Books You Need
A lot of review copies cross my desk these days, but it's been a long time since one landed with the impact of The Encyclopedia of Fantasy by John Clute and John Grant (St. Martin's Press, May 1997, $75). This is a massive book, some 1049 pages of fine print, and the companion volume to 1993's monumental Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (edited by Clute and Peter Nicholls). I haven't had a chance to do it justice with a proper review, but in the hours I've stolen to sift through it I've discovered fascinating bits of trivia, insightful analyses of some of my favorite books and authors, and in-depth discussions of trends and themes in Fantasy that will be invaluable to anyone researching the subject. But most importantly, this book avoids the greatest potential pitfall for any work this comprehensive: it is not strictly an academic reference destined for the dust-lined shelves of your local library. This book is full of lively discussion and history, with lengthy subject headings on role-playing games, comics, Christmas, cartoons and movies, to name just a few. I even found a fond reference to my favorite bookstore, the late-lamented House of Speculative Fiction in Ottawa, Canada, and a near-complete list of the young authors and fans who flourished in its circle, including Charles de Lint and John Bell. It is a gold mine for the casual reader, pointing out lost or neglected gems in almost every genre. I walked away from this book informed about dozens of books, authors and films which I have since investigated. It's not perfect -- the editors ignore one of the most popular venues on the 80's and 90's, fantasy-based computer, video, and online games such as the immensely popular Final Fantasy and Ultima series, for example. And I dearly miss the spot art and photographs that graced the first edition Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. But this is precisely the kind of book you can get lost in for days. Highly Recommended.