on 15 July 2008
This is a delightful book. The entries are, on the whole, well written in a sort of "travel guide" fashion, with occasional snippets of advice for individuals visiting the places described. There are maps provided of many of the locations, which are universally excellent. Unfortunately, there are glaring gaps in the work's coverage, the reasons for which are never made clear. There's no sign of Moorcock's Melnibone, for example, nor any of Howard's Hyborian or Thurian kingdoms; Burrough's Pal-ul-don and Pellucidar are there, but not Barsoom or Amtor. Whilst there may be copyright issues in some cases, it is interesting that the authors have managed to cover Middle Earth, Narnia, Earthsea, Hogwarts, etc, with little difficulty.
An excellent guide as far as it goes, and very useful for tracking down all those places mentioned in the almanac at the back of the "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", volume 2, the omissions take it down from five to four stars.
This hefty tome is an absolute must for anyone with a love of the fantastical and bizarre in their reading matter. The authors have taken some of the most famous imaginary locations from classic fantasy fiction and described them as though they were real places you could visit, complete with maps and some very atmospheric line drawings. You get all the famous ones here, such as Tolkein's Middle Earth, Gormenghast Castle, Hogwart's School, plus the sinister town of Arkham used by H P Lovecraft in some of his stories, Sir Thomas Moore's Utopia, and Skull Island (home of King Kong). The inclusions are of an impressively broad scope, ranging from Noddy's Toy Town (!) to the Marquis de Sade's Chateau Silling in "120 Days of Sodom"! But this only serves to make the book even more of an unexpected delight, and one you will never get tired of dipping into. The authors have certainly done their homework well.
on 9 October 2011
As a long-time reader of fantasy this book is just the sort of thing I like. The authors provide a deadpan guide to invented places, explaining their geography (in many cases with maps) and what life is like there just as if they had visited themselves and wanted to let you know what you should expect when you go. As well as the obvious examples (Middle-Earth, Gormenghast, Harry Potterland, the countries visited by Gulliver, Earthsea...) there are dozens or hundreds of places that were new to me. I wish I really could visit many of them, and of course it makes a splendid collection of suggestions for further reading. Where else would I have heard of Cacklogallinia, the island of satirical giant chickens in the Caribbean? Though where I'll find a copy of the book that introduced it, published nearly three hundred years ago, I can't imagine. I am sure this book would bore a lot of people, but if you have my sort of taste for the imaginary, it's a joy. You can open it anywhere and be fascinated.
on 27 April 2011
This book is a very good source of harmless amusement for those interested in fantastic places, and the consequences of the fantasy put on them by the writers of all ages.
The authors have made varied selection of imaginary places, and have even engaged an engraver to put face to many of them (very good drawings, that look very much like those one can find in a XIX century book). Thus, the reader can find very good excepta of places such as Utopia, Oz, etc. So far, so good. One can read no place upon place, their strange customs, their peculiar leaders, etc.
The less likable part is that the constraints set by the authors leave some good places. The authors don't include places that are clearly actual places (like Brideshead) or places not to be found on Earth (like those created by sci-fi authors). Thus, their collection is somewhat restricted to older authors, like Rabelais. There's also a very ample reference to Middle Earth, which I find somewhat too extensive, because any LOR fan surely know those places by heart. Some other modern references, then could be more expanded: there's a reference to Hogwarts, but very little else concerning the JK Rowling universe or the Mortal Engines or other sci fi classics like HG Wells, etc.
Good book, worth buying, but somehow I had expected something funnier from Mangel (his History of Reading is a true, delightful masterpiece)