Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

All reviews copyright 1984-2016 Evelyn C. Leeper.


THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE: AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE WORLD OF IMAGINARY AIRSHIPS, CORSETS AND GOGGLES, MAD SCIENTISTS, AND STRANGE LITERATURE by Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/22/2012]

However, THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE: AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE WORLD OF IMAGINARY AIRSHIPS, CORSETS AND GOGGLES, MAD SCIENTISTS, AND STRANGE LITERATURE by Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers (ISBN 978-0-810-98958-0) blows all the other nominees away. It is dense with information and beautiful artwork, and an aesthetically pleasing object as well. (I refer here to the hard-copy version; no one could call the PDF sent to Hugo votes "an aesthetically pleasing object" even though it does manage to convey the images within the book fairly well.)

To order The Steampunk Bible from amazon.com, click here.


THE BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION by edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 10/07/2016]

THE BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer (ISBN 978-1-101-91009-2) is another one of the big "floppy books" that are impossible to read holding in your lap. Unlike THE WEIRD (edited by the same editors), most of the stories in this volume--at least in the center, from 1940 to 1990 or so--were familiar to me, and indeed could be found in various anthologies and collections we already have. I suspect this would be true for most "serious" science fiction fans. On the other hand, the first section (pre-John-W-Campbell period), the last section (most recent), and the various works in the middle that have just been translated into English, would make a fairly respectable-sized volume on their own. (I speak of "sections", but these are not delineated in the book itself; they are merely "virtual sections" whose boundaries may vary from reader to reader.)

This book would be good for the younger science fiction fan--someone in their twenties or so who likes the current science fiction and is curious to see more of the history of the field. We old fogeys got it by reading science fiction for decades and consuming short fiction in the hundreds of anthologies available to us over that time, but such an extensive reading program is not viable except over a lifetime. (And to be honest, we also got a condensed selection, particularly of that pre-Campbell stuff I mentioned.) So with the holiday season coming up, keep this volume in mind.

To order The Big Book of Science Fiction from amazon.com, click here.


THE TIME TRAVELER'S ALMANAC edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/17/2016]

THE TIME TRAVELER'S ALMANAC edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (ISBN 978-0-7653-7424-0), is yet another thousand-page (well, 948-page) anthology from the VanderMeers, I did not enjoy this as much as THE WEIRD: A COMPENDIUM OF STRANGE AND DARK STORIES, however. One reason may have to do with an external constraint. I bought THE WEIRD, so I could take my time on it--read a story one day, another the next, another a few days later... This volume I had checked out of the library, so I had to read the six dozen or so stories and articles in three weeks (six, with renewal). Another (minor) complaint is that this contained at least one excerpt of a longer work, while THE WEIRD were all full pieces.

A bigger problem is that THE WEIRD covered a vast range of plots, themes, and styles. THE TIME TRAVELER'S ALMANAC is restricted to one topic, and even with many variations on the topic, after a while there is a certain sameness to the concepts. THE NEW WEIRD covered a wide geographic/cultural range as well, with several stories in translation. THE TIME TRAVELER'S ALMANAC has (so far as my quick scan of the copyright notices could find) only one story in translation.

That said, there were a few stand-outs (for me): Pamela Sargent's "If Ever I Should Leave You", Ellen Klages's "Time Gypsy", Tony Pi's "Come-From-Away".

There are some classics, of course: Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder", Connie Willis's "Fire Watch", Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore's "Vintage Season", an excerpt from H. G. Wells, "The Time Machine". In one sense they are obligatory in a time travel anthology. In another they are redundant, because most people buying this will not only be familiar with them, but will also already have them (possibly multiple times over).

So I guess it's a qualified recommendation for THE TIME TRAVELER'S ALMANAC. While reading it from the library is (as I noted) less than ideal, I cannot recommend spending $26 for a new paperback copy either. Used, or in an e-book version for half that, perhaps.

To order The Time Traveler's Almanac from amazon.com, click here.


THE WEIRD: A COMPENDIUM OF STRANGE AND DARK STORIES edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 10/03/2014]

THE WEIRD: A COMPENDIUM OF STRANGE AND DARK STORIES edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (ISBN 978-0-765-33362-9) has 110 pieces of fiction, is 1,152 pages long, and is probably "the largest single volume of fantastic fiction ever assembled" (according to Stefan Dziemianowicz in LOCUS). Even limiting the contents to the 20th and 21st centuries, the VanderMeers have an enormous range, covering all the continents (except, as always, Antarctica), and many different styles and sub-genres. This reminds me of the wonderful range that Terri Windling used to achieve in the "Year's Best Fantasy & Horror" series that she co-edited with Ellen Datlow (she did the fantasy, Datlow did the horror). This is an essential anthology for fans of "the weird", and a real bargain at the price.

(Dziemianowicz says there hasn't been as diverse an anthology of the fantastic since Alberto Manguel's BLACK WATER and BLACK WATER 2, so I'll give those a plug here as well.)

To order The Weird from amazon.com, click here.


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