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Leviathan 4: Reviews

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Forrest
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 06:50 pm:   

Let the reviews begin!

http://trashotron.com/agony/news/2004/08-23-04.htm#082304

Seems the starting gun has been fired.
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Forrest
Posted on Friday, October 22, 2004 - 11:40 am:   

From Publisher's Weekly:

"Aguirre's relatively restrained fourth volume in his World Fantasy Award–winning series showcases 10 literate dark fantasy stories, which may be variously described as surreal, decadent, absurd or horrific. In perhaps the finest tale, Jay Lake's "The Soul Bottles," a wealthy man is ruined after his trade in soul bottles, which literally hold the souls of the dead, is proclaimed heretical. His son then goes through a Dickens-like fall into working-class obscurity before achieving financial success, albeit sacrificing much of his humanity along the way. Also memorable are Stepan Chapman's surreal "The Revenge of the Calico Cat," a wonderfully detailed piece set in the city where toys go after they die, and Ben Peek's "The Dreaming City," in which Mark Twain dreams of an encounter with Cadi, the aboriginal spirit of Australia's Sydney Harbour, and is moved to write a book in defense of that continent's native population. Other notable contributors include Michael Cisco, K.J. Bishop and Ursula Pflug. Although not up to the level of Leviathan 3 (2002), this solid anthology should appeal to readers of Jeff VanderMeer, China Miéville and other modern masters of the fantastic."

nb: The series is NOT mine, it is Jeff VanderMeer's. I just co-edited one volume and edited another.
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rwexler
Posted on Friday, October 22, 2004 - 01:15 pm:   

Great review! I'm looking forward to reading it.

Robert
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Friday, October 22, 2004 - 05:08 pm:   

When does it come out Forrest?
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Mastadge
Posted on Saturday, October 23, 2004 - 04:27 am:   

I'll be reviewing it sometime next week. Probably Tuesday or Wednesday. Though my reviews aren't very good, they're at least usually pretty enthusiastic!
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Forrest
Posted on Saturday, October 23, 2004 - 07:33 am:   

Thanks, Robert.

Ellen, anticipated publication is "October". So we've still got a little while to get it out and about.

Looking forward to the review, Mastadge. Whether you love the book or hate it, enthusiasm is much appreciated!
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Forrest
Posted on Monday, November 15, 2004 - 03:05 pm:   

From Booklist:

"Dana Gioia notes in an essay in Disappearing Ink (reviewed on p.377) that literary surrealism has been a slow sell in a country that has imbibed Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, and their descendants longer than Europe has read Kafka. But here, America, is literary surrealism at its most thoroughgoing, though with a populist tinge that makes it very likable. These are elaborately, illogically, episodically, achronologically dreamlike stories. They don't end tidily or even definitely. The characters don't necessarily know the settings better than readers might. The "stuffies" (stuffed toys) in Stepan Chapman's "The Revenge of the Calico Cat" haven't a clue that they live in Raggedy Ann and Andy land. In Ben Peek's "The Dreaming City," Mark Twain and Pemulwy know they're in Sydney, Australia, but their realities overlap from opposite ends of the nineteenth century; moreover, Twain is dreaming, whereas Pemulwy dreams of freedom from the English. K. J. Bishop's, Ursula Pflug's, and Alan Kausch's contributions arguably dazzle even more than Chapman's and Peek's, and there are five more stories here."
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - 07:07 am:   

Cool! Congrats, Forrest.

JeffV
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Allan Kausch
Posted on Thursday, December 02, 2004 - 02:45 pm:   

If you haven't already noticed, Mastadge's (very nice) review is on Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1892389827/qid=1102027171/sr=1-1/r ef=sr_1_1/002-4923216-3377628?v=glance&s=books

One correcting note:

"Alan Kausch" [sic]
and "Mimosa in Heligoland" [sic]

should be:Allan Kausch and Mimosa in Heligola
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Mastadge
Posted on Friday, December 03, 2004 - 05:01 am:   

Fixed! I was working from the ARC; they were honest errors not born of laziness.
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Allan Kausch
Posted on Friday, December 03, 2004 - 10:01 am:   

Thanks, Mastadge! I hope the final book is correct. Like poor Edgar (Allan) Poe, my first name (and usually my last name too) is always misspelled. For some reason the Scottish spelling of Allan is difficult to get right...
There are even biographies of Poe that spell it "Allen". Thanks for a good review!
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Jeremy lassen
Posted on Sunday, December 05, 2004 - 02:25 pm:   

Hey everyone. Faren Miller has a pretty postivive review of Leviathan 4 in the December Issue of Locus. Here's an excerpt

"some of its flat-out brilliant."

Its not online, so I have transcribed it here. Typos are mine:

Locus, December 2004
Reviewed by Faren Miller

Almost two years ago I defended anthology CONJUNCTIONS 39: The New Wave Fabulists, edited by Straub and including one of his stories, in response to a reviewer who dismissed it as a concession to mainstream literati. My task didn't seem too difficult, since the contributors included other familiar names in the field like Kelly Link, M. John Harrison and Neil Gaiman. Obscure avant-gardists? Not exactly. It may be a more of an uphill battle to convince the unconverted to read LEVIATHAN 4: CITIES, edited by Forrest Aguirre, since many of the writers here are little-known or just beginning to make a name for themselves, and the prevailing air of surrealism/magic realism in their often decadent cities DOES resemble what people have been dubbing the avant-garde for more than a century. But like it or not, various kinds of New Weirdness, Fabulism, or whatever you want to call it are becoming prominent again -- an at its best, LEVIATHAN FOUR shows why that can be a very good thing.

At first I wasn't so sure. Though the wring is elegant in the opener Michael Cisco's "The City of God", the apprentice "death priest" who serves as a viewpoint character -- in a culture with a sharp divide between followers of life and death -- describes such gruesome doings, only a true horror maven (or a fan of SIX FEET UNDER) won't get queasy at times. Ben Peek's "The Dreaming City" reveals much I had only been vaguely aware of about the early history of Australia after the Brits arrived, but having our own Mark Twain encounter this in a bizarre dream landscape seemed less persuasive. The delirium-inducing power of words, scarcely attached to concepts let alone narratives, drives Catherine Kasper's "Encyclopedia of the Ubar" (and later on, the even more intense "The City of Lost languages" by Darla Beasley), with an effect closer to poetry than to prose.

A degree of narrative force and effective concept return in Jay Lake's "The Soul Bottles", amid much baroque decadence. Nearing the book's midpoint, the odd, almost unpunctuated paragraphs of "Mimosa in Heligoland" by Alan kausch worked better than I would have expected, until he veered too close to territory already stake doubt by Jeff VanderMeer (who doesn't appear directly, though the spirit of his city ambergris sometimes seems close at hand). My interest jumped substantially with K. J. Bishop's contribution -- while Bishop put her own imprint on dark urban fantasy in a fine first novel, THE ETCHED CITY, "We the Enclosed" is MUCH stranger as it moves from the constraints of a red room to a building, a city, a landscape, a red book, all interconnected subjective realms where the narrator searches for a man she scarcely seems to know but is sure she loves. And the next story, Stepan Chapman's "the Revenge of the Calico Cat", REALLY blew me away. Though it takes place in a city of children's toys with cardboard buildings and model train sets, cutesy street names, and a populace of stuffed plush animals and button-eyed dolls, any sense of G-rated Saturday-morning TV cartoonishness swiftly evaporates with lines like these: "The sun sequin was still riding high in a cloudless sky. What a great place! Snake was so fucking glad she'd come here when she died." Forget the Land of Lost Toys: Chapman's metropolis has the raw, ruthless vigor of New York or Chicago in a '30s pulp detective novel. It's inhabitants can't exactly be rubbed out, but they can suffer inventive damage -- most of all when the gingham dog and the calico cat, now godzilla-sized monsters, go on their nightly rampage. Like most of this anthology it's original, not a reprint.

The last two stories bring the book to a strong conclusion. Despite what looks like a standard-fantasy title, "The Wizard of Wardencliffe" by Ursula Pflug deals with a city that combines the grim sprit of Pre-perestroika USSR/Eastern Europe, with the works of scientist Nikola Tesla, and a curios kind of artistic freedom that celebrates the Slavic SF and surrealism of Capk, Kafka et al. (to the dismay of the heroine, who pines for her old home in 20th century Earth). The main settings of Tim Jarvis's "the Imaginary Anatomy of a Horse" is a bit more conventionally corrupt, but this work exhibits a stylistic daring that recalls CLOUD ATLAS with its nested subtly interconnected tales in several modes, strong characters (most notably a mismatch pair of lovers), and a degree of narrative drive some skeptics thin "weird"{ fiction can't attain.

However you label it, this form needn't follow stereotypes any more than those broad categories science fiction or fantasy. Leviathan 4 may register pretty high on most reader' strangeness meters, but it should still appeal to a variety of tastes. And some of its flat-out brilliant.
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ben peek
Posted on Monday, December 06, 2004 - 02:49 pm:   

i'm not quite convinced learning something about australian history is a particularly good thing in regards to my story...

ah well.

cool for everyone involved, though.

anyhow, here's some more reviews from within the livejournal community for those curious:

www.livejournal.com/users/affinity8/42195.html?view=111827#t111827

www.livejournal.com/users/kldwriter/24808.html

and there's one on the sfsite, by matt cheney:

www.sfsite.com/12a/le189.htm
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, December 07, 2004 - 06:17 am:   

You know, these are pretty typical reviews for a Leviathan. Leviathan 1 and 2 got their share of good reviews, but also mixed reviews. And now, years later, are considered ground-breaking. Leviathan 3 was somewhat unusual, I think, in that it was the aberation that proves the rule--it got almost universally great reviews, but it was also a real monster, huge in terms of word count, and there was a little something for everyone in it.

Leviathan 4 is actually much more focused and returns to the mold of 1 and 2.

In fact, I don't think it's a good thing for an anthology that's trying to be on the edge to get uniformly good reviews. I think that would be a sign of failure. I'm not saying that applies to all anthos, just ones trying to break the mold.

JeffV
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Forrest
Posted on Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - 11:16 am:   

A couple of interviews relevant to Leviathan 4:

http://www.vanderworld.blogspot.com/

http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/intkjb.htm

Enjoy!
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Stepan Chapman
Posted on Friday, December 10, 2004 - 09:34 pm:   

Just a word on the recent Locus review:

Any day I get quoted in Locus, and they print the word "fucking", is a happy day for me.

Locus would be improved by more use of curse words.
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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Sunday, January 16, 2005 - 06:48 pm:   

"Forrest Aguirre, the editor of this anthology, may be the only person on Earth who thinks every story here deserves publication."

Despite this opening quote, its a relativly positive review...
http://www.sfsite.com/01b/le192.htm
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Forrest
Posted on Monday, January 17, 2005 - 07:44 am:   

It's another mixed review, which one must expect for a Leviathan - historically, every reviewer has wildly different views of the stories contained in Leviathan. This volume is no exception. In Cheney's own words:

"[Leviathan 4] is a sampler of imaginative literature's variety, and I am sure at least a few readers will have exactly the opposite opinion of each story as I have had. The territory of imagination is boundless both for writers and for readers -- a truth for which we can all be grateful."

And this has proven true over and over again. Just take a spin through the reviews above and keep a tally of which stories the reviewers love and which ones the reviewers hate. I'm guessing it comes out more or less even for every story.

And that, my friends, is part of the point of Leviathan 4: Capturing the length and breadth of contemporary literature that crosses genre/non-genre boundaries, each story in its own, unique way. All this while maintaining a thematic whole. It was *never* my intent to make Leviathan 4 easy to review. That would have made for an extremely weak anthology. Leviathan is stronger than that.
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Forrest
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 06:52 am:   

Emerald City's Cheryl Morgan had these kind words to say about Leviathan 4:

http://www.emcit.com/emcit114.shtml#Cities
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ben peek
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 07:04 pm:   

hmm. i thought all the leviathan anthologies were themed?
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 08:02 pm:   

Vaguely themed. But still themed.

jeff

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