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The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

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Member Reviews

THE BIG BOOK OF CLASSIC FANTASY is a vast and varied anthology of fantasy literature throughout the ages. This collection took me a while to complete because I wanted to savor the stories. Readers of fantasy will find much to enjoy within this collection, from Tolkien to Poe to Dunsany to Nesbit and everyone in between.
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Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to read this ARC prior to the book's publication, but we did end up buying it for our library collection.
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A wonderful collection of classic stories. It is, of course, a curated selection and some may find favorites are missing or less-worthy stories are included, but Ann and Jeff VanderMeer are some of the best anthology editors working today and I've loved everything they've put together so far.
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The Interminable Book of Classic Fantasy

This is the second anthology edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer I've tried, and again, their editing approach drives me away. The compilation, beginning with an introduction that is a chore to read, is not unlike a PhD dissertation on fantasy; worthy of study perhaps, but not fun. I re-read some favorite authors and let it go. I looked in vain for Elric.
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This definitely felt more like an academic collection than a book to read all in one go, as it was just too huge to enjoy reading more than a couple of stories at the same time. I thought that the chronological arrangement would be interesting, and give a chance to see how the genre developed, but it actually didn't work for me at all, as it felt like there was little cohesion in how each story followed on - I would have preferred to have the anthology arranged into sub-categories, such as 'fairy tale', 'allegorical', 'magical realism', and 'Weird', all of which are represented here. I feel like this would have been easier to dip into with a more segmented arrangement. 

As always with anthologies, there will be some stories you like and some you don't. There were a few standouts for me, but far more that I didn't enjoy; this is down to personal taste, obviously, but I found a lot of the stories extremely overwritten and tedious to read, and my favourites tended to be shorter, with more modern narrators. So more misses than hits for me, but certainly an in depth overview of early fantasy.
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Great selection of short stories, selected by a great editor and a great writer. It is also massive, so I didn't have time to read them all, but enjoyed what I read. A must for fantasy and short story fans.
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This book is what it says it is: a big book of fantasy stories, by authors who have either created classics in the genre, or are well known for other types of writing but also dipped into the realm of the fantastic.

While some selections will be familiar to those well-versed in fantasy literature, others are more obscure, and the editors have made a laudable effort to counter the "Anglo bias" in most anthologies. With so many stories, if some are not to your taste, you need only move on and you'll be sure to find something that is. A real treasure for fantasy fans.
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This book is exactly as advertised- a very large volume of classic fantasy. Perfect for avid admirers of the genre, you will find well-known tales and also some new ones you may not have read before.
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An absolute must-read for fantasy fans. This is an essential volume packed with interest and beautifully presented.
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I absolutely enjoyed this book! Ann and Jeff VanderMeer do really great anthologies, and I was thrilled when I saw they were doing a fantasy collection. Their "Sisters of the Revolution" anthology was wonderful, and this one also lived up to my expectations. The selections they made for inclusion were very good (though I might have chosen "Farmer Giles of Ham" as the Tolkien piece, but that's just me) and it was fascinating to read older examples of fantasy. I really hope that the VanderMeers do more anthologies in the future because I love their recommendations.
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A beautiful and thorough collection with an excellent introduction from the editors that provided specific definitions of their terms and limitations in building this anthology while still refreshingly acknowledging the mutability and hybridity of fantasy.
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Excellent collection of fantasy stories, some well-known and others that need to be more well-known. I really enjoyed the sequential layout of this books and getting to read stories from a variety of different time periods/locations.
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I don't normally put reviews on books I've not finished, but there are certain books where finishing isn't really the point – they're more for dipping into when the mood takes one, part of the furniture of a life. For some people the Bible would be the obvious candidate, but I'm talking more things like the Anatomy of Melancholy, or the mammoth anthologies the Vandermeers somehow find time to compile on a regular basis. The other one I own from them, The Weird, I've been reading bits and bobs of for nearly a decade now, without ever feeling I should add it on here, but the situation is rather different with this one because I got it as a Netgalley ARC, and it would feel a little rude to take that long before offering any feedback. So: the title is, in some ways, slightly misleading; this is not a collection of classic fantasy in the sense of being the genre's big hits. It's more a collection of the genre's godfathers, the things we now recognise retroactively as belonging to a genre which didn't exist as such when they were written. Or at least, not-belonging less there than they would anywhere else. These are fables, tall tales, stories which went where they would with no regard for whether the outcome was technically possible. Some are by big names in the field (Mary Shelley, Verne, Nesbit), though these are seldom the pieces for which they're remembered; others one might not immediately think of as fantasy per se, though they sure as Hell aren't realism either (Hoffman, the Brothers Grimm). And still others are from writers such as Nabokov or Zora Neale Hurston, people one seldom associates with genre work, but then that's part of the point of the terrain being less defined and delineated back then. Plenty of pieces, though sometimes revered in their own lands, have never appeared in English before. All the ones I've read thus far are intriguing, albeit sometimes dated. But even at its least directly affecting, it has still the charm of wandering around a little-frequented niche museum somewhere out of the way, which is very much my idea of fun.
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I am a sucker for humongous anthologies -- if it has the words Big, Giant or Mammoth in the title, I'm gonna read it! It might take me awhile to read through a book several inches thick (or an egalley file in this case), but I'm going to read every word and savor each story. I like anthologies of short stories and novellas because every story is different....a different author, a new style, new ideas. When I come across a large anthology I really like...I take my time and savor it like a lovely vintage wine. I read one story a day...read up a little on the author and the story if it's a classic....and just enjoy. Story anthologies also let me break my own rules a little bit.... I can skip around, reading one story at the beginning of the book then jump to the middle and try another. I can stop reading a story in the middle if it's not for me...and move on to something else. I can read one tale, and then jump to a story by that same author that I find somewhere else and come back to the anthology in my own time. I'm usually a strict read-in-the-proper-order and stay-on-task person....anthologies set me free to just jump around as I please and get a good dose of whatever genre is the focus. Love it!

I love this anthology! It gathers classic writing from authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs and L. Frank Baum and also includes authors new-to-me like Franz Blei, Stella Benson and Der Nister. The stories are varied and different. For some, this is the first time the stories have been translated into English. Some of the stories veered off into the unusual or strange....and some had no real proper ending....but I didn't mind. Fantasy by its very nature is wild and fantastical. Wild doesn't lend itself to the normal or well-ordered....so I embraced the strange and just enjoyed myself. 

Interesting. Different. Lots of new-to-me writers and stories. Fun to read! It did take me a good long while to read my way through this book. It isn't a quick snack.....but a long, drawn out feast. 

Great read! Full stars from me -- it wasn't just a rehashing of old tales I had read before. But a mix of favorites and some stories I had never heard about before! :) Lovely! After writing this review, I immediately ordered my own copy of this book. It's an awesome collection of fantasy tales!

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Knopf Doubleday via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
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The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is a massive anthology of classic speculative fiction (as defined by editors Ann & Jeff Vandermeer). Released 2nd July 2019 by Knopf Doubleday on their Vintage imprint, it's 848 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

The sheer breadth and volume of this anthology is impressive. I can't imagine the legal and practical ramifications of securing even limited publication rights to the stories contained in this volume, 14 of which apparently hadn't ever previously been translated into English (and one at least which hadn't ever been previously published, full stop). The editors include a valuable introduction which touches on their criteria for inclusion in this collection including what fantasy is, for their purposes, how they limited their choices, what time period they chose (from the early 1800s to WW2) and more.

The group of authors represented in this volume is mind boggling and includes Mary Shelly, Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde, Chesterton, Kafka, Nabokov, Tolkien, Grimm, Irving, Dickens, Poe, Melville, Rosetti, Andersen; around 100 total. Some of them are extremely well known, some of them less so, all are worthy. I read a great deal and wasn't previously familiar with more than 50% of the content, probably much less.

This would make a phenomenal resource book for the home or other library or a textbook or support resource for a course on speculative fiction. I sat down and read it cover to cover over a period of weeks, interspersed with other reading and think that digesting stories one at a time worked better for me than devouring them whole. They're a very varied selection and there's literally something to appeal to every reader.

Beautifully curated, phenomenally eclectic, and classic. Five stars.
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Thank you for the free review book, NetGalley. Fantasy is my favorite genre, and this collection is a gem. The depth and variety included in this collection of fantasy stories is impressive. This is one I will definitely be purchasing in physical format to have on my shelf!
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This was a great collection, considering the variety of authors and styles, and the fact that Ann and Jeff Vandermeer succeeded in publishing an admirable number of stories that have never been translated to English before.
I did not like every story, but it is not the purpose of that book to only tell stories that are public pleasers. 
This Big Book contained stories of very well-known authors and authors I have never heard of. I liked reading short stories about those famous authors, which were often completely different from their big works, and I liked discovering new authors. 
The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is a must-have for people who love the fantasy genre and want to dive deeper than the temporary books and all known stories.
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I adore Fantasy, no ifs or buts about it. My first introduction to Fantasy were fairy tales, which showed me the magic of the everyday as well as the possibilities of the extraordinary. From there I moved to The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series. A  lot of the Fantasy I consumed was very European and very Western, and it is only in the past few years I've been able to expand on it through books like Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean. I have loved expanding my Fantasy horizons and The Big Book of Classic Fantasy was a great way of digging deeper into the diverse roots of my favourite genre. Thanks to Knopf Doubledat, Vintage and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Collections of any genre are tricky. What, and perhaps more importantly who, do you include. How do you organize it? Do you go chronologically or thematically? Do you introduce each story or do you let them speak for themselves? In the end, no single collection can encompass an entire genre or reflect all its nuances. However, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy does a brilliant job at showing just how wide the Fantasy genre is. Covering the time period from the 1800s to World War II, the Big Book gives its readers both the usual suspects and some rather unexpected ones. I was not looking for Franz Kafka in a Fantasy collection, and yet his story fits in perfectly with the other ones. The Big Book does contain many stories never  before translated into English and a few non-Western stories, but not as many as I would have liked. However, overall the collection shows how all-encompassing the Fantasy genre is and just how much variety it has to offer to its readers.

It's hard to pick a favourite story but there were a few key standouts for me. One of my absolute favourites was 'Furnica, or The Queen of Ants', which first appeared in 1893 and is written by Pauline Elisabeth Ottilie Luise Zu Wied, the Queen Consort (!) of Romania. I discovered a whole new author for me to be fascinated by and the story itself is a tragic story about 'love and responsibility'. Another favourite was 'The Ensouled Violin' by Helena Blavatsky, inspired by a nightmare and full of music, body horror and black magic. It's a stunning story that is also slighty terrifying. Another story I wanted to highlight was 'The Kingdom of Cards' by Rabindranath Tagore. I had already put down Tagore as someone I wanted to read, so his short story popped up at the perfect time. It's a great, absurdist tale that comments on the pitfalls of bureaucracy while telling a great story. There are a great number of literary gems in The Big Book and i loved discovering one after the other.

Every story in the Big Book is prefaced by a short introduction. What this does is separate one story from the other, preventing them from bleeding into each other, while also giving readers an idea of whom they're reading. This is especially useful for some of the lesser known stories and also gives the Big Book something of a didactic feel. I personally love that, but it may not be for everyone. This collection might not contain what many readers expect when they think of Fantasy. The pages aren't covered with dragons and knights and fairies and ogres. The Big Book shows the different directions people can take with this genre, the depth of topics it can explore and the varied emotions it can arouse in its readers.

I loved reading The Big Book of Classic Fantasy. The VanderMeers did an amazing job at collecting a variety of different stories and different authors. For anyone wanting to explore the Fantasy produced in the previous century, the Big Book is definitely a good start.
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A comprehensive collection of stories that are truly timeless. Compressed in an essential volume for any fan of the genre, it’s a wonderful read.
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I absolutly adored this book - i have always been a huge fan of fantasy and this one ticked all my boxes. I would recomend this to all lovers of old school fantasy
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