Welcome to the second installment of The Shambling Guide to New York City Listen-a-Long, covering Chapter 2 of Mur Lafferty’s The Shambling Guide to New York City. First, there’s now a book trailer up, she’ll be appearing on a live chat event via Shindig.com next week, and great reviews keep popping up all over the place — like this starred review from Booklist. Before I get into the write-up: a warning, that I’ll repeat each episode, that the discussion here is oh-so-spoilerific, so if that’s a concern, pop over and take the less-than-half-an-hour to listen to the podcast episode first. On to…
The Shambling Guide to New York City: Chapter Two
by Mur Lafferty
Runtime: 24 minutes
The intro here is super brief, listing a couple of things listeners can do to show their support, such as pre-ordering the book of course, subscribing to the podcast, and counting down the three (and counting, it’s already less than two weeks as of this post) weeks until the full book and audiobook release, and detailing two launch parties, one at BaltiCon on Memorial Day weekend and the other a local event at Chapel Hill Comics, which I’ll be covering with a special post in this series. On to the chapter!
When last we left off in Chapter One, Zoë was in search of “tall caloric caffeine bomb” and fresh off being rejected not only as a buyer of strange books on keeping hellhounds, but as even being a job applicant for a job which looked pretty much perfect for her, with new travel guide publisher Underground Publishing.
We take a moment to get a little more backstory on Zoë’s path back “home” to New York City as she makes her way through said city, though she doesn’t have to go far to find “Bakery Under Starlight”, a little café only a few doors down from Mannegishi’s Tricks, the bookstore where the book opens. Things are clearly still a bit strange (in how many coffee shops will you hear “Latte for the son of a demon and a whore!” as orders are ready?) and when Zoë grabs a job posting flyer for Underground Publishing from the café’s corkboard, things get a bit stranger as a man stares at her and, echoing company CEO Phillip Rand from chapter one with “I’m not sure if that’s a good idea for you to pursue.”
It turns out that John Dickens, described as a fat man with sallow skin and limp brown hair, works for Rand in public relations at Underground. After a brief exchange, he encourages Zoë to go ahead and apply and see what happens, which she does, right there, from her BlackBerry.
Things go from strange to interesting, perhaps a bit in the ancient Chinese curse definition of the word, as “Granny Good Mae” comes into the café, an elderly woman who, it appears, the patrons and staff are nearly completely terrified of. Zoë helps her get a cup of tea, and escorts her out of the store, only to find that Granny Good Mae claims to have come to the café explicitly to see how Zoë has “grown up”, implying a previous relationship which is a complete mystery to Zoë.
Returning to her table, Zoë discovers that she’s already received a reply and an offer of an interview from Rand — in less than an hour. John offers to escort her to the company headquarters, which are just around the corner from the café in a refurbished off-Broadway theater. Which, upon examination, looks pretty much exactly like an abandoned, condemned off-Broadway theater, complete with boarded-up doors. After dialing 9-1 and holding her finger over the last 1, she follows John into a “dark hallway” and… that’s the end of Chapter Two, other than the end-of-chapter “Excerpt from The Shambling Guide to New York City”, this one on the nightlife of the Theater District.
And, a brief outtro.
Well, I’m still biased, but I’m also still very pleased. I’ve only read to the end of Chapter Two, and so starting with the end-of-chapter excerpt I’m into new territory in the novel. We’re left with some definite mysteries — exactly how weird is John, and do we need to keep worrying about some of his remarks about now wanting to work with Zoë, and more importantly who and maybe what is Granny Good Mae? — and pretty much exactly a cliffhanger, except the cliff is a boarded-up door, leading into the darkness of a condemned-looking building. So a cliffhanger without the cliff.
But! Chapter Three is already up, so there’s no need to endure the pain of not knowning for long. See you next week!