayist (which I had read in F&SF Magazine).
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By Tew on August 13, 2006
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This short story collection is a great way to be introduced to William Browning Spencer if you haven't read any of his books.
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