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The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases Paperback – April 26, 2005
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
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From Publishers Weekly
The talented and prolific VanderMeer (Veniss Underground) and co-editor Roberts have here created perhaps the oddest theme anthology in the history of fantasy literature. The heavily illustrated volume does exactly what its title implies, collecting short, fictional medical descriptions of such diseases as Ballistic Organ Syndrome, Delusions of Universal Grandeur and Razornail Bone Rot. Each disease receives a carefully laid out history, list of symptoms and cure (although many seem to be invariably fatal). The Thackery T. Lambshead of the title, a sort of medical Indiana Jones, supposedly published the first edition of the guide more than 80 years ago, and the book also includes a series of short "essays" outlining his many outrageous adventures. The volume's own rather outrageous list of contributors, nearly 70 strong, includes such esteemed physicians as Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, China Mieville, Michael Bishop, Kage Baker, Cory Doctrow and Brian Stableford. Though occasionally uneven, this is on the whole an amazing book. Not for the faint of heart, the easily shocked or those who see fantasy fiction primarily in terms of warring elves and interminable quests, VanderMeer's anthology plays delicious postmodernist games that are sure to delight the discerning (and slightly warped) reader.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
What do a passel of brainy, witty sf and dark fantasy writers do to amuse themselves (and, hopefully, us)? Like any gathering of old friends, they talk about diseases. Fortunately, not their own diseases (although several entries in this dictionary-format guide bear the editorial warning that the authors seem to be suffering the illness at hand) but maladies they have, in their capacities as "doctors," discovered (i.e., made up). So doing, they follow the lead of strange-disease sleuth Thackery Trajan Lambshead (b. 1900), who published his findings annually from 1921 until this year, when, feeling he had only 30 good years left, he turned the work over to editors VanderMeer and Roberts and their "doctor" acquaintances, such as Neil Gaiman, Kage Baker, Michael Moorcock, Gahan Wilson, Alan Moore, Neil Williamson, and other regular denizens of the SF/Fantasy and Graphic Novel sections of this magazine. Perfect recreational reading, at least for hypochondriacs, who will bask in the assurance that they don't have, say, "motile snarcoma," "third-eye infection," or "Inverted Drowning syndrome." Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Anyone who likes a laugh
My Thoughts: If you want to know what sort of lunacy to expect from this book, here is just a tiny taste.
Discussing Ballistic Organ Syndrome: “In rare cases, the Ballistitis virus infects the patient's entire body. Eventually, some event causes one or more cells to rupture, after which the patient's body is disrupted in an explosive ejection of all bodily organs. This manifestation of the syndrome frequently occasions the death of the patient; at best, the loss of all bodily organs will cause considerable inconvenience and distress (as set out in Doctor Buckhead Mudthumper's Encyclopedia of Forgotten Oriental Diseases).” [pg. 4]
Letter to Dr. Wexler, of whom the writers are not fond: “Dear Sir: Kindly send your anthrax-soaked missives elsewhere. And if you want to get serious about contagious letters, then invest in some smallpox like a normal person.” [pg. 286]
There are also a couple cookbooks mentioned that sound interesting: “French Cuisine with Codeine” and “Mousses with Morphine”.
I will point out that I would not say this book is lavishly illustrated. Each entry generally has only a single illustration; sometimes there is a second at the end of the section. Now, The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, which I'll be reading and reviewing next, does have a lot of pictures. But this one, not so much.
Still, if you like a laugh, you'll enjoy the clever way each author creates a “character” for themselves, and the creative uses of real information mixed with their own creations that fill this satirical book. I enjoyed it a lot.
Disclosure: I bought this book for myself. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: “Imagine if Monty Python wrote the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, and you sort of get the idea. Afraid you’re afflicted with an unknown malady? Finally you have a place to turn!” —Book Sense
You hold in your hands the most complete and official guide to imaginary ailments ever assembled—each disease carefully documented by the most stellar collection of speculative fiction writers ever to play doctor. Detailed within for your reading and diagnostic pleasure are the frightening, ridiculous, and downright absurdly hilarious symptoms, histories, and possible cures to all the ills human flesh isn’t heir to, including Ballistic Organ Disease, Delusions of Universal Grandeur, and Reverse Pinocchio Syndrome.
Lavishly illustrated with cunning examples of everything that can’t go wrong with you, the Lambshead Guide provides a healthy dose of good humor and relief for hypochondriacs, pessimists, and lovers of imaginative fiction everywhere. Even if you don’t have Pentzler’s Lubriciousness or Tian Shan-Gobi Assimilation, the cure for whatever seriousness may ail you is in this remarkable collection.
Structured alphabetically, but warranteed to be sought for further random consultation as needed.
The basic premise of the Guide is that it is the long running publication of the eponymous Dr. Lambshead, who specializes in bizarre diseases. Moreover, the esteemed Dr. Lambshead is 102 years old, and his guide focuses on diseases that are, shall we say, beyond the pale of modern medicine. From Bone Leprosy to Wife Blindness there isn't an eccentric or discredited disease uncovered by such medical luminaries as Jeff Vandermeer, Paul Di Fillipo, China Mieville and K. J. Bishop (to name a few).
The book begins with two introductions, one from Lambshead and one from the editors, both of which are hilarious. The book concludes with entries from past guides, as well as remembrances from Lambshead's associates, a history of the guide and biographies of each of the contributors (in doctor manifestation, of course). However, the obvious reason to read the Guide is the meat between these two pieces of bread: the diseases. Each author spends anywhere from two to four pages detailing the history, cause and treatment of their own particular disease.
It would be impossible to consider each contribution here, and would spoil the fun of the book for other readers, but there are a few highlights worth mentioning just to offer the flavor of the Guide. First up is Michael Barry's "Ballistic Organ Syndrome" which should be self-explanatory, and which nicely sets the tone for the rest of the Guide. China Mieville's "Buscard's Murrain" is the first (and best) of several literary, or word based, diseases; it's characterized by his dry wit and excellent use of language and tone. Michael Cisco's "Clear Rice Syndrome" has an almost Lovecraft-ian feel, and is one of several contributions that could easily be fleshed out into something longer. John Coulthart's "Printer's Evil" is cleverly placed within historical context and is superbly printed (more on this later). Finally, there is "Tian Shan-Gobi Assimilation" by Jeff Vandermeer; not only is it another disease that could easily turn into something bigger, but it echoes numerous themes in his Ambergris work (without explicitly tying back to them) and will thus be a particular treat for fans of his work. These are just a few of the many great contributions to the Guide, and my failure to mention others shouldn't be treated as an indictment, but rather as an acknowledgement of the consistently high standard of writing displayed throughout the guide.
As one can discern, the writing more than justifies the purchase price of the Guide, but what clinches it is the superb quality of the presentation. Liberal use is made of different fonts to denote different periods in the Guide's history, and occasionally (as in the case of the aforementioned "Printer's Evil") to lend a period effect to a given disease. However, the superb illustrations are what set the guide apart. First, each disease is provided with an illustration, in the style of an 18th century illustrated book or newspaper (or the Wall Street Journal today). Some are grotesque, some hilariously subtle, but they all nicely capture the disease in one snapshot. Secondly, there are photographs of "old" copies of the guide and various locations and personalities, all of which are beautifully presented such that they actually look like a sixty year old book or a team of doctors working to contain a vicious outbreak of venereal disease or what have you.
Finally, the editors brought a real sense of historical weight to the Guide by creating "characters" and texts that appear repeatedly throughout the Guide. Not only does this link together what would otherwise be largely unrelated vignettes, but it also deepens the satire by creating a comprehensive sense of realism around an entirely absurd creation.
Clever in its conception and execution, contributed to by an astonishingly talented pool of authors, and beautifully produced, "The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases" is an absolute joy to read and a must have for anyone who appreciates books as works of art. Its mind-bending amalgam of genres and influences is all the more intriguing for their smooth integration into one truly original work; the Guide was an enormously ambitious project that the contributors, and especially the editors, pulled off in spades.
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