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The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

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From the fairy tales we first heard as children, fantasy stories have always been with us. They illuminate the odd and the uncanny, the wondrous and the fantastic: all the things we know are lurking just out of sight--on the other side of the looking-glass, beyond the music of the impossibly haunting violin, through the dark trees of the forest. Other worlds, talking anima From the fairy tales we first heard as children, fantasy stories have always been with us. They illuminate the odd and the uncanny, the wondrous and the fantastic: all the things we know are lurking just out of sight--on the other side of the looking-glass, beyond the music of the impossibly haunting violin, through the dark trees of the forest. Other worlds, talking animals, fairies, goblins, demons, tricksters, and mystics: these are the elements that populate a rich literary tradition that spans the globe. In this collection, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer explore the stories that shaped our modern idea of "fantasy." There are the expected pillars of the genre: the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Mary Shelley, Christina Rossetti, Nikolai Gogol, Franz Kafka, L. Frank Baum, Robert E. Howard, and J. R. R. Tolkien. But it's the unexpected treasures from Asian, Eastern European, Scandinavian, and Native American traditions--including fourteen stories never before available in English--that show that the urge to imagine surreal circumstances, bizarre creatures, and strange new worlds is truly a universal phenomenon.


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From the fairy tales we first heard as children, fantasy stories have always been with us. They illuminate the odd and the uncanny, the wondrous and the fantastic: all the things we know are lurking just out of sight--on the other side of the looking-glass, beyond the music of the impossibly haunting violin, through the dark trees of the forest. Other worlds, talking anima From the fairy tales we first heard as children, fantasy stories have always been with us. They illuminate the odd and the uncanny, the wondrous and the fantastic: all the things we know are lurking just out of sight--on the other side of the looking-glass, beyond the music of the impossibly haunting violin, through the dark trees of the forest. Other worlds, talking animals, fairies, goblins, demons, tricksters, and mystics: these are the elements that populate a rich literary tradition that spans the globe. In this collection, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer explore the stories that shaped our modern idea of "fantasy." There are the expected pillars of the genre: the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Mary Shelley, Christina Rossetti, Nikolai Gogol, Franz Kafka, L. Frank Baum, Robert E. Howard, and J. R. R. Tolkien. But it's the unexpected treasures from Asian, Eastern European, Scandinavian, and Native American traditions--including fourteen stories never before available in English--that show that the urge to imagine surreal circumstances, bizarre creatures, and strange new worlds is truly a universal phenomenon.

30 review for The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marie-Therese

    4.5 stars An exceptional selection of fantasy stories ranging from the 18th century to the first decades of the 20th century, and encompassing most continents. Many of the classic stories and authors are here (Hoffmann and Hawthorne, Grimm and Gautier, Meyrink and Machen) but there are also a significant number of remarkable and little known works and writers, some never before translated into English. As someone already very familiar with the fantasy canon, these lesser-known works were the most 4.5 stars An exceptional selection of fantasy stories ranging from the 18th century to the first decades of the 20th century, and encompassing most continents. Many of the classic stories and authors are here (Hoffmann and Hawthorne, Grimm and Gautier, Meyrink and Machen) but there are also a significant number of remarkable and little known works and writers, some never before translated into English. As someone already very familiar with the fantasy canon, these lesser-known works were the most attractive to me and I discovered some remarkable authors I want to read more from: the Russians, Aleksey Remizov and Aleksandr Grin, the Ukrainian Yiddish writer Der Nister, Spanish María Teresa León and Fernán Caballero, French Marcel Aymé, Finnish Aleksis Kivi, and the English Stella Benson. The only criticism I have is in regard to the very brief and rather amateurish introductions to the individual tales. These seem slapdash and generally very poorly written-not at all what I've come to expect from the VanderMeers. While space considerations (this is a massive book) may have led to the brevity of these paragraphs, that can't excuse the lack of polish and sometimes almost embarrassingly childish turns of phrase found in them. But, overall, this is an outstanding volume and a must-buy for any fantasy enthusiast.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Juli

    I am a sucker for humongous anthologies -- if it has the words Big, Giant or Mammoth in the title, I'm gonna read it! It might take me awhile to read through a book several inches thick (or an egalley file in this case), but I'm going to read every word and savor each story. I like anthologies of short stories and novellas because every story is different....a different author, a new style, new ideas. When I come across a large anthology I really like...I take my time and savor it like a lovely I am a sucker for humongous anthologies -- if it has the words Big, Giant or Mammoth in the title, I'm gonna read it! It might take me awhile to read through a book several inches thick (or an egalley file in this case), but I'm going to read every word and savor each story. I like anthologies of short stories and novellas because every story is different....a different author, a new style, new ideas. When I come across a large anthology I really like...I take my time and savor it like a lovely vintage wine. I read one story a day...read up a little on the author and the story if it's a classic....and just enjoy. Story anthologies also let me break my own rules a little bit.... I can skip around, reading one story at the beginning of the book then jump to the middle and try another. I can stop reading a story in the middle if it's not for me...and move on to something else. I can read one tale, and then jump to a story by that same author that I find somewhere else and come back to the anthology in my own time. I'm usually a strict read-in-the-proper-order and stay-on-task person....anthologies set me free to just jump around as I please and get a good dose of whatever genre is the focus. Love it! I love this anthology! It gathers classic writing from authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs and L. Frank Baum and also includes authors new-to-me like Franz Blei, Stella Benson and Der Nister. The stories are varied and different. For some, this is the first time the stories have been translated into English. Some of the stories veered off into the unusual or strange....and some had no real proper ending....but I didn't mind. Fantasy by its very nature is wild and fantastical. Wild doesn't lend itself to the normal or well-ordered....so I embraced the strange and just enjoyed myself. Interesting. Different. Lots of new-to-me writers and stories. Fun to read! It did take me a good long while to read my way through this book. It isn't a quick snack.....but a long, drawn out feast. Great read! Full stars from me -- it wasn't just a rehashing of old tales I had read before. But a mix of favorites and some stories I had never heard about before! :) Lovely! After writing this review, I immediately ordered my own copy of this book. It's an awesome collection of fantasy tales! **I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Knopf Doubleday via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mel (Epic Reading)

    Certainly I’ll have read a fair few of these stories before. But 14 unpublished in English until now!! Count me in! eARC received. Read and review to come closer to publication date.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sydney S

    Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC. So this is a great compendium, and one I’ll definitely buy when it’s released, but it has flaws. I appreciate the variety of stories here, most of which I had never read, but a lot of them didn’t have satisfying endings and they’re all super weird. I love that they’re weird, but some of the endings annoyed me. I think a lot of it has to do with them being translated to English. Overall, I think this is an awesome collection of classic fantasy, fairy tales and Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC. So this is a great compendium, and one I’ll definitely buy when it’s released, but it has flaws. I appreciate the variety of stories here, most of which I had never read, but a lot of them didn’t have satisfying endings and they’re all super weird. I love that they’re weird, but some of the endings annoyed me. I think a lot of it has to do with them being translated to English. Overall, I think this is an awesome collection of classic fantasy, fairy tales and otherwise. I don’t usually like to read eBooks, so that could have had something to do with it not being a 5 star for me. I’ll have to get the print copy to be sure. At the beginning of this ARC it says to please not quote anything until I check it against the finished book when it’s published, so that kind of limits my review. I’ll go back and add quotes from my notes after it’s published. I’ll also probably go back and add more about different stories, but I’ll have to wait for a lot of them. Most of my notes for the stories I’m leaving off need quotes to go with them. A few notes on random stories: The Queen’s Son by Bettina von Arnim: Very odd story, and an interesting choice for the first story in the book. A queen is pregnant for 7 years before the king throws her out to live with the wild beasts of the forest because he thinks god is punishing her (and he hates her ugly bloated body…yes, that’s in there). She eventually gives birth, alone, in the woods, and something interesting happens. The ending is pretty anticlimactic honestly, even though I can appreciate the bizarreness of this story. Not bad, just not great either. It’s really interesting up until the very end, even though the wording is weird and detached throughout. I think part of the problem lies with the translation from German to English. Hans-My-Hedgehog by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: What a strange little tale. I actually loved it, up until the very last sentence, which didn’t fit and kind of annoyed me. It backpedals on the moral of the story. Basically, the townspeople mock this guy because he doesn’t have any kids, so he makes some joke about having a hedgehog kid. But then his wife has a baby who’s born with the head of a hedgehog. This hedgehog boy is abused and neglected by his family until the day he decides to leave, atop a rooster’s back. Some odd things happen that are actually pretty interesting, and the fairy tale vibe is definitely there. There’s a moral along the lines of “catch more flies with honey” and “be kind, or else,” and there is a happy ending, but the last line just messes it up for me. The Story of the Hard Nut by E.T.A. Hoffmann: Apparently, this story is an excerpt from the author’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” which the ballet is based on. Bizarrely humorous story that is pretty dark. It has to do with a curse of sorts, one cast by a mouse lady (who claims to be a queen related to the human king). This curse turns the most beautiful princess baby into a hideous human with a huge deformed head and a tiny body. All of this happens due to a pretty ridiculous sausage party mishap. Yes, I mean an actual sausage party thrown by the king and queen. I liked it, but there it's not a happy story, even though the ending is supposed to make us think there might be a happy ending someday. The Nest of Nightingales by Theophile Gautier: Again, very anticlimactic. Two hermit cousins have otherworldly singing abilities, and they teach 3 orphan birds their way of singing after the bird parent dies while trying to compete against the girls in a singing competition. Not my cup of tea and maybe my least favorite story in the book. The Will-o’-the-Wisps are in Town by Hans Christian Andersen: A fairy tale about fairy tales, luck, and poetry in bottle. Oh, and a Bog Witch who tells a story within a story. It’s interesting because I can see how he might have made this as a way of describing his writer’s block. The main reason I think this story was better than most is because there’s an actual ending that makes sense, and it’s even kind of funny in a way that’s hard to describe. I hadn’t read this fairy tale by Andersen before, so that alone was exciting. I love his stuff. Looking-Glass House (Excerpt from Through the Looking-Glass) by Lewis Carroll: I can’t help but love Lewis Carroll. The Big Book of Classic Fantasy calls his writing style “nonsense literature,” which I love. This story is the first chapter from his second book, and I’m sure you’ll be familiar with it. The Goophered Grapevine by Charles W. Chestnutt: I read this story in college actually, and reading it again I see that it holds up. It has a special writing style that includes the use of dialect writing. It’s stories within a story and it involves a plantation and a former slave, a “goophered” (cursed) vineyard, and a conjure woman who practices magic. There’s magic in the tale, but it’s not of the variety I’m used to. This is not a fairy tale, at least not to me, and it’s slower than the others, but it’s wonderfully written. The Bee-Man of Orn by Frank R. Stockton: Great little story with a good moral. The Ensouled Violin by H.P. Blavatsky: Black magic, sign me up! I really enjoyed this one, as ridiculous as it was. Darker than a lot of the other stories here. The Fulness of Life by Edith Wharton: Not for me. I get the sentiment, it’s lovely in its sadness and morals, but things like this usually don’t grab me. Marriage, regrets, blah blah blah. The Plattner Story by H.G. Wells: Very descriptive, in Wells fashion, but it’s pushing it to say that this is fantasy. A man is thrown into another dimension and meets aliens. I enjoyed it, but not my favorite. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka: One of my all time favorites. If you haven’t read this, you are missing out on a this unnerving, dark fantasy story starring a roach person (or is it?). There’s a great hidden meaning here. I’m glad this was included in the collection of stories. Uncle Monday by Zora Neale Hurston: This is another story I remember from college. I like Hurston and I did enjoy this story. It’s about a mysterious hoodoo conjurer, singing stones, and magical snakes. It reads like a bogeyman legend to me, and the story itself isn’t in the style I usually like, but Hurston is a great writer. (more to come)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Janne Janssens

    This was a great collection, considering the variety of authors and styles, and the fact that Ann and Jeff Vandermeer succeeded in publishing an admirable number of stories that have never been translated to English before. I did not like every story, but it is not the purpose of that book to only tell stories that are public pleasers. This Big Book contained stories of very well-known authors and authors I have never heard of. I liked reading short stories about those famous authors, which were This was a great collection, considering the variety of authors and styles, and the fact that Ann and Jeff Vandermeer succeeded in publishing an admirable number of stories that have never been translated to English before. I did not like every story, but it is not the purpose of that book to only tell stories that are public pleasers. This Big Book contained stories of very well-known authors and authors I have never heard of. I liked reading short stories about those famous authors, which were often completely different from their big works, and I liked discovering new authors. The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is a must-have for people who love the fantasy genre and want to dive deeper than the temporary books and all known stories.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Keith Chawgo

    The Big Book of Classic Fantasy has something for everyone is the quintessential book of incredible short story fantasy. Including the works of Kafka, Benson, Tolkein, Sakutaro and Wells is just the tip of this glorious mountain of work. You will find extraordinary stories of fiction written from the past including a whole host of literary geniuses. The classic fantasy collection has an incredible focus on including works of fantasy across many time frames which also has Rip Van Winkle and Poe an The Big Book of Classic Fantasy has something for everyone is the quintessential book of incredible short story fantasy. Including the works of Kafka, Benson, Tolkein, Sakutaro and Wells is just the tip of this glorious mountain of work. You will find extraordinary stories of fiction written from the past including a whole host of literary geniuses. The classic fantasy collection has an incredible focus on including works of fantasy across many time frames which also has Rip Van Winkle and Poe and one in particular story by Tolstoy which I never knew that he wrote anything besides War and Peace. Having to read this as required reading when I was growing up, I never warmed to Tolstoy but after reading this short, my interest has definitely piqued. There is really something for the whole family as the VanderMeer’s lovingly put this collection together to include Hans Christian Anderson, Frank L Baum and Charles Dickens and as stated above, this is not even the beginning of this long list of fascinating authors. This is an excellent collection and one everyone should have on their book. Reviewing such a book can be difficult as these stories should be read, thought about, cherished before moving on and I was able to do that in-between reading other books but I thoroughly enjoyed this. This is a great achievement and a wonderful book. I will definitely be buying a hardback or paperback version for my bookshelf.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    I don't normally put reviews on books I've not finished, but there are certain books where finishing isn't really the point – they're more for dipping into when the mood takes one, part of the furniture of a life. For some people the Bible would be the obvious candidate, but I'm talking more things like the Anatomy of Melancholy, or the mammoth anthologies the Vandermeers somehow find time to compile on a regular basis. The other one I own from them, The Weird, I've been reading bits and bobs of I don't normally put reviews on books I've not finished, but there are certain books where finishing isn't really the point – they're more for dipping into when the mood takes one, part of the furniture of a life. For some people the Bible would be the obvious candidate, but I'm talking more things like the Anatomy of Melancholy, or the mammoth anthologies the Vandermeers somehow find time to compile on a regular basis. The other one I own from them, The Weird, I've been reading bits and bobs of for nearly a decade now, without ever feeling I should add it on here, but the situation is rather different with this one because I got it as a Netgalley ARC, and it would feel a little rude to take that long before offering any feedback. So: the title is, in some ways, slightly misleading; this is not a collection of classic fantasy in the sense of being the genre's big hits. It's more a collection of the genre's godfathers, the things we now recognise retroactively as belonging to a genre which didn't exist as such when they were written. Or at least, not-belonging less there than they would anywhere else. These are fables, tall tales, stories which went where they would with no regard for whether the outcome was technically possible. Some are by big names in the field (Mary Shelley, Verne, Nesbit), though these are seldom the pieces for which they're remembered; others one might not immediately think of as fantasy per se, though they sure as Hell aren't realism either (Hoffman, the Brothers Grimm). And still others are from writers such as Nabokov or Zora Neale Hurston, people one seldom associates with genre work, but then that's part of the point of the terrain being less defined and delineated back then. Plenty of pieces, though sometimes revered in their own lands, have never appeared in English before. All the ones I've read thus far are intriguing, albeit sometimes dated. But even at its least directly affecting, it has still the charm of wandering around a little-frequented niche museum somewhere out of the way, which is very much my idea of fun.

  8. 5 out of 5

    R.

    Some good gems in this here book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dan'l Danehy-oakes

    The title is no exaggeration: there are, by my count, ninety stories here, the vast majority of which I had never read before. To put it in different terms, the stories occupy eight hundred eight large pages in not-especially-large type, two columned, plus a thorough introduction. Or, another way: there's near-on half a million words in this volume. By "classic" the VanderMeers do not mean "canonical" - though some stories here certainly are part of any reasonable fantasy canon - but "published b The title is no exaggeration: there are, by my count, ninety stories here, the vast majority of which I had never read before. To put it in different terms, the stories occupy eight hundred eight large pages in not-especially-large type, two columned, plus a thorough introduction. Or, another way: there's near-on half a million words in this volume. By "classic" the VanderMeers do not mean "canonical" - though some stories here certainly are part of any reasonable fantasy canon - but "published before _The Lord of the Rings_ changed everything. The actual definition they give is "from the early 1800s to World War II", but the book conveniently closes with Tolkien's "Leaf by Niggle"; and they _do_ say "...to the moment before the rise of a commercial category of 'fantasy'". The similarly elephantine _Big Book of Modern Fantasy_, which is sitting on my Mount Tsundoku right now, takes up the history of fantasy where this one leaves off. There are here a wonderful variety of stories; and if you don't like one, the next one will be different. The cover lauds the Big Names represented here. I will name a few absences I find fairly glaring: for one, C.S.Lewis, who admittedly mostly wrote fantasy in the novel form; but the VanderMeers have no problem with including excerpts from novels. There are set pieces in _Perelandra_ that might have fit nicely. For another, James Branch Cabell, the premier American fantasist of the 1920s. But most puzzling to me is the absence of Jean de la Fontaine, who is presumably missing because of the (fuzzy) line drawn at the early 1800s: the Grimms and Hans Christian Andersen are here; why not their joint progenitor? And surely something by Mark Twain would have been apropos to the volume: "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven", for example. But that's quibbling, which is all a reviewer can do when faced with something this massive and this good. There are a few stories here that didn't quite work for me, but even with those, they _belong_ to this gatherum. This is the third (as "Modern" is the fourth) volume in the VanderMeer's series of "big books". The first, _The Weird_, did not have "Big Book" in its title, but clearly belongs with these. (The second in the series is a Big Book of Science Fiction.) The thing that particularly impressed me here was the variety of styles. Of course, one can't really judge the style of a translation - of which there are a couple of dozen here - unless one knows the quality of the translator; but even limiting the discussion to the stories that are natively English, they range from the archaicism of E.R. Eddison to the purple prose of Clark Ashton Smith to the brevity of John Collier to the simplicity of L. Frank Baum. That little list might lead one to think that this is a "boy's club" anthology. While the majority of stories are by men, women are reasonbly well-represented, from Bettina von Arnim and Mary Shelley to Zora Neale Hurston and Leonora Carrington. What amazes me about these books is the sheer volume of research that clearly goes into them. While I'm sure the VanderMeers network extensively to have hidden gems brought to their attention, and especially those from other cultures (about 10% of the stories are completely non-European in origin, counting the Western cultures of the Americas as "European"; if you don't count Russia as part of Europe, the number goes up to about 20%), they still have to read all these stories, and that means they read a lot _more_ along the way: and then they research the writers and add brief introductions. This takes serious dedication, and a helluva lot of work. So my hat's off to them, and to this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Somewhat disappointing, I was expecting more sword and sorcery adventure. Much of the book is not what I think of as traditional fantasy. There are stories of the surreal and strange, including the over-anthologized "Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka, but not much to scratch a Tolkien itch. While some stories are fun discoveries, many are tedious. "Dance of the Comets: An Astral Pantomime in Two Acts" by Paul Scheerbart is particularly hard to get through. Most of it reads as stage direction and tec Somewhat disappointing, I was expecting more sword and sorcery adventure. Much of the book is not what I think of as traditional fantasy. There are stories of the surreal and strange, including the over-anthologized "Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka, but not much to scratch a Tolkien itch. While some stories are fun discoveries, many are tedious. "Dance of the Comets: An Astral Pantomime in Two Acts" by Paul Scheerbart is particularly hard to get through. Most of it reads as stage direction and technical description of character movement. The characters themselves are mere props with neither thoughts nor dialog. "The Goophered Grapevine" by Charles W. Chestnutt uses a highly idiosyncratic dialect to deliver the story. Mostly told in what is supposed to be the authentic voice of an elder African American, it requires some effort to translate into readable contemporary English. Some of the stories are truncated excerpts of longer works that are probably better read whole. I would rather have had short stories with actual beginnings, middles and ends. The longer works could have been referred to in an appendix, if at all. One highlight is "The Hoard of the Gibbelins" by Lord Dunsany, a story of a hero's quest that goes horrifically wrong. Another is "The Reluctant Dragon" by Kenneth Grahame, which may seem familiar because of a Disney animated adaptation. As it happens, these are the two stories that feature dragons and swords.

  11. 4 out of 5

    WS_BOOKCLUB

    Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available to purchase on July second. In case it isn’t painfully obvious based on my other blog posts, I love fantasy of every kind. I was so excited to delve into this collection of stories, some that are well-known to me, and many others that I read for the first time. And let me tell you; this selection is vast. The editors went through a ton of effort to gather a varied representation of an e Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available to purchase on July second. In case it isn’t painfully obvious based on my other blog posts, I love fantasy of every kind. I was so excited to delve into this collection of stories, some that are well-known to me, and many others that I read for the first time. And let me tell you; this selection is vast. The editors went through a ton of effort to gather a varied representation of an enormous genre. There were the usual culprits: the Bros. Grimm, Tolkein, Hans Christian Andersen. It was great to see them all gathered in one place. But what makes this book stand out are the surprising contributions: Louisa May Alcott, Tolstoy, and even Kafka made appearances. I loved that there are stories from all over the world. It was fantastic to see the differences- and similarities- between the fantastical tales. It took me longer than I expected to finish this book, simply because there’s so much to digest and I didn’t want to rush it. This is a book to be savored, one that I would recommend owning so that you can return to it time and again.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    It's hard to summarize this mammoth treasury in a 1-to-5-star rating. From a purely entertainment perspective, I didn't always enjoy the stories featured. I didn't even "understand" all of them. When these 90 stories span 150 years and over 20 countries, the divide in culture, language, and time was sometimes too great for me to bridge. Nonetheless, I still give this anthology 5 stars for its ambition and uniqueness. The editors--Ann and Jeff Vandermeer--have an "agenda" at work in this volume's It's hard to summarize this mammoth treasury in a 1-to-5-star rating. From a purely entertainment perspective, I didn't always enjoy the stories featured. I didn't even "understand" all of them. When these 90 stories span 150 years and over 20 countries, the divide in culture, language, and time was sometimes too great for me to bridge. Nonetheless, I still give this anthology 5 stars for its ambition and uniqueness. The editors--Ann and Jeff Vandermeer--have an "agenda" at work in this volume's selections, one they state upfront in the introduction: they deliberately sought to exhibit a more linguistically and culturally diverse group of stories than the traditionally Anglosphere-dominated fantasy canon. From its start this anthology aims for more educational, artistic merit than "mere" entertainment (though the editors finding the inclusions enjoyable and compelling tales is basically a prerequisite for inclusion in any anthology.) Obscure and underappreciated authors abound here, and when famous names do appear, it's always one of their lesser-known works that's featured. Because this introduces cerebral and avant-garde elements which can be frustrating or alienating, I wouldn't recommend this book to newcomers to the fantasy genre who seek some kind of "history's best-of" anthology to get a grounding of the major thematic threads of the genre (though representative and seminal stories do appear here.) Rather, I'd say this anthology is for adventurous readers who want an exciting challenge, or fantasy fans tired of the seeing the same cornerstones being read again and again. Offbeat and overlooked is the name of the game here, and the result are tons of literary gems sprinkled throughout, alongside introductions to names you might not have heard before but whose other work can be sought out if you liked the sample you were served here. Some mini-reviews of tales I especially like and/or that I thought really captured the "rate of the fey" the editors use to measure a story's "fantasy-ness:" (view spoiler)["Rip Van Winkle." An early example from American literature and an early example of a time travel story! Also a perfect capture of "the fey:" the protagonist travels into the wilderness and encounters strange humanoids, he partakes of their food/drink and suffers magical effects as a result. "Transformation" by the famous Mary Shelley. Another classic tale of an encounter with the fey. A man drives a bargain with a hideous magical creature: riches in exchange for the use of his body for three days. It's a quintessential "deal with the devil" set up, but in a story I've never read. So it's nice seeing a different example from the ones I'm used to! "The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton," by Charles Dickens himself. Very much a proto-Christmas Carol, with a cruel, misanthropic man encountering supernatural beings on Christmas Eve who teach him the error of his ways. It's interesting to see what changed in the transition to Dickens' later work--the goblins of this story are a lot more upfront with their contempt for the protagonist, and even inflict violence on him as a punishment. Our protagonist, too, is even nastier than Scrooge, pummeling a child for singing a carol and morbidly taking delight in the thought of digging a grave at Christmastime. I adore A Christmas Carol, and I liked this story, too. Dickens' writing style and moral messages still resonate through to the present day. No wonder he's read and enjoyed centuries after his death. "Master Zacharias," by Jules Verne, is quite different from the science adventure tales he is known for, like Twenty Thousands Leagues Under the Sea or Journey to the Center of the Earth. With its focus on a watchmaker and the appearance of a strange clockwork humanoid, this story almost feels like a precursor to the "clockpunk" genre. But its climax--set in the dark, ghoulish ruins of an old castle amid the French Alps on a snowy winter's night--and anti-science moral message are pure Gothic Romanticism. Of course I don't agree with or particularly like how science is portrayed in the story, as haughty and godless, but it captures the feelings of its era. "The Frost King," written in 1855, is the most quintessential example I've seen of the Victorians' imagining of fairies and elves: dainty, lovely, feminine beings full of sweetness and light, intimately connected to the flourishing of natural beauty. The story--of tender, patient, unfailing love conquering cold and dark evil--is cliched and saccharine by the cynical modern reader's standards, but its sweetness is so pure and lovely you can't help be swayed by it. Like a perfect children's tale, this is the sort of optimism that lulls you off to sweet dreams on a lazy summer night. "The Ensouled Violin" (1892) was written by Helena Blavatsky, a progenitor of the New Age movement who co-founded the "Theosophical Society." The realm of esotericism and the occult is strange and mysterious, the "bizzaro world" running parallel to the mainstream evolution of Western culture over the last couple centuries...the perfect breeding ground for "the fey." "The Ensouled Violin" is a tale of dark and morbid magic, and a surprisingly sad one at that! I found the bond between master and pupil, and the ultimate sacrifice of the master, really tugged at my heartstrings! (that phrasing is deliberate, considering what happens to the master...) Dealing with evil spirits and dark forces, up to the devil himself, to gain artistic prowess is a classic trope, and this story isn't the first one in this anthology to employ it. Prodigies, passion, ambition, pride, the pursuit of powerful abilities in a realm of art or science...I notice these are very popular themes and character tropes in these old supernatural stories. It certainly fits with the image I have of brooding, intellectual, macabre Romantic protagonists. The story's climax was incredibly evocative and descriptive, with some perfectly ghastly otherworldliness. "The Other Side: A Breton Legend" (1893), by an eccentric Swedish count named Stenbock. A very eerie and surreal story, exactly the sort I imagine the editors were picturing when they described their fantasy anthology as phantasmagorical and wild. It's tale of an innocent boy lured away from the safety and normalcy of his village by a seductive, mysterious, fey power. Like "The Ensouled Violin," this was spooky and atmospheric, a tale of the dark supernatural with a lot of occult and religious themes. In particular, we have the old Catholic rituals and imagery of the boy's village contrasted with the satanic vibes of those from "the other side," who are portrayed as werewolves and other shapeshifters. There were even elements of changeling folklore here, with the boy stolen away by the supernatural forces, imprisoned with their bewitching spells over his memory and willpower. "The White People," by Arthur Machen, who is described as a famous influence on Lovecraft and other horror writers. The prologue was stylistically trite, a monologue disguised as a conversation, but the topic was one I easily recognize as key to the "cosmic horror" genre: defining sin not as that which is socially wrong, but that which is innately, instinctively wrong, a breach of the natural order, sin as the pursuit of forbidden knowledge, "things man was not meant to know." This prologue set up a meta-story, an excerpt from diary of a girl, full of her recalling happenings from her childhood. There's a profound mysteriousness in this diary, where the girl mentions things or activities or happenings without describing them, leaving everything suggested and unsaid. It definitely gives the right mood of the esoteric occult. It was in a very, well, exhausting writing style, with long sentences composed in an uninterrupted wall of text for pages. It certainly added to the surreal, haunting atmosphere of the story, though. "The Last Redoubt" (1912), excerpt from a novel by William Hope Hodgson. The narrator has vivid dreams where he takes on the viewpoint and memories of a young man in a strange pyramid city in the very distant future, when the sun has died and the eternally-dark "night land" is home to bizarre, inscrutable dark forces, monsters, and beasts who threaten the city, this last bastion of sane and sound humanity. I'd call this more science fiction than fantasy, but the sheer strangeness of the setting keeps it sufficiently wondrous and fantastical. Massive watching giants, strange beams and domes of light, a country of wailing and laughing heard beyond the dark hills, the silent walkers you should never approach, volcanoes and red pits, monsters waiting in the dark...its all far more fantasy than sci-fi. I think I'd love this story if it weren't for the horrendous writing style, a deliberate pastiche of antiquated writing (as the narrator is supposed to be from the eighteenth century) that's long-winded and repetitive and made reading it a real chore. The only plus is, like "The White People," the strange writing contributes to the surreal atmosphere. I love the concept of adopting a dual identity in your dreams, seeing through your future incarnation's eyes, knowing all that they know and feeling all that they feel, while still being aware of your own memories and knowledge. Like slipping into a new life then returning to your own upon waking, but recalling it all. Holding multiple selves and memories within your head...trippy, isn't it!? "The Last Redoubt" does a splendid job of imparting the raw age and almost unimaginable distance of this future humanity, where even their million years past is an infinite future ahead of us today. "Magic Comes to a Committee," excerpt from the novel Living Alone (1919) by Stella Benson. A humorous, very British story about a witch stumbling upon a wartime committee and having a profound affect on its members, who the next day are drawn to the witch's address, where she superintends a strange boarding house with a hilarious list of rules deliberately designed for outsiders and nonconformists. I quite liked the many quips from the writer, though I didn't understand all of them (cultural divide across time and place appears again). This story is full of wry observations and social commentary on World War I-era London's fashionable middle-class ladies. The backdrop of the war permeates this story. "Joiwind," from the novel A Voyage to Arcturus (1920) by David Lindsay, was the best example of the "constructed world" mode of fantasy in this anthology. The descriptions of the alien world Tormance are bizarre, ethereal, enchanting, the definition of fantastic. The character Joiwind, from whom the excerpt gets its name, is also a fascinating woman. Her description, personality, and beliefs are clear progenitors to the archetypal "Elf" race that has, through JRR Tolkien, influenced so much of modern fantasy: lithe and ethereally beautiful, empathetic and psychic, pacifist and spiritual, harmonious with nature and feeling friendship with all living things. Essentially, she's "pure" and "good" almost to a fault; the human protagonist, by comparison, is hopelessly corrupted and flawed. It's only after partaking of Joiwind's blood and the world's strange waters that he begins to understand her purity and goodness (another classic fantasy trope, where eating and drinking of the strange, other world effects the mortal who travels there.) There's a lot of curious and bizarre bits in this story: the protagonist waking up with alien organs grown on his body to match the native inhabitants; the strange-colored sands and skies of an alien world, including two completely new colors unlike anything on Earth; philosophical discussions about the differences between the God of Earth and the God of Tormance. But it all feels hinting at a greater universe, at its own inscrutable laws we don't have contextual access to right now, which only heightens the sense of fantasy that's so crucial to what makes the stories in this anthology engrossing and memorable. "At the Border," another story making its first appearance in English in this anthology. Written by a Yiddish man from Eastern Europe who wrote under the pseudonym "Der Nister," meaning "The Hidden One." Delightfully mysterious, isn't it? Another example of an obscure, forgotten, underappreciated writer--he died under suspicious political circumstances in the Soviet Union and his grave wasn't identified for decades--being given new life by this anthology. I would never have heard of this guy or read his work if not for it. That's a powerful gift to receive: I get to revive this unjustly-forgotten man's ideas. Writing is a kind of attempt at immortality, even though you should never write with fame as a goal. For every Dickens, Shelley, or Tolkien in the fantasy genre, there's hundreds of people like Der Nister who have remained obscure. You write because you have something to say, because you want to. But gaining a little spark of a dead man's imagination inside me by reading his story here? Wow, what a treat, what an honor. It was a very strange story, with an odd writing style that may be the result of translation. Not to say it wasn't readable, just that it had a "reading rhythm" I'm not used to, if that makes sense? It used fairy tale and folklore tropes to make a mystical, metaphorical tale, though as with some other allegories, what its various characters and scenes stood for I don't quite know (due to lack of cultural context?) The editors say this story is infused with Jewish Mysticism and the influence of world religions. It certainly felt a little Biblical with its deserts and camels and such. "At the Boarder" is the story of a giant, the last of his kind, seeking to cross the desert to reach the hitherto-unknown daughter of the giants to marry her and mate with her (the sexual implications/connotations of marriage are strong here) to bring about a new generation of giants to restore their gods and their rule. The giant is guided by a bird and a camel who do the daughter's bidding, but he keeps encountering a leper, who warns him not to trust the daughter's message. The giant rejects the leper three times, first killing the leper in rage and then seeing him in two dreams/visions, where pleasant images--a renewed temple of the giants and a bustling town to be protected and ruled by the giants--are interrupted by the leper, who overshadows the dreams with doubt and fear, darkness and anger. But the giant presses on. When he finally meets the daughter of the giants, the end is ambiguous: is she good, does she keep the giant for a husband? The moral ambiguity--the story seems leading up to the leper being right and the giant wrong for rejecting him, yet the ending provides little closure--is a key part of the story's strangeness and mystery, and thus of its "fey-ness," as the editors describe fantasy. Does the return of a race of giants bode well or foul for the world? "The Town of Cats," a story from pre-WWII Japan about the author, a poet's, possible encounter with a town populated by cat-spirits. This story had some interesting musings about how familiar places can be made to appear mysterious and new when viewed from a different angle/perspective. The narrator gets lost twice and stumbles upon ethereal, preternaturally beautiful towns, once in the alleyways and streets of his home city, then again in the mountain backwoods outside a hot springs resort. Getting lost and stumbling across magic is yet-another archetypal fantasy mode in my mind; a town of spirits or fairies or whatever you can't set out to find but have to come across accidentally. "The Jewels in the Forest" (1939), by Fritz Leiber, a seminal author for fantasy's "sword and sorcery" genre. This is the introductory tale for Leiber's famous tag team of adventure-loving rouges, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. It's easy to see how stories like this one, written by men like Leiber, established the archetypal (stereotypical?) image of the genre of fantasy as modern readers know it: a setting vaguely inspired by medieval Europe, full of fun, colorful heroes and adventurers on quests and undergoing trials. Hidden places, ancient riddles, roaming bandits, dark forests of the unknown... It's classic, positively classic. After the swashbuckling of the main plot, set in an imagined world but still fairly grounded, the story's climax veered into eldritch magic territory: a house of living stone built by an evil architect who won from demons infernal jewels that form an alien mind. The visuals of a stone building moving as one whole like a writhing beast, lashing out at its attackers/intruders, was bizarre and awesome (in the old fashioned sense) to visualize as I read. In that I see the fey that attracted the editors to this particular story: something truly strange, caused by deep, dark, ineffable magic. (hide spoiler)]

  13. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    808 pages of classical fantasy: new and old. Multiple authors representing the foundations of the genre. A long haul, but imminently worthwhile to the reader.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Firstly, let's be clear: when the editors call this a big book, they're not kidding around. It's enormous. "Classic" fantasy here extends from the late 18th to the mid-20th century, and the stories (and excerpts from novels) are arranged chronologically, so patterns emerge naturally as you read through. The early stories are not what we think of as short stories today; they're narrations of a series of events, and the characters are barely characters at all, just names with a couple of qualities Firstly, let's be clear: when the editors call this a big book, they're not kidding around. It's enormous. "Classic" fantasy here extends from the late 18th to the mid-20th century, and the stories (and excerpts from novels) are arranged chronologically, so patterns emerge naturally as you read through. The early stories are not what we think of as short stories today; they're narrations of a series of events, and the characters are barely characters at all, just names with a couple of qualities attached. They tend not to drive the story particularly; they respond to events, but they aren't true protagonists. By the mid-to-late 19th century, things have settled down, and writers have figured out plot and character pretty much as we know them today, though both continue to be enriched and refined over the following years. Until, that is, the early 20th century, when various experimental writers take things in new directions - directions that mostly proved unfruitful, I have to say. The modernist pieces are, to my ear, overwritten, repetitious, slow-moving and excessively descriptive at the expense of plot and character. We are back where we started in some ways: plots replaced by a series of events, characters replaced by names and vague qualities, effective protagonism largely absent. Then comes the pulp era, and things pick up again (for my taste). The descriptions can still be a bit over-rich, but we have characters with goals driving plots to a satisfying conclusion. The characters can still be a bit thin, but they demonstrate their thoughts and feelings in action rather than reflection. The collection ends with a Tolkien story, "Leaf by Niggle," which, like most of the better-known pieces, I'd read before, but which I very much enjoyed re-reading. There's a mixture of very well-known classics, starting with Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," with more obscure pieces and authors, some of them originally written in other languages and here in English for, in many cases, the first time. As with other anthologies that attempt this kind of thing, I sometimes felt that the pieces had deserved their obscurity, though there were one or two gems. For example, before I'd even finished reading the excerpt from Living Alone, I went and downloaded the whole book from Project Gutenberg and read it before continuing with this book. The charming voice that had drawn me to it turned out to be its greatest, almost its only, strength, but I was glad to have discovered it. I did skip a couple of stories in whole or in part. I'd read Kafka's Metamorphosis before, a long time ago, and had no particular desire to re-read it; and one of the stories became so tedious that I eventually skipped ahead to the next one. I considered doing this with several others, as well. Parts of the book I found a slog; see above about overwriting and deserved obscurity. I suspect that this anthology is intended largely as a textbook, like the Norton anthologies that we had when I studied English at university. As a textbook, it provides a lot of fine material for analysis; it's deliberately wide-ranging, bringing in examples of many literary movements from multiple countries, while not neglecting the well-known English and American classics. As a straight read-through for entertainment, it's uneven, and sometimes, for my taste, not enjoyable at all. But it's certainly a monumental effort by the editors, and I commend their ambition, even if I didn't love every part of the result.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    First, let's define our terms. The Vandermeers define “classic fantasy” as strange tales written between the early 1800s and WWII, when the concept of the 'fantasy' was being formed. They do not mean “classic” in the sense of “works that are widely accepted as the definitive works in the field”. There are actually very few of those works in this book (Kafka's “The Metamorphosis” one of the notable exceptions), since they saw it as boring to reprint the famous fairy tales and fantasies that everyo First, let's define our terms. The Vandermeers define “classic fantasy” as strange tales written between the early 1800s and WWII, when the concept of the 'fantasy' was being formed. They do not mean “classic” in the sense of “works that are widely accepted as the definitive works in the field”. There are actually very few of those works in this book (Kafka's “The Metamorphosis” one of the notable exceptions), since they saw it as boring to reprint the famous fairy tales and fantasies that everyone knows. Instead, the Vandermeers set out to show the range of tales that touch on different themes, with different styles, that are 'in conversation' with each other and eventually contributed to our modern conception of 'fantasy'. Their guiding star was to search out stories that offered a sense of 'the fey', or 'a kind of strangeness', wherever they may be in the world and whoever wrote them. Their introduction will provide a template for the reader who may not otherwise realize what she is getting into. Consequently, here is what you'll find in this book: 1. Little known works by famous fantasy authors: For Hawthorne, not “Rappacini's Daughter”, but “Feathertop”. For the Brothers Grimm, not “Little Red Riding Hood”, but “Hans-my-Hedgehog”. For Poe, not “The Fall of the House of Usher”, but “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar”. 2. Stories by famous authors not known as fantasy authors: Dickens (a goblin story that led to the later variant “A Christmas Carol”), Melville, Wilde, Nabokov, Wharton. 3. Stories translated into English, many of them original translations for this book. 4. Strange, elliptical stories by people you've probably never heard of. So, in conclusion, people wanting to familiarize themselves with the fantasy stories generally recognized as the classic stories in the field should turn to other sources. But for those already familiar with fantasy who want to explore the early and more obscure roots of the fantasy field, this book is a gift. My caveat, though, is that it is indeed a really...big...book. 822 pages of stories, with small type and double columns. A larger type font would have pushed this book easily over a thousand pages. The editors' desire to include many stories means that most are relatively short, so it can be jarring to move among totally different styles and themes. It took me longer than usual to read this book because I could only absorb so many different kinds of strangeness at a sitting. But then, you don't eat a whole Whitman's Sampler in one sitting. (At least I don't.) You enjoy a piece, then go back later for something different and complementary. That's how these little bon bons should be enjoyed.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Full disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The editors define classic fantasy to include stories written between the early 1800s and WWII. They attempt to represent the natural diversity of the genre (which they point out is far more extensive than what most readers might assume, given the conservative biases of many other anthologies), while being mindful of how many of the stories of this era have aged (for example, in rega Full disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The editors define classic fantasy to include stories written between the early 1800s and WWII. They attempt to represent the natural diversity of the genre (which they point out is far more extensive than what most readers might assume, given the conservative biases of many other anthologies), while being mindful of how many of the stories of this era have aged (for example, in regards to racism and sexism). Even where familiar authors appear, the stories the VanderMeers have chosen tend to be more obscure. The book has a nice introduction discussing different trends and themes in fantasy through the period covered in this anthology, and each author has a short biographical piece which helps the reader understand how their work contributes to the genre. Quite frankly, this would make an excellent textbook for a literature class on classic fantasy. The introduction says that half the stories in this collection are translated works, some of which have never been translated before into English and some of which are new translations. The authors are from a total of 26 countries. While it’s still a Europe-centric collection, this anthology demonstrates impressive diversity in its representation of the genre at that era. The bad: Some stories have not aged especially well. While the editors did clearly make an effort to select stories with less sexism and racism than the rest of the genre at that time, it’s still there. Your mileage may vary on how much you tolerate when you read, and if your tolerance level is zero, then this may not be the book for you. In one notable example, “The Goophered Grapevine” has the n-word littered throughout it, though I will add that it was written by an African-American author. In any reprint anthology, I like to know the table of contents so I can decide how much overlap it has with my other collections and whether the unique portions are worth it to me. I’ve listed it below, but I think you’ll find that this is definitely worth buying if you enjoy classic fantasy, due to its enormous size and how many of the works are translated for the first time into English. Table of contents: “The Queen’s Son” by Bettina von Armin “Hans-My-Hedgehog” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm “The Story of the Hard Nut” by E. T. A. Hoffmann “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving “The Luck of the Bean-Rows” by Charles Nodier “Transformation” by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley “The Nest of Nightingales” by Théophile Gautier “The Fairytale about a Dead Body, Belonging to No One Knows Whom” by Vladimir Odoevsky “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton” by Charles Dickens “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” by Edgar Allan Poe “The Story of Jeon Unchi” by Anonymous “Feathertop” by Nathaniel Hawthorne “Master Zacharius” by Jules Verne “The Frost King” by Louisa May Alcott “The Tartarus of Maids” by Herman Melville “The Magic Mirror” by George MacDonald “The Diamond Lens” by Fitz-James O’Brien “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti “The Will-O’-the-Wisps Are in Town” by Hans Christian Andersen “The Legend of the Pale Maiden” by Aleksis Kivi “Looking-Glass House” by Lewis Carroll “Furnica, or the Queen of the Ants” by Carmen Sylva “The Story of Iván the Fool” by Leo Tolstoy “The Goophered Grapevine” by Charles W. Chestnutt “The Bee-Man of Orn” by Frank R. Stockton “The Remarkable Rocket” by Oscar Wilde “The Ensouled Violin” by H. P. Blavatsky “The Death of Odjigh” by Marcel Schwob “The Terrestrial Fire” by Marcel Schwob “The Kingdom of Cards” by Rabindranath Tagore “The Other Side” by Count Eric Stanlislaus Stenbock “The Fulness of Life” by Edith Wharton “Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady” by Vernon Lee “The Little Room” by Madeline Yale Wynne “The Plattner Story” by H. G. Wells “The Princess Baladina–Her Adventure” by Willa Cather “The Reluctant Dragon” by Kenneth Grahame “Iktomi Stories” by Zitkala-Ša “Marionettes” by Louis Fréchette “Dance of the Comets” by Paul Scheerbart “The White People” by Arthur Machen “Blamol” by Gustav Meyrink “Goblins” by Louis Fréchette “Sowbread” by Grazia Deledda “The Angry Street: A Bad Dream” by G. K. Chesterton “The Aunt and Amabel” by E. Nesbit “Sacrifice” by Aleksey Remizov “The Princess Steel” by W. E. B. Du Bois “The Hump” by Fernán Caballero “The Celestial Omnibus” by E. M. Forster “The Legend of the Ice Babies” by E. Pauline Johnson “The Last Redoubt” by William Hope Hodgson “Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse” by L. Frank Baum “The Plant Men” by Edgar Rice Burroughs “Strange News from Another Star” by Hermann Hesse “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka “The Hoard of the Gibbelins” by Lord Dunsany “Through the Dragon Glass” by A. Merritt “David Blaize and the Blue Door” by E. F. Benson “The Big Bestiary of Modern Literature” by Franz Blei “The Alligator War” by Horatio Quiroga “Friend Island” by Francis Stevens “Magic Comes to a Committee” by Stella Benson “Gramophone of the Ages” by Yefim Zozulya “Joiwind” by David Lindsay “Sound in the Mountain” by Maurice Renard “Sennin” by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa “The Worm Ouroboros” by E. R. Eddison “At the Border” by Der Nister “The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan” by William B. Laughead “Talkative Domovoi” by Aleksandr Grin “The Ratcatcher” by Aleksandr Grin “The Shadow Kingdom” by Robert E. Howard “The Man Traveling with the Brocade Portrait” by Edogawa Ranpo “A Visit to the Museum” by Vladimir Nabokov “The Water Sprite’s Tale” by Karel Čapek “The Capital of Cat Country” by Lao She “Coyote Stories” by Mourning Dove “Uncle Monday” by Zora Neale Hurston “Rose-Cold, Moon Skater” by María Teresa León “A Night of the High Season” by Bruno Schulz “The Influence of the Sun” by Fernand Dumont “The Town of Cats” by Hagiwara Sakutarō “The Debutante” by Leonora Carrington “The Jewels in the Forest” by Fritz Leiber “Evening Primrose” by John Collier “The Coming of the White Worm” by Clark Ashton Smith “The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls” by Marcel Aymé “Leaf by Niggle” by J. R. R. Tolkien

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ralph Blackburn

    The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, Ann and Jeff Vander Meer Ed.- As they did with the Big Book of Science Fiction, the Vander Meer's have fashioned a large volume of early classical fantasies. Not much swords and sorcery here, no Conan, no Elric, just as it states, classic fantasies of the likes of Washington Irving, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe and many more. Also early fairy tales from different countries around the world add a new dimension to the classic tale. It's a really b The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, Ann and Jeff Vander Meer Ed.- As they did with the Big Book of Science Fiction, the Vander Meer's have fashioned a large volume of early classical fantasies. Not much swords and sorcery here, no Conan, no Elric, just as it states, classic fantasies of the likes of Washington Irving, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe and many more. Also early fairy tales from different countries around the world add a new dimension to the classic tale. It's a really big book. No- I didn't read everything, I was more interested in the strange and obscure foreign tales I'd never heard of and some of the well-know authors works that I had missed growing up. But even cherry picking a list of these stories offers a wide range of tales and something to go back to again and again for new discovery. Recommended for the fantastic!

  18. 4 out of 5

    William

    Eclectic collection of stories. And a lot of really good stories. Some of my favorites: Iktomi Tales by Zitkala-Sa. This makes me wonder how big an influence Dakota folktales were on Jack Vance's creation of Cugel the Clever. The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan by W.B. Laughead. I have loved Paul Bunyan stories since early childhood. The Shadow Kingdom by Robert E. Howard. I am a huge fan of the Kull of Atlanta series. The Jewels in the Forest by Fritz Lieber. I love Fahfrd and Gray Mouser stories Eclectic collection of stories. And a lot of really good stories. Some of my favorites: Iktomi Tales by Zitkala-Sa. This makes me wonder how big an influence Dakota folktales were on Jack Vance's creation of Cugel the Clever. The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan by W.B. Laughead. I have loved Paul Bunyan stories since early childhood. The Shadow Kingdom by Robert E. Howard. I am a huge fan of the Kull of Atlanta series. The Jewels in the Forest by Fritz Lieber. I love Fahfrd and Gray Mouser stories. The Coming of the White Worm by Clark Ashton Smith. I love the author's poetic style.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lory Widmer Hess

    This book is what it says it is: a big book of fantasy stories, by authors who have either created classics in the genre, or are well known for other types of writing but also dipped into the realm of the fantastic. While some selections will be familiar to those well-versed in fantasy literature, others are more obscure, and the editors have made a laudable effort to counter the "Anglo bias" in most anthologies. With so many stories, if some are not to your taste, you need only move on and you'l This book is what it says it is: a big book of fantasy stories, by authors who have either created classics in the genre, or are well known for other types of writing but also dipped into the realm of the fantastic. While some selections will be familiar to those well-versed in fantasy literature, others are more obscure, and the editors have made a laudable effort to counter the "Anglo bias" in most anthologies. With so many stories, if some are not to your taste, you need only move on and you'll be sure to find something that is. A real treasure for fantasy fans.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Denice Langley

    Every child learns to use their imagination through fairy tales. As the VanderMeer's tell the stories, the readers "see" the characters and feel, hear, and smell the stories come to life. The old stories are still the best, but there's always room for one or two more. We read these stories to our children and grandchildren and delight in their reactions. We've built many good memories with the stories in this book. Pick a few and build some for you too. Every child learns to use their imagination through fairy tales. As the VanderMeer's tell the stories, the readers "see" the characters and feel, hear, and smell the stories come to life. The old stories are still the best, but there's always room for one or two more. We read these stories to our children and grandchildren and delight in their reactions. We've built many good memories with the stories in this book. Pick a few and build some for you too.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robert Scott

    Only partially finished at page 522. Returned to library. Will Check out again.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joel Mitchell

    Having read and greatly enjoyed Ann & Jeff VanderMeer’s massive anthology entitled The Weird, I jumped at the chance to review another one of their tomes. This volume collects “classic fantasy” stories (and excerpts from longer books) ranging in date from the early 1800’s up until World War II when fantasy became more of a defined genre. The blend of authors includes classic fantasy/sci-fi/weird writers, classic literary legends dabbling in the fantastical, and many authors less known to the Eng Having read and greatly enjoyed Ann & Jeff VanderMeer’s massive anthology entitled The Weird, I jumped at the chance to review another one of their tomes. This volume collects “classic fantasy” stories (and excerpts from longer books) ranging in date from the early 1800’s up until World War II when fantasy became more of a defined genre. The blend of authors includes classic fantasy/sci-fi/weird writers, classic literary legends dabbling in the fantastical, and many authors less known to the English-speaking world. The editors’ most basic definition of fantasy is: “…any story in which an element of the unreal permeates the real world or any story that takes place within a secondary world that is identifiably not a version of ours, whether anything overtly ‘fantastical’ occurs during the story.” This allows for a wide variety of stories, very few of which fall into high fantasy, swords & sorcery, or other popular modern sub-genres. A large number of the stories have a folklore, fairy-tale, or tall-tale feel with all the incoherencies and random digressions common to them. Quite a few are unclassifiable other than to say that they contain a fantastical element…maybe magic realism or surrealism? Some are more didactic like beast-fables or political satire that dips into the fantastical. A few I would classify solidly in the weird/horror or pulp sci-fi categories rather than fantasy, but such things are always a matter of opinion. Overall, the editors have produced an interesting blend of the fantastical. How much you enjoy it may depend on your taste and how willing you are to give fantasy an extremely broad definition. Personally, I like a fairly coherent story even when I read fantasy, so the high number of folkloric tales, surreal stories, and small excerpts from longer books sometimes got on my nerves. However, if you’re into fantastical stories or “fantasy before there was a fantasy genre” this book is well worth your time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Sutch

    Of the Vander Meers' anthologies, this is the best yet (I haven't read the companion anthology to this one yet, so we'll see...). Unlike _The Weird" and _The Big Book of Science Fiction_, this one starts in the 1800s and gives a fairly comprehensive representation to the major strains of fantastic fiction that continue to develop through the present day. The 19th-century selections are interesting (even if some seem a little tame by today's standards), and the major influences are present: the B Of the Vander Meers' anthologies, this is the best yet (I haven't read the companion anthology to this one yet, so we'll see...). Unlike _The Weird" and _The Big Book of Science Fiction_, this one starts in the 1800s and gives a fairly comprehensive representation to the major strains of fantastic fiction that continue to develop through the present day. The 19th-century selections are interesting (even if some seem a little tame by today's standards), and the major influences are present: the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne...even if the choices I would have made for these authors aren't necessarily represented ("Hans-my-Hedgehog" by the Brothers Grimm, for example, is interesting but hardly representative of the classic fairy tale for example). Works by authors not normally connected with the fantastic are well-represented as well (WEB Du Bois, EM Forster, HG Wells, Zora Neale Hurston). There are a lot of very good non-English/American choices as well that round out the anthology and show how major fantasy trends in today's literature are produced by cross-fertilization (so to speak). I particularly enjoyed "The Nose" by Gogol and Kafka's "Metamorphosis." The only (very small) complaint I have about this collection is that there are (as usual for their anthologies) some annoying inconsistencies/breaks in common practice regarding their editorial notes. All too often, the date of publication is omitted in the editors' introductions to the individual stories and in one case a Victorian-era work is included in the early 20th-century for no good reason (they acknowledge that the piece was written around 1850 but place it in 1911, the time of its first publication instead of in the more logical time-and-place of its composition). Still, this is a very impressive and important work of curating and provides some integral texts for the early history of fantastic fiction.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Realms & Robots

    The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is the new gold standard for fantasy literary history, providing an excellent cadence of essential stories we all know and love, and often overlooked stories that are equally brilliant. I have my fair share of anthologies and this stands above the rest. Most notable are the many writers not commonly read in the West. This isn’t just a collection of stories you’ve already read, but a full compendium of imagination from all over the world. It definitely makes for a The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is the new gold standard for fantasy literary history, providing an excellent cadence of essential stories we all know and love, and often overlooked stories that are equally brilliant. I have my fair share of anthologies and this stands above the rest. Most notable are the many writers not commonly read in the West. This isn’t just a collection of stories you’ve already read, but a full compendium of imagination from all over the world. It definitely makes for a hefty volume, coming in around 800 pages, but it’s worth it. I’ve highlighted a few of the stories below, and this only skims the surface. Were I to write about every story, this would be a truly epic review: -Furnica, or the Queen of the Ants, by Carmen Sylva: a surprisingly terrifying tale of a woman making a promise to a colony of ants that ultimately ends with a horrifying life of solitude -The Big Bestiary of Modern Literature, by Franz Blei: a delightfully satirical guide that likens the major authors of the time to fantasy creatures. Some of the likenesses are complimentary and a few are hilariously unflattering. -The Goophered Grapevine, by Charles W. Chestnutt: a prime example of Chestnutt’s storytelling abilities Overall, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is an essential guide to the early days of the genre, providing a framework for the fantasy literature boom of the later twentieth century. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find many of these stories outside of this collection, and that makes it an important addition to any serious fantasy literature library. The Big Book of Classic Fantasy Ed. by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer Vintage NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    HollyLovesBooks

    This is an incredible collection of fantasy works throughout several periods in literature. This is probably the largest file I have ever received from NetGalley, so when the title says "Big Book" you can believe it. I was impressed with the scientific approach to determining what to include in this collection. The first thing was to define "fey" which the authors were clear about stating that there is a fluidity in the definition over time. What intrigued me the most about their process was the This is an incredible collection of fantasy works throughout several periods in literature. This is probably the largest file I have ever received from NetGalley, so when the title says "Big Book" you can believe it. I was impressed with the scientific approach to determining what to include in this collection. The first thing was to define "fey" which the authors were clear about stating that there is a fluidity in the definition over time. What intrigued me the most about their process was the use of what I envisioned as a mathematical chart or graph where they charted what they called "the rate of fey". This describes a work by the degree in which it involves fantasy or a fantastical element. I thought this was a clever and interesting method of looking at this genre and examining which works to include in a collection. I also enjoyed the varied authors, many were known to me as a modest fantasy reader rather than solo-fantasy reader. What surprised me, and I appreciate that they did purposefully, was to include works that were either lesser known by well-known fantasy writers as well as surprise me with writers that I knew from other genres who had written some fantasy as well. Most of these works are from the English originally but I appreciated the inclusion of the newly translated works from around the world as well. I love to have the opportunity to read work from a different cultural perspective. Fantasy will often give an interesting insight into these cultures that differs from other works of literature. Highly recommend. #BigBookofClassicFantasy #NetGalley.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Greg Kerestan

    Some books, you have to savor in small bites. Especially 1600-page anthologies of genre fiction in wildly differing styles and tones. "The Big Book of Classic Fantasy" (first in a trilogy of "big book" titles on the evolution of genre fiction) is an enormous feast, too rich to take in all at once. There were a few clunkers in the collection, but if you're summing up 500 years of storytelling from the Middle Ages up to Tolkien, that's a lot of ground to cover. My personal favorites were Christina Some books, you have to savor in small bites. Especially 1600-page anthologies of genre fiction in wildly differing styles and tones. "The Big Book of Classic Fantasy" (first in a trilogy of "big book" titles on the evolution of genre fiction) is an enormous feast, too rich to take in all at once. There were a few clunkers in the collection, but if you're summing up 500 years of storytelling from the Middle Ages up to Tolkien, that's a lot of ground to cover. My personal favorites were Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market," H. P. Blavatskaya's "The Ensouled Violin," and Madeline Yale Wynn's "The Little Room," though stranger, smaller stories like "Dance of the Comets" or "The Debutante" made a subtler impact on me. And to my great surprise, Tolkien's allegorical tale of life, art and the afterlife, "Leaf by Niggle," might be one of the best things he ever wrote (a clear influence on "The Good Place," of all things). If you're a fantasy fan, this super-sized trilogy is essential, and starting here feels like the perfect place to begin.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marianne Villanueva

    The fantasy is consistently arch, with the result that by Story #70 you've read every conceivable arch opening you will ever read in the "classic fantasy" genre. For me, the standout in this collection was Alexander Grin (who I had never read before), followed closely by Oscar Wilde ("The Remarkable Rocket") and Charles Dickens ("The Story of the Goblin Who Stole a Sexton"). Another writer I had never read before was Carmen Silva ("Furnica, or the Queen of the Ants"), who was "the Queen consort o The fantasy is consistently arch, with the result that by Story #70 you've read every conceivable arch opening you will ever read in the "classic fantasy" genre. For me, the standout in this collection was Alexander Grin (who I had never read before), followed closely by Oscar Wilde ("The Remarkable Rocket") and Charles Dickens ("The Story of the Goblin Who Stole a Sexton"). Another writer I had never read before was Carmen Silva ("Furnica, or the Queen of the Ants"), who was "the Queen consort of Romania." But Alexander Grin is really the standout. Raising this a star just for him.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Des Lewis

    Meanwhile, this work is a revelation for me. This book is full of such revelations, curated by the Revamenders and now created and recreated by each reader, I hope. This is the perfect ending to my own version of this book. It really is. The detailed review of this book posted elsewhere under my name is too long to post here. Above is its conclusion.

  29. 4 out of 5

    J. Shaskan

    Don't be fooled by the beautiful Kay Nielsen cover; this book mostly consists of dull stories of little interest to anyone other than students of the period. The problem is there are only so many fantasy stories that are of actual literary quality, but the editors apparently wanted a book of more than a thousand pages. What to do? Pad it out with a bunch of trivial and deservedly forgotten stories. Don't be fooled by the beautiful Kay Nielsen cover; this book mostly consists of dull stories of little interest to anyone other than students of the period. The problem is there are only so many fantasy stories that are of actual literary quality, but the editors apparently wanted a book of more than a thousand pages. What to do? Pad it out with a bunch of trivial and deservedly forgotten stories.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Breanne Gibson

    Thank you for the free review book, NetGalley. Fantasy is my favorite genre, and this collection is a gem. The depth and variety included in this collection of fantasy stories is impressive. This is one I will definitely be purchasing in physical format to have on my shelf!

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