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The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories Paperback – May 8, 2012
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*Starred Review* In the 1990s, a new kind of genre story seemed to have sprung up. It was frightening but seldom gory; either not quite as realistic as or less fantastic than it initially promised; very short on monsters no matter how monstrous it got; eerie but just about never ghostly (at least, no ghosts horned into the act); creepy even when it decided to be funny; and un-, far more than super-, natural. The VanderMeers, wife and husband editors of this doorstopper, were in the front rank of those fostering what Jeff explains in the introduction was actually a revival of a fictional manner with roots in the early twentieth century and grand masters who spent their lives ignored and unpublished while setting standards for the manner in America and Europe, respectively. Those two were, of course, H. P. Lovecraft and Franz Kafka, a classic by each of whom—“The Dunwich Horror” and “In the Penal Colony”—appears herein alongside other stellar performances by writers who have faded from top best-sellerdom into obscurity (F. Marion Crawford, Hugh Walpole); are literary stars of the highest magnitude (Rabindranath Tagore, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Jorge Luis Borges); live through only one unforgettable story; and who busily augment the worldwide catalog of weird stories as this is written (most of the contributors). No popular-fiction library should not have this treasure trove. --Ray Olson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“What is good about the majority of these stories is precisely that they leave you with many more questions than answers, the mark, in my view, of a superior kind of fiction... It does, in fact, what most of our best fiction does, irrespective of category.” ―Award-winning author Michael Moorcock, from his introduction
“These texts, dead and/or not, burrow, and we cannot predict everything they will infect or eat their path through. But certainly your brain, and they will eat the books you read from today on, too. That is how the Weird recruits.” ―China Miéville, bestselling and award-winning author of Embassytown, from his afterword
“Studded with literary gems, it's a hefty, diligently assembled survey of a genre that manages to be at once unsettling, disorientating and bracing in its variety.” ―James Lovegrove, Financial Times
“It's a tremendous experience to go through its 1,126 pages… there are so many delights in this that any reader will find something truly memorable.” ―Scotland on Sunday
“Readers eager to explore a world beyond the ordinary need look no further.” ―Time Out
“An anthology of writing so powerful it will leave your reality utterly shredded… Give yourself to the weird! Hurl your puny mortal body through the portal the VanderMeers have opened for you, join your lord the Miéville on the other side, give your heart and soul to the saints that stand at his feet, to the mad prophets that have prepared you for his coming. Open the pages of the new gospel of The Weird.” ―Guardian.co.uk
“Unmissable!” ―The Guardian
“The definitive collection of weird fiction… its success lies in its ability to lend coherence to a great number of stories that are so remarkable different and yet share the same theme.” ―TLS
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Top Customer Reviews
Although it is hard, I will try to pause my praises for this book and get to the reason you are reading this: How's the Kindle Version hold up and is it worth the $15? The answer is Great! and Yes! I'll elaborate. To give a little background, I have a Kindle Fire but from what I understand the book will look the same on a regular Kindle or IPad or whatever format you tend to read your e-books on.
First, the Amazon "Click to Look Inside" function does NOT do the Kindle version justice. It makes it seem like the text kind of runs together (e.g., the intro's by the VanderMeers and the first paragraph of the story). This is NOT true. The Kindle version mirrors what you would find in the book. To back up a little, I own the original Corvis version of The Weird (I was REALLY eager to get this), the hardback Tor version, and now the Kindle Version. I really don't want to bend my Corvis version and the Tor version is obviously bulky to carry around with you in a diner. The Kindle version holds up VERY well and has the same formatting as the Corvis and Tor versions. There is NO running together of text. What you see in your paper copy is pretty much the same as in the Kindle copy (of course taking into account whatever font size, etc. you tend to use). The reason I am spending so much time on this aspect is because for me this was a BIG reason I hesitated so long in buying the Kindle version. I'm one of those people who tend to prefer print over e-copy in general, so that didn't help matters, but this Kindle version is truly outstanding; I cannot give it a high enough recommendation in terms of formatting and readability. It really does look identical to what you would find in the print version.
Second, the Table of Contents is very easy to navigate. Some of my Kindle books are a pain to navigate with the TOC but this one is perhaps the easiest, most user friendly one I have on my Kindle bookshelf. Third, there is a "missing" story and an "extra" story in the Kindle version. The missing story in the Kindle version is "The Colomber" by Dino Buzzati (you can find it in the print version). The extra story is "The Portal" by J. Robert Lennon (you CANNOT find it in the print version). If you are a die-hard completist (I am, so it's not a knock) go ahead and buy both (I did and have no regrets). However, if you want only one version, I'd recommend the Kindle version. The print version really is a brick and can be bulky to carry around. The loss or addition of these stories does not in any way affect the overall ambience or structure of what the VanderMeer's have accomplished.
A fourth feature is that the VanderMeer's have specifically requested that there is NO DRM software. This is a bit of a technical issue and I had to look up what that actually means (not the most computer savvy person in the world). From what I understand (others feel free to comment or correct any errors I make here) having no DRM software means you can view this book on your other devices without getting an error message or something weird happening (e.g., you can go from Kindle to IPad without huge tech issues). Nice feature. They are very clear in their caveat that this does NOT mean you can start mass producing the e-copy of The Weird. First, it's illegal. Second, it's totally uncool. The VanderMeer's are hella cool, so be cool in return and don't take advantage of their coolness.
In summary, for the Kindle version:
1) The Kindle formatting is outstanding (NO text running together or anything weird like that; only your fiction is weird, not your formatting)
2) It has a "missing" story "The Colomber" by Dino Buzzati and an "extra" story "The Portal" by J. Robert Lennon
3) Great Table of Contents; easily navigated
4) No DRM, so you can use it on any other device you want
5) HIGHLY recommend you buy this
Once again, I cannot say enough good things about this book as a whole but as many other reviewers have already said those things (far more eloquently than I can), I won't recreate the wheel. Happy reading and thank you Ann and Jeff VanderMeer for your truly outstanding contribution to the field. Good luck at the World Fantasy Awards; I already have $50 on you to win.
This is a collection of stories of varying length, rather than a single ongoing narrative. The common thread tying all these stories together could be defined as ‘weird fiction across borders and through the ages’. The stories are arranged in chronological order, by and large. Stories from different writers in the same time period are then organized geographically. This allows us to not only get exposed to some of the big name authors you’d expect—HP Lovecraft, August Derleth, Clive Barker, Steven King, George RR Martin, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell—but also the writers that inspired them, the writers they inspired, and even others who’re obscure but definitely contributors to the field as a whole.
What was most interesting was to see how geography and time period affect one’s writing. There are marked differences in the story-telling tropes and styles from the Far East, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa, when compared to the stories from North America and England that I’m used to. In addition, punctuation and storytelling conventions from the 1920s onwards made those stories more accessible to read, at least for me.
The variety of different stories on hand means that there will be some hit and miss depending on readers. The sheer variety of stories on hand means I can’t review all of them. Suffice to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection, and have chosen a few stories to focus on. These are the ones that stood out as being good, good in some respects, or ones I didn’t enjoy.
Bloodchild – Octavia E. Butler
My favourite story of the lot. Human beings are livestock for a parasitic species, but a bizarre symbiosis fueled by emotional bonding raises questions of complicity. Gripping, well-paced, reveals subtly timed.
The Belonging Kind – William Gibson and John Shirley
Ever wonder about those people who seem to fit in effortlessly wherever they go, or the crowd that seems to frequent your favourite haunts? What if they weren’t people? Another firm favourite of mine, probably number 2 on the list.
The Function of Dream Sleep – Harlan Ellison
McGrath awakes to see a small mouth closing in his side. Thus begins a journey into all manner of strange and chilling things. Perhaps over the top for some but I really liked this one.
The Boy in the Tree – Elizabeth Hand
Doctors develop a new treatment where emotionally dead empaths can take the emotions and trauma out of memories and dreams. This concept and setting was engrossing on its own, making this story one of my top 5 easily, but the addition of supernatural elements threw me off a little.
Shades – Lucius Shepard
A Vietnam War veteran returns to the former war zone to confront scientific experiments with the ghosts of fallen soldiers, the most recent of whom was his comrade. Fantastic stuff.
Window – Bob Leman
Scientists create a window into another time—or, possibly, some place stranger. Enjoyed the punch, when it came.
The Psychologist who Wouldn’t Do Awful Things to Rats – James Tiptree, Jr.
A psychologist who faces the collapse of his post-graduate project because he’s not prepared to include cruelty in his experiments has a spiritual awakening. Also one of my favourites because of how visceral it is.
The Cage – Jeff Van Der Meer
One of the compilers of the anthology has his own story in here. Seems a little cheeky. The story is well worth it, very atmospheric. The prose is very descriptive, making your senses come alive, and the story is haunting. Set in a fantasy city, following a dealer in antiquities who acquires a cage that mystifies and terrifies in equal measure.
The Dunwich Horror – HP Lovecraft
A good choice of story, as Lovecraft can be hit and miss. The best story in the anthology for dark dealings with the great beyond, eldritch ritual and familial secrets from the backwater. Though these may be Lovecraftian tropes, they’re still elements I enjoy in a tale, and this story of his delivers.
The Town Manager – Thomas Ligotti
Weird in the bizarre, surrealist sense. Like a more contemporary Kafka, but I found the pay-off here much more rewarding. Set in a world in which town managers wield power and influence, yet remain shrouded in mystery.
The Penal Colony – Franz Kafka
Kafka is very hit and miss for me. I was very ambivalent about this story, in which a visitor to a penal colony observes its general corruption and degradation.
The Beak Doctor – Eric Basso
The only story I couldn’t finish. Prose is beautifully hypnotic and descriptions rich. The punctuation conventions, dream-like narrative and shifting viewpoints made me lose cohesion, and I admit I didn’t quite follow what was going on. Well written, but I gave up after trying to get through it twice.
The Hospice – Robert Aickman
A man’s car breaks down and he seeks shelter in a strange hospice. Interestingly strange, but didn’t feel like it had much point and thus lacked a satisfying conclusion.
Tainaron: Mail From Another City – Leena Krohn
A story written in letters from a city of insects on an alien world. It goes on for rather too long, and the letters don’t seem to build to a cohesive whole.
Finally, for the collection as a whole…
Is It Well Written: Yes
Did I Enjoy It: Yes
Minor Niggles: A variety of stories so not all are guaranteed to please. About 3-7 out of 110 that I wasn’t too fond of.