Friday 7 June 2013

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

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The bookstore was sandwiched between a dry cleaner’s and a shifty-looking accounting office.  Mannegishi’s Tricks wasn’t in the guidebook, but Zoe Norris knew enough about guidebooks to know they often missed the best places.
This was clearly not one of those places.
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Published by Orbit in May 2013
368 pages
Following the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel writer in New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position, though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can't take off her résumé - human.
Not to be put off by anything - especially not her blood-drinking boss or death goddess co-worker - Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her assignments turn deadly when the careful balance between humans and monsters starts to crumble - with Zoe right in the middle.
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Reviewed by Caroline Hodges
Now here’s an urban fantasy with a difference!  
Experienced travel guide editor Zoe finds herself working to a distinctly different clientele when she joins Underground Publishing.  Her new boss is a vampire, the office admin is a zombie and her office crush is an incubus, so she’s not really sure if he’s really a crush or he’s just manipulating her that way!  Tasked to produce a New York travel guide for the myriad of monsters she previously thought mythical, she finds herself entangled in the quest of one mad golem-making woman to plunge New York into chaos.
You need to suspend a lot of disbelief here, sure, what are the chances that a major catastrophic supernatural event occurs in NYC shortly after Zoe moves there, and meets monsters, and those monsters decide they’re personally responsible for preventing the disaster?  Even though, you know, there’s a massive organisation in existence to sort this kind of stuff? If you can hold in your inner pedant (I have difficulty sometimes), you’ll enjoy The Shambling Guide to New York City.
There’s plenty of good humour and nice touches, like when Morgen the water sprite orders drinks (‘Do you have Nile? Pre-pollution?’) or the peculiar obsession with certain celebrities Zombies tend to have.  Main character Zoe is herself light-hearted and optimistic which all tied together produces a book written for, and to incite, pleasure.  
For me, the action towards the end was all a bit too over the top; I found myself thinking it’d make a great comic book but didn’t seem to work too well in novel format as the rest of the book does.  I’m not sure if this is influenced by my thinking the book was more going to be about the writing of the Shambling Guide – I think Lafferty could have had more than enough fun taking Zoe around the ‘coterie’ side of New York. 
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book for the most part and will be pleased if next book ‘The Shambling Guide to New Orleans’ is the second in a series of Shambling Guide tales.   

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