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Dancing with Bears (Darger and Surplus #1)

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  303 Ratings  ·  55 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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(showing 1-30 of 1,060)
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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
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
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja)
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
Oct 19, 2011 Ranting Dragon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ashik

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
Jan 15, 2015 zxvasdf rated it really liked it
Charismatic and weird, Dancing with Bears tries to be many things at once and you appreciate it as you'd indulge a child her antics. While I didn't reel as much as I did when reading Stations of the Tide, I had fun. This book probably would translate well to cinema.

Darger and Surplus find themselves running a con in Moscow but get caught up in a much bigger plot. At this point, the events just flow, pushing and pulling them places. This world is a strange and beautiful time, where the living see
Dec 25, 2015 Chip rated it liked it
Not nearly as fun as book 2. I'm glad I read that one first instead of this one or else I never would have read the second book. My advice? Just skip this one. It is fun and shows a lot of promise, but it is definitely a case where book one is used for the author getting his legs.
Seizure Romero
Aug 23, 2015 Seizure Romero rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. I open with that because I was about to give it only three stars due to some vague irritation I felt. Then I realized that my irritation had nothing to do with the story and everything to do with marketing and trends and people who enthusiastically follow them without review or analysis.

A digression follows.

I am working on a project involving steampunk. This novel showed up somewhere in my research (at this writing, nine people on Goodreads have shelved it as such), and I ch
Mar 13, 2016 Blind_guardian rated it really liked it
Swanwick can be somewhat formulaic, but still entertaining. Add one part distopian cyberpunk Apocalypse, one part techno-magic, and one part sex, drugs n rocks that roll, and you have the Swanwick novel. In this case, the setting is bizarro Russia, and a couple of scam artists (one of whom is a genetically engineered, bipedal, talking dog, because reasons) are looking to rob Lenin's library, but stumble into an insanely tangled web of political schemes and nihilistic machine gods seeking to exte ...more
Oct 11, 2011 Michele rated it really liked it
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
Gregory Frost
Dec 23, 2014 Gregory Frost rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 24, 2011 Tasula rated it liked it
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.
Camilo Emiliano  Rosas Echeverria
I really did not like it.
I was surprised because I usually love Swanwick, but this book wasn't a good job.
It starts with the story of two lovable rogues in a post-Apocaliptic and very imaginative Russia, but then the plot is a trainwreck. More and more characters are added, and nobody's actions are clear. The protagonists' chapters get more and more sparse, and we actually never know what was their plan.
The same thing keeps being true for every other person: the main driver of action is a plot a
Jun 25, 2016 Enid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originale e divertente, una lettura piacevole e senza troppi fronzoli. La trama scorre frenetica e non annoia mai, anche se, forse per la breve durante del romanzo, forse perché gli eventi si susseguono velocissimi, alcuni personaggi mancano di spessore. Da studentessa di russo ho apprezzato tantissimo le diverse citazioni e l'omaggio di Swanwick ai costumi tradizionali.
Oct 15, 2015 RodrigoBorgia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mio primo romanzo di Swanwick, letto sapendo tuttavia che si discosta molto da quanto scrive di solito.

Il romanzo ha i caratteri del pezzo di bravura in un contesto "new weird", con una variazione sullo steampunk che, nella mia ignoranza, ho trovato interessante: uno sviluppo futuribile del XIX secolo a base di ucronie politiche e di uno spropositato sviluppo della genomica, con robotica e informatica relegate ad ancestrale minaccia proveniente dal tempo che fu. Interessanti anche i rimpasti sto
May 03, 2016 Psychophant rated it liked it
Michael Swanwick's "Dancing with Bears" is a full novel featuring two future con men, Darger and Serplus in a post-apocalyptic/singularity earth, on a story that is a clear homage to Jack Vance.

I reread the two stories of Darger and Serplus in "The dog said Bow-wow", to get in the mood, and I actually liked them better in the short stories. However they are not the real main characters, more like catalysts/connecting thread for a fantasy story about a Russia that does not exist and probably neve
Si tratta di un libro strano, in bilico tra moltissime cose.
Talmente in bilico da risultare alla fine destabilizzante.

Siamo nel futuro, un futuro postapocalittico successivo alla rivolta delle Macchine.
L'umanità si è salvata e si è evoluta, l'ingegneria genetica galoppa a briglie sciolte e vecchi e nuovi imperi si sono formati. Bisanzio, la Russia, l'America, il Giappone...
Anche le macchine sono sopravvissute, resistendo in città nascoste e impermeabili alla vita, meditando e progettando piani m
May 01, 2015 Finrod rated it it was amazing
A wonderful novel hard to fit in a category (what about: weird fantasy futuristic steampunk?), at points highly dramatic (i.e. the “training” to become a spy of Anya Pepsicolova), sad (the life of Moscow “street” kids) to humour (lots of that, often dark or about gender stereotypes) ot folk mythology (the drugged Baba Yaga rocks!).
Also a book that (like most other great “fantasy” works) imho tells us something important about our world, and in particular religious fanaticism and the horrors of a
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
Sep 20, 2012 Chris rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Jun 10, 2011 Zvi rated it really liked it
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
Oct 02, 2015 Kylie rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
This one didn't really come together for me, though it had parts I enjoyed. I liked the con artist duo--but like another reviewer said, I knew them no better after reading the book than I did before. The world was interesting. I like the humor and the silliness. But there really wasn't too much of a plot. I would definitely read another book by this author. I'm guessing this one just isn't his best.
Mark Palermo
Jul 17, 2015 Mark Palermo rated it really liked it
This is a satiric fantasy of sorts about a period of political turmoil in Moscow. Street-level capitalism has gone crazy, and greed expresses itself as unquenched lust for money, sex, and violence. There are no heroes in Swanwick's post-utopian comedy, but some are sympathetic in that they're wittier and less vicious than everyone else.

The first hundred pages of this are spectacular, really inventive, funny, and strangely erotic in following the adventures of con artists Darger and Surplus (who
Norman Lee Madsen
Mar 10, 2012 Norman Lee Madsen rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Jun 03, 2012 Alytha rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 03, 2014 Steven Roach rated it liked it
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
Jul 04, 2012 Mathieu Chénard rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, fiction, sci-fi
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
Sep 08, 2015 DemetraP rated it it was ok
This book had the potential to be good. But instead it got bogged down and really weird towards the end.

I love con man stories. But this book had too much torture and bad times for me to enjoy it.
Oct 03, 2015 Drae rated it liked it
It's been a while since I read Stanwick's "The Iron Dragon", so I'd forgotten how quirky and mind-bending his work can be. It's a good read and it definitely kept me engaged, but it's not a world I'm wanting to revisit anytime soon.

If you like gritty, shady adventure featuring a full cast of rogues in a Russia both familiar and foreign at the same time, "Dancing With Bears" is worth a read.
Luca Rotondo
Oct 01, 2015 Luca Rotondo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Sorry but this was just too weird for me.. Post apocaliptic/fantasy is probably not my genre..
Sherry Schwabacher
Nov 04, 2015 Sherry Schwabacher rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor, sci-fi, fantasy
So much fun! Can't wait to read more of these two rogues, Surplus and Darger.
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