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The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases Paperback – April 26, 2005
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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.
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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.
The afflictions discussed are sometimes comical, sometimes ghastly. Some of the more notable ones include buboparazygosia (where the victim is covered by plague-like buboes that swell up to grotesque proportions, eating away the body and then bursting to reveal miniature human fetuses), Buscard's murrain (in which a certain "wormword", when pronounced in just such a way, causes chemical reactions in listeners such that nerve fibers in their brains are converted to self-reproducing parasites), Emordny's Syndrome (which causes those affected to basically chameleonically mimic their surroundings), internalized tattooing disease (where autopsies reveal that certain people have somehow unconsciously created artwork on their spleens and livers), and the unearthly Tian Shan-Gobi assimilation (a "The Thing"-like consumption of the host by fungal colonies).
About two-thirds of the book is taken up by these case studies, and the remainder by short accounts by the contributors of their encounters with the titular doctor and of "reprints" of lengthier studies from previous editions. In some ways, this last section is stronger than the preceding pages. A lot of the material in the first part is repetitious (the collected authors sometimes seemed to all come up with the same idea) or just not that great. Also, many of these folk appear to be English in nature. Americans these days can't seem to stir themselves to dash off a few pages for genre anthologies. But it did introduce me to the work of Kage Baker, whose "Anvil of the World" I recommend.
If you can find this at a library (good luck), it's worth perusing, but I wouldn't commit your monthly book-buying budget to it, unless you've sworn a solemn vow to collect all things Gaiman. But I guess there are worse manias to have.
Structured alphabetically, but warranteed to be sought for further random consultation as needed.
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