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The Shambling Guide to New York City (The Shambling Guides) Paperback – May 28, 2013
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*Starred Review* Most new hires try to negotiate a higher salary. When Zoe takes a job editing a new travel-book series for Underground Publications, she needs to decide whether to get paid in hell notes, blood tokens, occult favors, or regular dollars. In Lafferty’s entirely believable world, New York City is secretly inhabited by vampires, zombies, fay folk, and assorted monsters. Public Works not only takes care of streets and sanitation, they are also responsible for keeping the balance between humans and “coterie”—the preferred term for nonhumans. Zoe’s pretty tough, and she thinks she can handle her assignment of creating a coterie guidebook to the city. But she’s ill-prepared for what awaits her in the underworld and soon finds herself succumbing to the erotic advances of an incubus coworker, tracking down raging zombies, and ultimately getting involved in an epic battle for the (literal) soul of the city. This is a funny, thoughtfully conceived, and thoroughly entertaining romp that will be a sure bet for urban-fantasy readers—and might even surprise people who don’t think they’d enjoy a paranormal novel. --Rebecca Vnuk
"If Buffy grew up, got therapy and found a real job, it would look like this."―Scott Sigler
"Mur Lafferty's debut novel is a must-read book for those who like their urban fantasy fast, furious, and funny. Terrific stuff!"―Kat Richardson
"This is a great start to what promises to be one of the gems of the comic urban fantasy crown. The Shambling Guide sets the wonderful world of the supernatural--and the slightly more esoteric world of travel guide publishing--on its ear, and the result is nothing short of delightful."―New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire
"An engagingly funny, and fun, romp through NYC. You'll love Zoe... to bits."―New York Times bestselling Tobias S. Buckell
"Shows exactly why so many writers have been buzzing about Mur Lafferty for so many years: an unbeatable mixture of humor, heart, imagination, and characterization. I want to live in Mur's New York."―Cory Doctorow
"Without Mur Lafferty, the SF genre would be a much duller place. Mur is constantly inventive, always great fun and deserves every success."―Paul Cornell
"A wild ride through the secret side of New York City, Mur Lafferty's mighty debut is urban fantasy the way it should be: fast, funny, with bags of action and characters you'll love. A total delight from cover to cover."―Adam Christopher
"The Shambling Guide to New York City is a monstrously fun romp by one of our most engaging new authors."―Tim Pratt
"Zombies and vampires and golems, oh my! The Shambling Guide to New York City rounds up the biggest cast of the undead and never-quite-alive ever to appear in a single novel, along with a wisecracking heroine whose picture belongs over the dictionary entry for spunky. This is a comic tour-de-force by a writer who lives and breathes popular culture. Mur Lafferty is throwing a monster party and you're invited."
―James Patrick Kelly, Hugo and Nebula Award Winner
"Mur Lafferty is a bright, shining light in speculative fiction. She brings a warm, humourous and startling fresh voice to the genre in The Shambling Guide to New York City."
"Looking for a very different kind of travel guide? One that shows you the real Manhattan? The one the tourists haven't discovered yet, but the vampires and the watersprites have? Then The Shambling Guide to New York City is just what you need!
With really interesting restaurant recs and sightseeing suggestions, and unusual (to say the least) takes on the Statue of Liberty and Grant's Tomb, it's got everything you need to know for the trip of a lifetime--or longer! And with the smart and intrepid Zoe to show you around, how could you possibly get in trouble? I give it 5 Michelin stars and 8 Zombie Planet Thumbs Up (with real thumbs)!"
"What, you thought only humans wanted to travel? Monsters are tourists, too."―New York Times bestseller Scott Sigler
"The hip, knowing and sometimes hysterically funny narrative, interspersed with excerpts from the guide of the title, lurches along in splendid fashion. Combine wit, style and acute observation: the result is irresistible."―Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Charming debut... an enjoyable tour of the city's supernatural side."―Publishers Weekly
"The Shambling Guide to New York City shows that Mur Lafferty has something different to bring to the urban fantasy genre. She's created a character that can experience the human/non-human dynamic via researching a travel guide, which we'd never see through the usual detectives and ass-kicking central characters, and with snappy dialogue, a creative cast and can-do central characters, we have fun tagging along."―Gavin Pugh, tor.com
"Well-written and immersive...a travel series you'll definitely want to stick with."―SFX
"An extremely exciting and incredibly amusing read."―SciFiNow.co.uk (5 stars)
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I was introduced to the work of Mur Lafferty with "Playing for Keeps" and was very pleased with her original approach. She's a writer to follow and I wanted to read this previous book of Lafferty's. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I simply wanted more of the contents of the guidebook her main character, Zoe Norris, was editing- "The Shambling Guide to New York." Those excerpts are worth the cost of the book alone. Light, funny, now this is urban fantasy!
We have Zoe, who made some really bad decisions as part of her last job in publishing and is now desperate to put it all behind her. So desperate that she ignores the iota of self-preservation she seems to have, follows a shady, kind of flirty man into a condemned looking building on the off chance he may actually work with the OTHER shady guy she had met earlier at an even SHADIER bookstore who was posting up a job notice. Both of whom told her to run away, several times, because she wasn't suited for the job.
But Zoe prides herself on fitting in! She's a little shaky on if they turn out to be skinheads or a cult, but any other type of people she can totally fit right into and she is OUTRAGED that these people are telling her otherwise. Who are they to know if she's able to fit in? She's adaptable! She's qualified! Affirmative Action!
And so begins her adventures in the Coterie (read: MONSTER, Boogedy-Boogedys, Supernatural, Paranormal, Freaky) World.
Here's the thing, the book goes on at length to explain that Zoe is very qualified (from a publishing perspective) for the job of Managing Editor, but how is that exactly? She's literally learning from a point of no knowledge about the Coterie World at all. Call me odd, but wouldn't it make more sense to have someone supervising (and writing! She was writing part of the books!) who understood that you shouldn't look this type of Coterie in the eye and you shouldn't allow this type to touch you?
In the span of the book I'm fairly sure she breaks every rule the others tell her about. It was kind of like telling a three year old. "Now Zoe, don't touch the incubus!" Let me just go ahead and MAKE OUT with the Incubus because that can't POSSIBLY go badly right?
This is her logic.
To be fair while I was reading the book I did find myself interested in the world of the Coterie and how they've managed to live side by side with humans. There's also some interesting creepy-crawlies that pop around that you don't find in most paranormal/supernatural books. And I probably would have been more interested in what makes Zoe so unique if by the time its revealed I wasn't ripping my hair out trying to figure out how she hasn't died twenty times.
And how she got a job in publishing to begin with since every time she's busy doing her editor's job it fades to black, gets interrupted or we see the final product (in between the chapters there are excerpts from the actual "book" she's editing), but we never see her doing any of her job. Brief bit about interviewing, even briefer bit about handing out assignments and...that's all.
In the end I was disappointed by the book. The few moments of honest humor didn't make up for the fact the book was all over the place in terms of what it wanted to be.
On one hand, we have Zoe Norris, a jobless writer looking to turn over a new leaf in the Big Apple after a disastrous love affair. The novel's emotional core is essentially contained within Zoe's journey of renewal as she attempts to start a new life and leave the ashes of the past behind. When the book focuses on this theme, everything is gold. However, the book's lighthearted tone occasionally clashes awkwardly with its content. A short romp into a BDSM club is especially awkward. That said, the first two-thirds of the book are exactly the fun, lighthearted "Buffy" escapades you'd expect from a novel like this.
But it would be a crime to only list the book's shortcomings. In spite of the gripes, there's a lot of fun to be had here. Lafferty's humor can be a bit hit-and-miss, but her world-building skills are sharpened to a fine and deadly point. While we're only given bits and pieces, the various glimpses into the Shambling Universe's inner workings are interesting and inspired. Some of the book's best chunks of mythology come in off-hand references or in excerpts from the Guide itself.
It isn't until midway through the third act that other problems start to rear their ugly heads. These issues aren't in what the novel does but rather in what it doesn't do. The villain has no motivation (or personality, for that matter), and numerous loose ends are left dangling rather unceremoniously. The clever, subdued world-building is abandoned completely in favor of action spectacle, which is a shame considering that Hollywood-style action doesn't translate very well to prose. Lafferty is an excellent writer, and it's disappointing that she abandons her usually wit in the novel's eleventh hour. Dialogue is generally good, though sometimes the characters feel more like Plot Exposition Machines rather than actual characters. However, the various personalities that inhabit the stories are all colorful and - most importantly - memorable.
In most cases, the first book of a series is usually a gimme. Even the hallowed "Harry Potter" series didn't reach its potential until its third installment. While not perfect, Lafferty has a solid foundation for her Shambling Guides series and it'll be interesting to see where this series goes next.