Welcome to the third installment of The Shambling Guide to New York City Listen-a-Long, covering both Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of Mur Lafferty’s The Shambling Guide to New York City. As usual, first up a recap of some recent news about the book, starting with last Monday’s Orbit Books interview with the author: Mur Lafferty on THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY. But the big news is, of course, as Mur writes on her own blog, that The Shambling Guide to New York City is Out!
The big release-day coverage comes from Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing, where Doctorow writes that “Mur Lafferty is one of the worst-kept secrets in science fiction and fantasy publishing. … There’s love, war, humor and a lot of heart, and by the time it’s done, you know exactly why so many writers have been buzzing about Mur Lafferty for so many years. It’s as strong a debut as I can remember reading, and I can’t wait for the follow-on volumes.” Another high-profile bit of release-day buzz comes from Mur’s guest post on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog, on the Big Idea behind the book, where she writes about its origins as a 4000-word short story for a Katrina benefit project. But! None of these posts seem to get at the fact that, hey, yeah, the book and ebook are out, sure, but the full audiobook is out as well. So, head over to Downpour or Audible or iTunes and get your copy!
As always, 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 each to listen to the podcast episodes first. On to…
The Shambling Guide to New York City: Chapter Three
by Mur Lafferty
Runtime: 37 minutes
Chapter two left us on a bit of a cliff-hanger, with Zoë pushing into a derelict below-ground theater entrance behind John, an employee of Underground Publishing. As it turns out, Zoë doesn’t need to push that last “1” on her “9-1-…” emergency phone readiness contingency plan, meeting another employee — sitting alone in a sea of chairs in the empty audience of the theater — and making her way on and then backstage of what still is, actually, a theater, though obviously not in use as one. The dressing rooms backstage, as it turns out, have been repurposed as UP’s offices, and it is into one of these, Phil’s, that Zoë heads for her interview with UP head honcho Phil.
Phil pushes Zoë a bit on her credentials, and after again, and again, warning her that, really, there’s no way she will take the job once she finds out who she’ll be writing the guidebook for — cue a fair bit of fun dramatic irony as, well, we’ve seen the book cover and read the synopsis of the book and so have a pretty solid idea on what’s coming, and Zoë has not — invites her out to dinner. Zoë, not interested in, er, that kind of dinner with a prospective boss any time soon, makes her feelings pretty clear, but after Phil’s assurances that it’s 100% business, accepts the invitation.
Now… even though these recaps are spoilerific, there are still some fun surprises here in Chapter 3 that I don’t want to spell out in detail. Faced with, well, all manner of zombies and vampires seated and waiting tables at an Italian “hole in the wall” restaurant, Zoë’s mind rationalizes this into something unexpected and, frankly, hilarious. Phil doesn’t give her too long to remain in rationality land, as a particularly spectacularly gruesome dessert is brought out to the guests at another table, Zoë has that “aha, the world is broken” moment that one has when one’s reality turns pear-shaped. Then, as Zoë tries to recover, Phil tries — and only partially succeeds, to his puzzlement — to supernaturally compel Zoë to answer his questions, which tend toward the personal rather than the professional.
After a taxi gets them to Zoë’s apartment in Brooklyn faster than is likely humanly possible, Zoë, still pretty much in shock, is left with the invitation to sleep a day on Phil’s job offer, and is met by new neighbor Arthur, who has just leased an apartment in Zoë’s building.
Chapter 3 ends with an excerpt on “Italy’s Entrails”, obviously the restaurant where Phil and Zoë have just had a glass of wine. Well, Zoë’s was wine. Phil’s was a bit darker a vintage…
The Shambling Guide to New York City: Chapter Four
by Mur Lafferty
Runtime: 18 minutes
The shorter Chapter 4 sees Zoë reflect on her job prospects and lack of knowledge about monsters, vampires, and zombies, myths and legends. So of course a trip to the library is the order of the day, where she picks up — after a bit of a snarky exchange with a librarian who attempts to divert her to the young adult section for Twilight — some of the works of Lovecraft (which she can barely make herself get through, even reading them not for enjoyment but for research) and a few assorted other books on assorted other monsters.
Meanwhile, the real debate is whether Zoë will take the job. Sure, there’s the danger of being eaten. But, well, it’s also a job, and a very interesting one — can she write travel books for monsters? Wouldn’t it be pretty cool to try it? What else was out there, if vampires and zombies and demons were real? Phil is waiting for her phone call, but she grabs her jacket and heads for the UP offices instead.
The excerpt to end this chapter focuses on Manhattan for business travel, as well as a hivemind of scrying birds so accurate that their territory has become neutral territory.
This time, I’ll give a few brief words on Mur’s narration so far. Mur tends towards the transparent, going for clarity rather than attempting highly characterized voices. She’s experienced and this is her own material, with a brisk pace and spot-on timing. The main thing to come through is Zoë’s inner voice; while this isn’t a first person narrative, it’s very close third, and Zoë is quirky, paranoid, and smart, and some of the best humor so far has been her unvoiced asides.
And, now that it’s out, I finally got my ears on the full audiobook first thing this morning. I’ve already listened to Chapter 5, which is due out on Mur’s podcast later this week. So I should be able to get these Listen-a-Long recaps out in a much more timely fashion from here on out. See you in a few days!