All Zoe Norris wants is a job and a chance to start over again. When she stumbles across an opportunity as a travel book editor in New York City, she thinks she’s found the perfect chance. The only problem? She’s human.
Her boss is a vampire, her favorite co-worker is a water sprite, an incubus wants nothing more than to seduce her (putting a whole new spin on ‘not dating at work’), and then there’s the zombies who really are nice guys as long as they’ve had their daily brains. Despite all their differences, it’s up to Zoe to bring them all together to write a guide book for the undead and on time.
To be honest, it’s not really all that different from a normal day job.
The Shambling Guide to New York City comes to us from Mur Lafferty, host of the popular podcast, ‘I Should Be Writing’. Over the past few years, I’ve listened to her lay out the struggles and triumphs of her writing career. As a writer myself, it’s always comforting to know there are others feeling the same way that I do, which makes seeing her book all that much more sweet.
Lafferty has done a great job in constructing her version of New York City. The world of the coterie (the term ‘monster’ is offensive, thank you very much) is complex and ancient. It has its own set of currencies, means of travel, and the dining establishments are to die for (in some cases, literally). It also brushes alongside the world of humans in a remarkably believable way. The book Zoe is tasked with aims to help coterie visitors to the city navigate the border between the two worlds.
Zoe is a different type of heroine. She doesn’t wield magical powers or carry a gun with silver bullets. About all she has is her notebook and mind and that’s generally enough. She’s smart and confident, traits that serve her well as she adapts to the strange new world, and her sass lets her keep right up with co-workers no matter their strange habits, quirks, or diets. Her headstrong nature allows her to ask questions and when she doesn’t get the answer she wants, delve deeper into what is happening around her. Unfortunately, this sometimes takes her places she’d never expected and often isn’t prepared for.
But things take a twist when the new HR director arrives – a construct along the lines of Frankenstein, only with the head of one of Zoe’s ex-boyfriends. And he’s determined to make sure Zoe doesn’t last long at her new job. Then things start getting weird. Or weirder. Either way, Zoe has to tip-toe the line between the coterie and humans as it starts falling apart all around her.
Funny and sometimes terrifying, The Shambling Guide to New York City is a great introduction to a new world that’s always existed around us. Lafferty’s concept of a travel book between the undead and the living is a one of those ideas that makes writers kick themselves for not having thought of it earlier.
So if you’re looking for a new type of urban fantasy, a great new heroine, and a fun supporting cast, grab a copy. A fast paced story, it can easily be finished in a weekend sitting.
Author: Mur Lafferty
- io9 is doing a book club for Shambling Guide to New York City
- Mur is posting a podcast of this book for a limited time.
A freelance writer and full time Technology Lead at a private college, Matt Hughes holds a B.A. in English w/ Writing Emphasis & Africana Studies from Luther College. Matt writes a mix of Science-Fiction and Fantasy and is an alumni of Viable Paradise XIII. He is currently at work on a sci-fi thriller. He also writes a variety of non-fiction articles on technology, food and fitness, and health among other topics. When not at the keyboard, Matt spends his time running, gardening, or practicing martial arts. He lives in Northeast Iowa with his wife, a dog, and a cat. He keeps a blog.