If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
Just who was Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead? If editors Ann and Jeff Vandermeer are to be believed, you should already know. As a practitioner of arts both medical and supernatural, Lambshead has gained a relatively substantial cult following amongst sci-fi/fantasy readers ever since his untimely death in 2003—which just-so-happened to coincide with the release of THE THACKERY T. LAMBSHEAD POCKET GUIDE TO ECCENTRIC & DISCREDITED DISEASES.
For those of you unfamiliar with such maladies as “third-eye infection” or “ballistic organ syndrome,” have no fear. Luckily for the uninitiated, our editors Vandermeer have compiled an oddly fascinating follow-up collection—THE THACKERY T. LAMBSHEAD CABINET OF CURIOSITIES: EXHIBITS, ODDITIES, IMAGES AND STORIES FROM TOP AUTHORS AND ARTISTS (Harper Voyager).
Less anthology than mythology, the good doc has been granted another compendium to further entrench himself within the annals of illusory history. Our editors charge their authors with the off-kilter task of contributing to the mystique of Lambshead himself once more, enlisting the services of HELLBOY’s own Mike Mignola and comic-demigod Alan Moore, among other experts of speculative fiction. Mixed results are inevitable within any anthology, but genre-enthusiasts will have fun frittering around the margins of this book for every last morsel of esoteric minutiae it has to offer—of which there is plenty.
After passing away of “banal pulmonary failure,” Lambshead’s final contribution to Goths everywhere would be the discovery of a “remarkable and extensive cabinet of curiosities” hidden under a collapsed floor within his gloomy estate in Wimpering-on-the-Brook, England. This simple setup provides our 67 authors and 19 artists ample opportunity to let their ghastlycrumb-imaginations run amok.
And do they ever. Spins on the Monkey’s Paw. Armored locusts. Animatronic “Automatic Nannies.” Death rays. Any attempts at listing off particular curios from Lambshead’s cabinet does the doc—and the book itself—a great disservice, so best for the reader to dive in and navigate their way through a morass of bizarre artifacts alone.
Part Bernard Quartermass, part Andy Warhol, Lambshead ultimately strikes this reviewer as something of a steampunk Forest Gump. Not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily. These contributors have taken great care to meticulously interweave their fictitious protagonist within particular historical accounts—ranging from Nikola Tesla to Keith Richards—for that much-desired “Where’s Waldo?”-effect amongst spec-fic fans everywhere.
Achieving a particularly high level of faux-authenticity seems to be the name of the game here, where the line between fantasy and reality gets a whimsical blurring—each segment entrenching a narrative around these wretched relics and how they come into Lambshead’s possession. That it is done with a readily apparent sense of glee is a feather in the Vandermeer’s cap, with nary a wink-wink to release the reader from that nagging question of: Is this for real—or is it all a sham? None seem to be having more fun keeping this ruse up than the very Vandermeers themselves, writing within their introduction—“That reviewers and readers were often confused as to whether the book constituted fact or fiction was the result of a colossal blunder by Bantam’s marketing PR departments, which were, as would be well documented later, largely dominated by pot-smokers.”
At its least engaging, CABINET OF CURIOSITIES might remind those few familiar with the short-lived television anthology FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES, where a pair of antique store owners must recover cursed artifacts from their own shop. The meticulous cataloguing of curios far outweighs the narrative-thrust of several of the stories found within, tipping the balance of this tome a tad more toward coffee table book than an actual collection of satisfying short stories. But as we all know, the devil is in the details—and CABINET is nothing if not a damnation of details. Fans of Mark Z. Danielewski’s HOUSE OF LEAVES will find a particular kinship with CABINET, which seems to take a page from the novel’s satiric slant on academic criticism. Any book that challenges the reader to look beyond the borders of the text itself and to ask themselves what’s-real and what-isn’t can’t be but so bad, can it?
Particular favorite passages include “St. Brendan’s Shank,” as “documented” by Kelly Barnhill, which strikes a successful symbiosis between its given artifact, storytelling and character. Here’s hoping that death itself does not keep Lambshead from becoming fodder for yet another anthology in the near future.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment