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The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories Paperback – May 8, 2012
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“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
About the Author
ANN VANDERMEER is the Hugo Award–winning former editor of Weird Tales magazine and has worked with her husband, Hugo–nominated and World Fantasy Award–winning writer JEFF VANDERMEER on the genre-defining anthologies The New Weird, Steampunk, and The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, and the World Fantasy Award–winning The Weird. They live in Tallahassee, Florida.
- ASIN : 0765333627
- Publisher : Tor Books; First edition (May 8, 2012)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 1152 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780765333629
- ISBN-13 : 978-0765333629
- Item Weight : 2.9 pounds
- Dimensions : 7.43 x 2.09 x 9.34 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #52,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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I wrote a story-by-story review of this on LibraryThing - but apparently it exceeds Amazon's character limit, so you'll have to go there to read it.
Complaints? The VanderMeers could have trimmed some mediocre authors who reused tropes that better writers had used earlier. On the other hand, by starting in 1908, they left out great writers and great stories. I feel that the weird tradition began in the 1890s, with Vernon Lee, Ambrose Bierce, Robert Chambers, and especially, Arthur Machen. Is their a better weird rite tale than "The White People?"
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.
So, I bought the Kindle version, the most expensive Kindle book I have ever bought. It is well worth the price.
One suggestion, should you purchase the Kindle version...bookmark the "table of contents" and use that to choose the stories you read. I like that much better than the "go to" or whatever it's called. (as a small bonus, I actually learned how to use bookmarks.)
This is a premium collection of the weird and creepy...and worth every penny.
Top reviews from other countries
The organization is chronological, and the book stands a single-volume education on stories with weirdness, bizarreness, or surreality at their heart. I used the term “cross-cutting subgenre” to describe the theme, and, I’m not sure I even understand what I meant, but these stories have a super-genre – e.g. horror or literary – but they necessarily have this element of strangeness. In other words, while some of the stories might be labeled “horror,” that genre classification is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for inclusion. Many of the stories aren’t particularly dark, and just because a story horror doesn’t mean that it’s weird enough to be included. The stories generally take place in a world that is recognizable, but with a hint of the surreal and with some level of strategic ambiguity as to the nature of that surreal element. This allows the collection to include examples as dark and visceral as “The Brotherhood of Mutilation” by Brian Evenson or as quirky and amusing as “The Sea Was Wet as Wet Could Be” by Gahan Wilson.
I couldn’t possibly go through all 110-ish of these stories, but will say that it’s a phenomenal collection. If I had to make my own personal top ten list it would be (in no order but the one in which the stories came in)
1.) “The Spider” by Hanns Heinz Ewers: A man moves into a room under the pretext of investigating a string of suicides only linked by residence within the apartment.
2.) “The Night Wire” by H.F. Arnold: A man in a newspaper office with a gift for simultaneously transcribing from two wires receives incoming reports of an ominous fog.
3.) “The Mainz Psalter” by Jean Ray: A mysterious ship journey ventures into bizarre territory and the crew starts disappearing one-by-one, leaving nothing more than gruesome stains.
4.) “The Crowd” by Ray Bradbury: A man tries to understand how a crowd seem to form almost instantaneously at the site of a car accident that he survived.
5.) “Sand Kings” by George R.R. Martin: A nasty little man buys some otherworldly pets that prove difficult to maintain.
6.) “Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler: In a recurring theme for Butler, she writes about an alien species that appears to be beneficent toward humans, but shows that where a power disparity exists beneficence is an illusion.
7.) “Shades” by Lucius Shepard: A Vietnam vet turned journalist returns to Vietnam on a story about one of the men who died in his unit.
8.) “The Diane Arbus Suicide Portfolio” by Marc Laidlaw: A renown photographer somehow has her own suicide photographed and this leads to questions of the nature of art and the degree of passion it evokes in people.
9.) “The Brotherhood of Mutilation” by Brian Evenson: A man who self-cauterized his own amputation in order to kill the man who cut his hand off is drawn into the shadowy world of a bizarre cult who honor voluntary (and unnecessary) amputations.
10.) “Flat Diane” by Daniel Abraham: A father helps his daughter send out a picture cutout of herself for a school project. His daughter inexplicably starts experiencing PTSD like symptoms around the same time the father starts getting disturbing anonymous photos through the mail.
I don’t know how representative my top ten list is, but hopefully it gives one an idea of the nature of stories included. Though, as I said, it’s hard to give nutshell commentary on such a diverse work. It was even hard to come up with a top thirty, there were so many great inclusions.
I’d highly recommend this book if you at all enjoy weird tales. I got a copy on Amazon at a bargain price, especially considering that this is about four books worth of great stories.