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Dancing with Bears

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  188 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Dancing With Bears follows the adventures of notorious con-men Darger and Surplus: They've lied and cheated their way onto the caravan that is delivering a priceless gift from the Caliph of Baghdad to the Duke of Muscovy. The only thing harder than the journey to Muscovy is their arrival in Muscovy. An audience with the Duke seems impossible to obtain, and Darger and Surpl ...more
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published May 1st 2011 by Night Shade Books
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A Fine Post Utopian Dystopian Steampunk Romp Courtesy of Darger and Surplus

Vampire novels to the left of us, zombie novels to our right, with dystopian novels in our midst; such is the current dismal state of affairs in publishing science fiction. Most of these aren't worth the paper they are printed on, even if they are from some of our best known authors or the latest literary darlings aspiring toward artistic and commercial success, claiming to have both a firm appreciation and understanding
When I first read Swanwick’s Surplus and Darger stories in a collection of his I wished that he would craft more of them, and just maybe a full length. My wish came true. While much of the novelty and compressed energy of the stories is lost in the transition but their world is more filled out. The strange combination of biopunk grotesquery, 19th century ambiance, myths, and post-apocalyptic future combined with tales of unredeemed roguery on wider canvas, true the characters aren’t given much m ...more
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Angels Weep For Goodreads)
This was an interesting book, although some aspects were rather off-putting. I liked the vision of a post-apocalyptic Russia. This isn't a book where you can say, "Wow, that's a really good person!" Everyone is highly flawed. This is one of those books I'd love to sit down the author and ask what he was thinking when he wrote this.

Reviewed for Bitten by Books.
Ranting Dragon

Darger and Surplus are con men who have lied there way onto a caravan carrying a gift of immense value from the Caliph of Baghdad to the Duke of Moscovy. But there are obstacles in the way of getting the gift to the Duke, which embroils the characters in political schemes, the agendas of religious zealots, drug rings and so forth. So yes, this is our earth. But the difference is in the details—and there are a lot of details.

A world both familiar and alien
Halfway through when I was just thinking this is going to my list of top fav books, the author decided to steer the story into full campy mode with plenty of russian cheese (like awkward references to Baba Yaga and such folklore) :(

There's a very thin line between a fun story that doesn't take itself seriously, and a story that has gone off the edge of fun into the kingdom of silly.

It's a nice read and the pages flew by really fast, but I think if the author gave it a little more love after the
I read Bones of the Earth by Swanwick a few years ago and really loved it- it was a time travel book with dinosaurs- very memorable and I highly recommend it.

This book was strictly SF- a future Russia with machines gone wild and a plot to overthrow the ruler of Moscow. Two very amusing anti-heroes (Darger and altered dog-human Surplus) walk into the middle of a revolution. Very exciting and enjoyable.
Michele (Mikecas)


Non ho letto molto di Swanwick, e quello che ho letto e che mi ricordo non mi è piaciuto poi tanto, come I Draghi del Ferro e del Fuoco. La maggior parte dei romanzi di Swanwick possono essere inquadrati nella categoria del New-Weird, di cui è probabilmente stato l'iniziatore, e anche questo Gli Dei di Mosca ne fa parte a buon diritto. Swanwick ha sempre esibito nei suoi romanzi una fantasia sfrenata, una successione pirotecnica di trovate, accompagnata
From my blog at

Ok so, Michael Swanwick, has won a lot of awards. I loved his book "Vacuum Flowers" and I also liked two of his short stories, on of them being "Dalla Horse" I can't remember the other. Unfortunately this book was not nearly up to those standards. I give it two stars, simply because the book was well written, even if I had major issues with the plot and the characters.

The book is an extension of some short stories that Swanwick wrote (I think) about tw
A post-utopian Russian landscape (mostly Moscow) of genocidal machines, decadent aristocracy, the secret service, brutish peasants, genetically engineered concubines and giants and monsters... with an exciting plot of political treachery and religious fanaticism. I zipped through it in record time and look forward to re-reading it. The only tiny problem I have with this colourful, nasty delight of a novel is that it's not really a Darger and Surplus novel (our favorite post-utopian con men) -- t ...more
Gregory Frost
The first book of the adventures of Darger and Surplus, two exceptional grifters--one a dark and somewhat depressive Englishman, the other an intellectual canine. They cross a Europe of Swanwick's invention and, more often than not, inadevertently leave a path of destruction in their wake. Weird, erotic, wildly inventive, this is Swanwickian steampunk, which is to say, it's not steampunk, it's its own genre. Highly recommended for the discriminating fantasy reader.
Norman Lee Madsen
Sigh, I was expecting better from Mr. Swanwick. Well written and readable, but the plot is sub par - one would even say phoned in. A rather silly and fluffy Weird SF tale that might have been better served if the author had gone whole hog towards the weird rather than reach for verisimilitude.

It rather reminds me of a Bond movie. Unfortunately not the Sean Connery or Daniel Craig iterations, but rather the Roger Moore years. By that I mean a very silly, over the top story that strives to be sexy
This is really really good.
It continues the adventures of the con men Surplus, the genetically modified anthropomorphic dog, and his friend Darger. If you read the previous short stories, you'll know that they, mostly through no fault of their own, drag a trail of fire and destruction on their travels through postapocalyptic Europe.

Now, they find themselves delivering a priceless gift to the Duke of Muscovy...chaos ensues.

Swanwick is an author who needs and deserves much more love and recognitio
Steven Roach
Fun read. Flashman in a world after the robot revolution has returned the world to a pre electric age but with more advanced biotech. One of the 2 main characters is a dog who is bipedal with human intelligence.
Mathieu Chénard
This book was not what I was expecting. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world and this world is full of various things related to sci-fi like genetically engineered soldiers and genocidal AIs. But it is not a sci-fi book per se. Nor is it a post-apocalyptic book. It really comes down to an adventure book about 2 con men trying to get their hands on Russia's treasures after grafting themselves to a Byzantium governement caravan. It has good dialogues, it has interesting events and characters but ...more
Lord Humungus
A very entertaining romp featuring Swanwick's recurring swashbuckling odd couple, Darger and Surplus. The partnership between rogues is reminiscent of Leiber's Gray Mouser stuff, and consequently, Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road. Also, the wacky antics and bedroom comedy remind me of Richard Lester's 70's Musketeer movies, films that I loved as a kid.

Parts of the book were surprisingly gruesome and violent but only because the rest of the book wasn't as grim.

Overall, really dug it and loo
Micheal Swanwick's Dancing With Bears is just so damn good. It's a pure sci-fi romp, carving out some sort of indefinable territory between cyber and steampunk. Confidence tricksters Dargle and Surplus help wreak havoc in postutopian Moscow! Packed with ideas, told with the wit and expertise of a born writer, it's one of the best books of the year so far. I hope Swanwick has a wheelbarrow for al the awards this'll win, and deserves to have aother one full of money, too.
David Marshall
This is an excellent conflation of fantasy and science fiction in a post-apocalyptic setting as Darger and Surplus, two mismatched conartists, try to finagle a way to riches. For once, this is humour that does cross cultures. For me, this is the most fun I've had as a reading experience so far this year.
Vinnie Tesla
Dark, bloody, unabashedly silly, intricate, inventive, colorful and fast-moving. Swanwick fills this book with sparkling, quirky dialogue; a blistering loathing for religion; wall-to-wall psychoactive drugs, gruesome killings, and vaguely-described orgies; and a snarled mass of plot threads. Great, propulsive fun to read, but not ultimately all that satisfying.
Strange. Interesting. Reserving judgement until I'm finished.
I finished, and I'm still not sure what I think of it. I feel like it was a rollercoaster ride that I got on in the middle of, and off before it got to its final destination. So many unanswered questions about a lot of the characters. An interesting read.
There might be a good book hiding inside this book but I didn't find it. A semi-apocalyptic novel set in a post singularity Russia. Drugs, Sex, Neanderthals, clever but pointless writing, malevolent artificial intelligences reincarnating Lenin - yes if you name it, it might be in here. But a decent story is not.
Not as in love with this as I am Swanwick's other books. As always, his style and sense of humour amused and entertained, but I felt I did not know the characters of Darger and Surplus well enough. There are short stories featuring them, apparently. Might make sense to read those first.
A strange and unique book. Swanick's characters Darger and Surplus remind me of Vance's Cugel--which is a good thing. However, the rapid, random POV changes sapped the story of momentum. Gritty and well-written as it is, the story still gets lost. 3 1/2 stars.
Samuel Lubell
Feb 27, 2012 Samuel Lubell added it
Shelves: sf
A Dagger and Surplus novel about the misadventures of two con men (one genetically engineered from canine genes) in a future, post-Collapse Russia. Not Swanwick's best work. Not bad, but I expect better from Swanwick.
I wouldn't have minded the silliness if the prose had been better. Hard to believe this was written by the same guy who did Stations of the Tide.
Post Apocalyptic Russia, Zombie Lenin, Killing machines, neanderthals, 7 virgins, a dog faced man, Baba Yaga, and a Giant Duke(3.7)
Oct 04, 2011 !Tæmbuŝu marked it as to-read
Shelves: fantasy-scifi
Reviewed by Strange Horizons
Mar 21, 2012 CS rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: scifi
Not as deep or far-reaching as Stations of the Tide, but a really fun, smart adventure story. Very enjoyable.
Harald Punz
Not my favorite Swanwick book. Still a good read though.
Three stars only compared to his other work.
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