Saturday, May 17, 2014

Book Review: The Shambling Guide to New York City

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty


After moving to new York City from Raleigh, out-of-work publishing editor Zoe stumbles upon a job offering that's right in her field. Despite being repeatedly warned by the employees of the company that she won't fit in with them, she takes on the job, only to find out that her new coworkers are members of the Coterie. The books they're wanting to put out are geared towards others like themselves. Travel books, which are right up Zoe's alley.

The problem? Her new coworkers and the Coterie in general are anything but human. She's suddenly working with vampires, sprites, zombies, and an incubus who seems to take a particular interest in her. Can Zoe keep her job and still survive among these people who seem to prefer feeding on humans like her? Or will the job consume her and the city itself?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Zoe Norris is a human returning to her hometown in disgrace, wishing to get a new job in publishing. After many strikeouts, she finds the perfect-sounding job, only it happens to be at a publishing company that writes travel books for monsters.
Oh yeah, and monsters are real, too.


Well, other than the fact that TSGTNYC (because screw you, writing out that long title) is set in the modern day (it's in 2015, actually, but close enough) this book is perfectly set in the now. If you've read and enjoyed Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, and you like other urban fantasies along that vein, Shambling Guide (okay, that abbreviation is better) is a good one to add to your reading list. In a now where vampires, zombies, and fairies and all that crap are as popular as pink sprinkles at an 8-year-old's princess-themed birthday party, Lafferty does a great job setting herself apart. She follows the "rules" of traditional monster lore but adds her own twist to them that makes them stand apart. Just for example, formaldehyde makes zombies revert to the standard apocalypse-causing zombie mentality. Otherwise, many of them tend to control themselves well and can interact with others perfectly. This was all just very well done.


I've listened to some of Lafferty's other work (reviews of other works to come later) and I can say one thing for her: she's very easy to read. Although... I didn't actually read Shambling Guide. I picked up the podcast, which is no longer available- sorry! It was read by Lafferty herself in a very straighforward way. Just a read of the book, without the voices and sound effects some others do. It served the book well. But as one who has both read and listened to multiple works of Lafferty's, I have to say this one is the winner. She's been growing to this, and what a blossom! her writing is clear, and she is very good at creating real dialogue that doesn't sound overly formalized like some writers (myself included) do. So bravo on this one, Mur!

My Thoughts

I will be honest, I hated waiting for the podcast to finish. I'm the type that prefers to listen to an audiobook in its entirity as quickly as possible, so I wait for them to actually be finished, with all episodes posted, before I listen to the first words. The last episode of Shambling Guide posted on November 16. I started listening November 18, when I had a chance to do some long-term listening. It was worth the wait. Yeah, I know I could have bought the book, but right now, I'm in the middle of a few others I'm physically reading, and I had no other audio books I was listening to at the time. Eventually, I'm sure I will buy a copy of it. For now, though, it was all podcast version.

As far as the book itself is concerned, this is a good read or listen or whatever method you use to get it into your brain. Zoe is a strong heroine who is extremely realistic. She's a person in odd circumstances who fails, succeeds, fails, and fails more. She's not some superpowered person who knows exactly what to do in every situation and never falters or gets hurt. She suffers. But she's never alone in all this. She may not have all the answers, but she definitely uses the resources at her disposal. The world works perfectly within the confines of the real and the secret twists of the Coterie that Lafferty has built for it.

And I've got to say, the end-of-chapter excerpts from the travel book itself are a great little cherry on top. It's not often that an audiobook can make me react aloud (since I listen to these at work and don't want to disturb coworkers) but there were several times I couldn't help but burst out with a laugh before I got that crap under control. Very well done.

Would I Recommend This Book? Yeah, I would. Definitely. TSGTNYC puts a whole new spin on the whole supernatural monsters trope, and it was a very fun ride. Lafferty definitely deserved the Campbell for this one. 4.5 shambling stars out of 5.

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