am 7. Juli 2000
WARNING: THIS REVIEW IS ANECDOTAL
I had coveted this book for quite some time before I ordered my copy. Aside from being a longtime and irredeemable fantasy geek, I am also an English teacher at a small independent school, and our reference library has a copy. This fact has enabled me to waste many happy free periods rifling through the _Encyclopedia_ instead of, say, grading papers or thinking deep, serious thoughts about the state of pedagogy in America. But before you write me off as a disgrace to my profession, hear me out:
_The Encyclopedia of Fantasy_ is a remarkable book, and any time I have spent with it in lieu of more mundane tasks is time very well spent indeed. I can even justify this frivolous perusal academically, because what really makes the _Encyclopedia_ a great resource isn't so much its exhaustive listing of authors or titles (much of which information is available elsewhere anyway), but the fact that Clute et al. have managed to accomplish nothing less than a rigorous, consistent, and phenomenally well cross-referenced taxonomy and analytical vocabulary for fantasy. I know, I know, that sounds awfully dry, but it isn't.
I'm a word junkie, so I love learning apt new terms for things, especially if those nameless concepts have gone begging for far too long. When Clute coins the term "thinning" to describe any fantasy world that, over time, loses its magic [Middle-earth, anyone?], you cannot help (assuming you're an aficionado of the genre) but say to yourself, "Aha! Now I know what to call it!" Furthermore, the fact that this vocabulary is employed consistently throughout the _Encyclopedia_ allows for thematic and formal juxtapositions of specific works, combinations and comparisons that might not occur even to the serious fantasy buff. Who needs hypertext when you've got such meticulous cross-indexing?
I recently received an Amazon.com gift certificate from thoughtful in-laws, and decided that even though I have access to a copy at school, I had to have an _Encyclopedia of Fantasy_ at home, both for reference while reading/writing and for couch-sprawl browsing.
I splurged and bought the $75.00 hardback. I had a hunch it would get a lot of use, and I wanted it to last. Money very well spent, as far as I'm concerned, and if you're a fantasy partisan, a literary theory wonk, or just someone who gets off on thousands of pages of really, really small type, you'll probably agree.
am 20. Juli 2000
Like the companion volume, "The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction," "The Encyclopedia of Fantasy" tries to include everything within its thick volume. Finally, readers can find the name of every single book ever published by their favorite authors. This is not the kind of book one reads from cover-to-cover; the sheer staggering amount of detail alone would prevent any useful retention. Rather, it is the perfect playing ground for encyclopedia tag: pick a page, read a topic, then follow the bouncing references until you get hopelessly, wonderfully entangled in ideas and authors you've never encountered before! My only minor complaints are the too-brief biographies for the authors, and the occasional over-opinionated discussion of an author's works. But even then, the book sparks curiosity by leading a reader to want to know more about an author or idea. An excellent gift for readers who constantly have a fantasy novel in their hands (and for whom you're afraid to buy a book for fear they've already read it).
am 19. April 2000
This wonderful book will give great enjoyment to anyone who loves fantasy. It is amazingly comprehensive, well-written, carefully edited and proofread, and as fair and objective as it's possible for such a book to be. In addition to the extensive coverage of authors (including those not known primarily for fantasy), it also includes a great deal of information on movies and TV. As an opera lover, I was delighted to find 24 pages on that topic. A few of the most curiosity-piquing entries are Cauldron of Story, Timeslips, Thinning, Recursive Fantasy, Rationalized Fantasy, Crosshatching, Into the Woods, Instauration Fantasy, Godgame, and Taproot Texts. Read this book to find out about all these and much, much more.
am 6. Juli 2000
This book is indispensable. It reviews major films and books and also explains the history behind fantastic ideas (vampires, etc.). Not only that but it analyses plot motifs and language. The only problem is is that reviews films and books with only slight fantasy content, to detriment of more fantasy heavy cinema. But everyone should have this book. It will make you examine fantasy from many angles and perspectives.
am 7. April 1998
To begin, John Clute and company's The Encyclopedia of Fantasy is an essential book for anyone who is serious about fantasy. Having said that, much of this review is going to focus on negatives rather than positives.
As can be expected with any book this size, mistakes have crept in. Within the first few days, I found several errors, mostly minor. A book attributed to Lynn Abbey which was written by Robert Asprin, a mistaken title for a book by Charles de Lint, that sort of thing. These mistakes, however are minor.
Perhaps a bigger problem with the Encyclopedia is the strange inclusion and omission of authors. Neither Sterling Lanier or Steven Frankos are included in the book, however Steve Szylagi, who has written a single fantasy novel has received an entry. According to Clute, the book does not claim to be as complete as its predecessor, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and the editors were forced to make some cuts. It would have been nice if he could have given some hint as to the selection criteria in the front matter. One friend suggested that if an author was included in the first book they would be left out of the second book, but too many authors appear in both books for this rule of thumb to be applied (Charles de Lint, Mervyn Peake, Larry Niven, etc.)
A larger percentage of The Encyclopedia of Fantasy is given over to thematic entries than The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Fantasy, however, has more common themes and prototypes than science fiction does, therefore making these types of entries a larger portion of any survey of the field. Still, the reader has to wonder about entries such as "Pornographic Fantasy Movies" which is so vague ("few researchers are willing to sit through the stuff...") as to be titillating rather than informative.
The Encyclopedia of Fantasy also repeats one of the faults of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. The author entries could contain more biographical data to supplement the bibliographical data already included. I'm not looking for gossip, merely some idea of what helped formulate the authors' writing.
Despite these flaws, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy is a major and important reference work. Essential to any library. Clute is still in negotiations to issue the Encyclopedia on CD-Rom. He says that if a deal goes through, he'll be able to replace author entries which were cut from the print version. The electronic format would be a welcome addition to the printed book.
am 28. Juni 1999
I've never encountered a book of this scope and excellence on fantasy. Any reader of even mild interest in fantasy or horror should blow the $$$ and not give it a 2nd thought.
At the very least, you will find 3 dozen fantasy works you've never heard of that you will be compelled to investigate. At most, new vistas will open on how fantasy is done.