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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: The Shambling Guide to New York City


A travel writer takes a job with a shady publishing company in New York, only to find that she must write a guide to the city - for the undead!

Because of the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel book editor in the tourist-centric New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can't take off her resume --- human.

Not to be put off by anything -- especially not her blood drinking boss or death goddess coworker -- Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her job turns deadly when the careful balance between human and monsters starts to crumble -- with Zoe right in the middle


On the one hand I'm not sure how to review this book. I expected something along the lines of tongue-in-cheek humor and writing (kind of like The Princess Bride) in which Lafferty subverts the supernatural genre while still somehow adhering to it.

We have Zoe, who made some really bad decisions as part of her last job in publishing and is now desperate to put it all behind her. So desperate that she ignores the iota of self-preservation she seems to have, follows a shady, kind of flirty man into a condemned looking building on the off chance he may actually work with the OTHER shady guy she had met earlier at an even SHADIER bookstore who was posting up a job notice. Both of whom told her to run away, several times, because she wasn't suited for the job.

But Zoe prides herself on fitting in! She's a little shaky on if they turn out to be skinheads or a cult, but any other type of people she can totally fit right into and she is OUTRAGED that these people are telling her otherwise. Who are they to know if she's able to fit in? She's adaptable! She's qualified! Affirmative Action!

And so begins her adventures in the Coterie (read: MONSTER, Boogedy-Boogedys, Supernatural, Paranormal, Freaky) World.

Here's the thing, the book goes on at length to explain that Zoe is very qualified (from a publishing perspective) for the job of Managing Editor, but how is that exactly? She's literally learning from a point of no knowledge about the Coterie World at all. Call me odd, but wouldn't it make more sense to have someone supervising (and writing! She was writing part of the books!) who understood that you shouldn't look this type of Coterie in the eye and you shouldn't allow this type to touch you?

In the span of the book I'm fairly sure she breaks every rule the others tell her about. It was kind of like telling a three year old. "Now Zoe, don't touch the incubus!" Let me just go ahead and MAKE OUT with the Incubus because that can't POSSIBLY go badly right?

This is her logic.

To be fair while I was reading the book I did find myself interested in the world of the Coterie and how they've managed to live side by side with humans. There's also some interesting creepy-crawlies that pop around that you don't find in most paranormal/supernatural books. And I probably would have been more interested in what makes Zoe so unique if by the time its revealed I wasn't ripping my hair out trying to figure out how she hasn't died twenty times.

And how she got a job in publishing to begin with since every time she's busy doing her editor's job it fades to black, gets interrupted or we see the final product (in between the chapters there are excerpts from the actual "book" she's editing), but we never see her doing any of her job. Brief bit about interviewing, even briefer bit about handing out assignments and...that's all.

In the end I was disappointed by the book. The few moments of honest humor didn't make up for the fact the book was all over the place in terms of what it wanted to be.