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HebrewPunk [Paperback]

Lavie Tidhar
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

30 Aug 2007
Lavie Tidhar gathers some of his best work in one collection. Stories that are infused with centuries of tradition and painted with Hebrew mythology. We meet the Tzaddik as he faces off against a vengeful angel intent on sending the Fallen to hell. The shape shifting Rat fights lycanthropic Nazis. The Rabbi takes us on a thoughtful and amusing journey into the possibilities of a Jewish state in the heart of Africa. Finally, all three protagonists appear in an old-fashioned caper story that will leave you breathless.

Table of Contents
“The Heist”
“Transylvania Mission”
“Uganda”
“The Dope Fiend”

Special introduction by Laura Anne Gilman

"How well I recall, as a lad aged some ten years, circa 1937, reading Lavie Tidhar’s stirring adventures in such pulps as Thrilling Hebrew Tales and Yiddish Excitement Quarterly. Even then, these tales possessed a fascinating air of archaic menace and occult power. Now, some seventy years after their original publication, they positively radiate the uncanny sensibilities of a bygone era. What a cast of characters—the Rabbi, the Rat and the Tzaddik, as memorable as Doc Savage and his crew! And what a set of venues—the London underworld, the African jungles, and more! Plus robust menaces galore! Lavie Tidhar surpassed those who went before him, such as H. Rider Haggard, and inspired those who came after, viz, Avram Davidson and Alan Moore. Having these rousing romps gathered at last into the volume HebrewPunk marks a milestone in the literature of the fantastic."
—Paul Di Filippo, author of The Emperor of Gondwanaland and Other Stories

"Lavie Tidhar has staked out (no pun intended) his own territory by imagining a Judaic mystical alternative history into which he injects vampires, zombies, werewolves, Tzaddiks, golems, and Rabbis. These four stories are wondrous, adventurous, and thought-provoking."
—Ellen Datlow, editor of The Year’s Best Horror

"Here we have stories of Tzaddik, The Rat, the Rabbi... Lavie is mining ancient traditions and recent history to write stories of modern despair and a weird sort of redemptive compassion, messing with our expectations and always, always, leading with our humanity, even when those heroes are, by some standards, monsters."
—Laura Anne Gilman, author of Burning Bridges

"Lavie Tidhar has a unique and fascinating voice, as well as a good sense of history— both History Surreal and History Literary, as well as the more mundane kind. Imagine Hard-Boiled Kabbalah, a Godfather Rabbi whose gang includes vampires, werewolves and (naturally) golems. If you like your otherworld fun noir, have I got a book for you!"
—Kage Baker, author of In the Garden of Iden

"I did read the book, and the good thing is that I loved it—kick-ass kosher adventures. Tidhar writes a sort of intensified supernatural action-surrealism that fair rattles along and is full of surprises—not only plot-twists and thrills, but a level of conceptual surprise, a reinvigoration of some of the more tired conventions of the fantasy-horror genre. Zombies, golems, werewolves, Rabbis, Kabbala, it’s all here, and all saturated with a sense of exotic roundedness, an eerie solidity and reality. Not to be missed."
—Adam Roberts, author of Gradisyl

Product details

  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Apex Publications (30 Aug 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0978867645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0978867645
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 236,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive & versatile collection! 2 May 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
HebrewPunk (2007) is a collection of four short stories by Lavie Tidhar. The stories all feature a cast of supernatural Jewish heroes - drawn from Hebrew mythology and literary lore. Lest that specialist focus sound dry and un-entertaining, don't let the concept scare you: HebrewPunk is a fun and (mostly) accessible collection of catchy alternate history.

The volume's opening story, "The Heist", sets up the collection nicely. First published in 2005, "The Heist" is a streamlined, occult version of Ocean's Eleven. Some folks need to break into a highly-defended blood bank, so they call "The Rabbi" - the ultimate macher (Yiddish for "fixer" or "schemer"). The Rabbi makes a few calls of his own - Jimmy the Rat (Vampire), The Tzaddik (formerly one of the 36 Tzaddikim that preserve the order of the world) and Goldie (his pet golem). This foursome needs to pull off the theft of the century - breaking through the bank's defenses (natural and supernatural) and making off with the prize.

Of the four stories, "The Heist" is the most fun and, arguably, the least cerebral - mostly because the style Mr. Tidhar has chosen to pastiche is that of the accessible, action-packed adventure. The four heroes do their thing, patter some patter and charismatically ooze their way towards the conclusion.

The second story, "Transylvania Mission", was first published in 2004 and stars Jimmy the Rat. Jimmy is hiding deep in the hills of Romania during World War 2. He's allied with a group of local partisans, who carefully do their best to ignore Jimmy's vampirism. They all have worse things to worry about. In this story, the fiendish Doctor Mengele brings some of his elite Werewolf Corps to the region in the hopes of raising the spirit of Dracula.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Versatile & clever collection 2 May 2011
By J. Shurin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
HebrewPunk (2007) is a collection of four short stories by Lavie Tidhar. The stories all feature a cast of supernatural Jewish heroes - drawn from Hebrew mythology and literary lore. Lest that specialist focus sound dry and un-entertaining, don't let the concept scare you: HebrewPunk is a fun and (mostly) accessible collection of catchy alternate history.

The volume's opening story, "The Heist", sets up the collection nicely. First published in 2005, "The Heist" is a streamlined, occult version of Ocean's Eleven. Some folks need to break into a highly-defended blood bank, so they call "The Rabbi" - the ultimate macher (Yiddish for "fixer" or "schemer"). The Rabbi makes a few calls of his own - Jimmy the Rat (Vampire), The Tzaddik (formerly one of the 36 Tzaddikim that preserve the order of the world) and Goldie (his pet golem). This foursome needs to pull off the theft of the century - breaking through the bank's defenses (natural and supernatural) and making off with the prize.

Of the four stories, "The Heist" is the most fun and, arguably, the least cerebral - mostly because the style Mr. Tidhar has chosen to pastiche is that of the accessible, action-packed adventure. The four heroes do their thing, patter some patter and charismatically ooze their way towards the conclusion.

The second story, "Transylvania Mission", was first published in 2004 and stars Jimmy the Rat. Jimmy is hiding deep in the hills of Romania during World War 2. He's allied with a group of local partisans, who carefully do their best to ignore Jimmy's vampirism. They all have worse things to worry about. In this story, the fiendish Doctor Mengele brings some of his elite Werewolf Corps to the region in the hopes of raising the spirit of Dracula. Jimmy (despite being a vampire himself) thinks that Mengele is a madman, but the opportunity to foil the Nazis and poke a few holes in the sadistic villian is simply too rich to pass up.

Again, Mr. Tidhar adopts a different genre and style. "Transylvania Mission" is much grimmer and more direct than "The Heist" - a dark tale of dark doings told in the straightforward, masculine fashion of war stories. It features hard-bitten warriors doing their best against insurmountable odds. Good war stories are often about men becoming "monsters" for their cause (or just to survive). In the case of "Transylvania Mission", this is taken literally. I've always found the use of Nazis in genre to be a touchy one - there's always a danger that the real horror gets eclipsed by making it supernatural. Doctor Mengele, historical figure, is worse than anything dreamed up in fiction and I don't want to see him overshadowed or made un-menacing by Warlock Mengele, cackling priest of Cthulhu. There's no hard and fast rule on when genre Nazis are "appropriate", but if there were, it would be more a matter of tone than subject. Fortunately, Mr. Tidhar keeps Mengele at arm's length. Despite the inherently goofy proposition of Mengele raising the dead, the language of the story prevents the reader from finding any part of it too silly. It is a grim story, grimly told, and Mr. Tidhar weaves real and imaginary horrors together to ensure that the real evil is taken as seriously as possible.

The third tale, "Uganda", finds the versatile Mr. Tidhar donning a third hat. First published in this volume, the story revisits The Rabbi and his work with the 1903 "Uganda Proposal". In real life, Theodor Herzl had provisional agreement from the British government to create a Jewish state in East Africa. The ultimate aim of Zionism would continue to be a state in Israel, but given the movement's lack of success (and the wave of European anti-Semitism), Herzl was exploring alternatives. In Mr. Tidhar's version of events, "Uganda", Herzl finds The Rabbi and asks him to follow (discreetly) the expedition that would be exploring Africa and judging whether or not it would be a feasible Jewish homeland. The Rabbi agrees and winds up going much further than he ever expected.

The Rabbi finds a powerful and spiritual land, with its own tribes (lost and found). He also stumbled upon visions of possible futures - containing potential for both greatness and disaster. The story is Mr. Tidhar's own expedition into the realm of magical realism, a serious and slightly-ponderous style that allows him to mix past, present and possibility. Of the four stories in the volume, "Uganda" is probably the least enjoyable of the lot. It has a lot to say (although both Mr. Tidhar and his protagonist avoid being blatant with their own feelings) and it wraps its message inside h the collection's most complex narrative structure. "Uganda" is also the most ambitious in terms of being an alternate history, as it is packed with references to characters both real and mythological.

The final story, "The Dope Fiend" (2005) is the very noir tale of the Tzaddik and his battle against a London drug ring. Like the previous story, "The Dope Fiend" is set in a very narrow historical period and packed with specific references - in this case, the early 1920s and the death of West End actress, Billie Carleton. Edgar Manning, Carleton's boyfriend and a jazz drummer from Jamaica, is freshly out of prison and looking to solve the mystery of her death. The Tzaddik gets involved when he learns that a supernatural power may be behind the scenes - one that even scares the 36 current Tzaddikim. "The Dope Fiend" combines the noir tropes of love, betrayal and, of course, a femme fatale. It also skillfully mixes the mythology of three cultures: Jamaican, Chinese and Jewish. The result is a story that's probably the best of this collection - a unique mixture of human history, occult lore and stylish prose.

This story allowed Mr. Tidhar to show off his impressive historical and occult knowledge in a compelling, empathetic story. It is gritty, complex and layered with mythology, but ultimately, it is a very human and personal tale. If the other stories were built around historical moments or clever plots, "The Dope Fiend" was built around compelling characters. Of all the talent on display in this highly recommended collection, this is the story that I will return to again and again.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Jewish Take on Urban Fantasy 7 Feb 2009
By Michele Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"The Heist" is an excellent theme setter for this collection. This story has an urban fantasy flavor, only instead of the default setting of the world being based in nature worship-style paganism or Christianity the magic comes from a very distinct Jewish flavor.

Jimmy the Rat (a Jewish vampire), The Tzaddick (an immortal), The Rabbi (a powerful Jewish mystic) and his wickedly constructed golem Goldie come together to take down a mysterious and magical blood bank. Along the way they encounter peculiar versions of zombies and angels and a fortress that will boggle readers with its incredible level of security. It's the motley crew's job to break the fortress, to take down the blood bank and of course, collect their fee.

From there HebrewPunk moves to stories focusing on the trio individually.

"Transylvania Mission" pits The Rat against a band of Nazi werewolves searching for Dracula in the hopes of enlisting his help in their war. More could be said, but that, and awesome, sums up this tale.

"Uganda" mixes the Jewish flavor with distinct African ingredients. In this tale it's the turn of the century and The Rabbi is asked to investigate a tract of land in Eastern Africa which some people hope will become a new Jewish Homeland. Recognized as a mystic by a local tribe, he walks with them, getting a glimpse into the truth of the land, and possibly even the future. While this is a solid, interesting and richly flavored tale it feels unfinished at the end, perhaps because it's written as if compiled by a third party from multiple sources, a style that lends better to longer works.

Finally comes The Tzaddick in "The Dope Fiend", a 1920s set tale of voodoo and ghosts and how they surface in the Jewish mythos. Unfortunately this one is the weakest of the four. There are many major secondary characters that move in and out of the story, playing fairly important roles, but there's a feeling to them as if the reader should know who they are. It's not, however, guaranteed that they will.

Also a point of discontent with this story is The Tzaddick himself, who often comes off as if being a drug addict is all that he is. While there is a level of realism to this portrayal, in this story it keeps the reader from connecting with The Tzaddick as anything but a drug addict. This, and the previously mentioned crew of secondary characters, overpower the plot itself, as if Tidhar had more fun writing the characters than the story.

Altogether HebrewPunk is a collection that reveals interesting possibilities, especially for the Urban Fantasy genre who should sit up and take notice at how much space there still is in the genre outside the realm of nature based magic systems and romance melodramas.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HebrewPunk Rocks! 17 Sep 2007
By Preston Halcomb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Combining Jewish mysticism with pulp adventure, HebrewPunk makes for a thrilling ride. The introductory story introduces you to the main characters, with each subsequent story telling you an episode in the life of that character. First you have The Rabbi, a kabbalist with a Golem for a side kick. Then there is Jimmy the Rat, a Jewish vampire with no problems with crosses but an allergy to gold. Finally there is the Tzaddik, an immortal with special gifts. This collection is by FAR worth the price. It is one of the best things I've read this year. My favorite story from the collection is Uganda, featuring a trip into the deepest dark of Africa of the early 1900s. The Rabbi's journey is atmospheric enough to rival any other Heart of Darkness.
4.0 out of 5 stars More greatness from Lavie Tidhar 28 Jan 2014
By D. Schwent - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
HebrewPunk is a collection of tales by Lavie Tidhar, tales steeped in Hebrew mysticism.

I first encountered Lavie Tidhar with The Bookman and was eager to see what else he had going on. When I saw this, I was pretty excited. Then I let it sit unread for over a year. Go figure.

Anyway, HebrewPunk is a collection of four tales from Lavie Tidhar, all involving characters or situations influenced by Hebrew lore. You've got a heist story featuring a Rabbi planner, a vampire burglar named Jimmy the Rat, a golem named Goldie and a Frankie the Tzaddik, a wandering Jew, attempting to rob a blood bank, of all things. The other stories are as compelling, like an expedition for a proposed Jewish city-state in the mountains of west Africa, to Jimmy the Rat fighting Nazi Wolfkommandos in World War II Transylvania.

The stories are fairly pulpy and very entertaining. Throughout, I was reminded of Edward Erdelac and his Merkabah Rider series, another Hebrew-themed pulp series. Fine company for a book this good. It's hard to believe this was Tidhar's debut. It's that polished and that well-written.

If I had to gripe about something, it would be that this book wasn't about ten times as large. Four six-pointed stars! I want more HebrewPunk!
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