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The Ant King: And Other Stories
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The Ant King: And Other Stories

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  136 ratings  ·  35 reviews
"Featuring outlandish and striking imagery throughout--a woman in love with an elephant, an orange that ruled the world--this collection is a surrealistic wonderland." --Publishers Weekly

"Urbane without being arch, sweet without being maudlin, mysterious without being cryptic."--Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

A dazzling, postmodern debut collection of pulp and surreal fictions:...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 1st 2008 by Small Beer Press (first published 2008)
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The eponymous first story in The Ant King almost made me stop reading. It's a far too self-conscious, self-referential retelling of the Persephone myth; and there are several more in this collection that were similarly annoying but there are also some extraordinarily clever ones that saved this book for me (I downloaded a free version from some website many months ago so the edition represented above is for aesthetic reasons - I hate the blank, generic thumbnails otherwise).

The first story in th...more
Matthew Gatheringwater
Benjamin Rosenbaum is my new favorite writer of science fiction because...

...he imagines a waterfront district where old women cruise grandmothers' bars.
...he has written not one, but several, one-page stories that have altered my hope for the future.
...when he writes about a woman turning into gumballs it isn't a silly surrealist throw-away, but an important clue to understanding a story.
...he has re-written Sense and Sensibility in a way that makes me ashamed of my own literary pretensions.
Eric Orchard

This is the exact kind of book I'm always looking. I kind of see this collection as the storytelling equivelant of pop surrealism, whimsical, dark, insightful and deeply compelling. At times difficult and challenging at other times breezy and funny. I found the fantasy stories stronger than the science fiction ones, but that's my personal preference, I love the mystery of his fantasy stories and the strange imagery. Highly recommended.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sofia Samatar
This collection of short stories is both awesome and hard to describe--two things that tend to go together.

Imagine if Italo Calvino's ghost moved to California, planted itself on the beach and started tweeting short stories while getting seriously drunk on a cocktail of Jane Austen and the Torah. The result might be something resembling a Benjamin Rosenbaum story.

It's tone, rather than style, that makes the stories so varied. All of them are extremely well written, showing a feel for rhythm both...more
Sheila split open and the air was filled with gumballs. Yellow gumballs. This was awful for Stan, just awful. He had loved Sheila for a long time, fought for her heart, believed in their love until finally she had come around. They were about to kiss for the first time and then this: yellow gumballs.

Stan went to a group to try to accept that Sheila was gone. It was a group for people whose unrequited love had ended in some kind of surrealist moment. There is a group for everything in California.
Benjamin Parzybok
The title story is wild and line-crossing and so well written.
Evan Jensen
Definitely one of the finest fantasists I've come across
Lorina Stephens
Call me despicable, an ignoramous, whatever villainnous epithet you wish; I just didn't get these stories. I tried. I really did try.

There is very much the device of the parable in these stories, but what the moral of each story was eluded me. Rosenbaum throws aside the conventions of plot arc, character development, environmental description. In fact, he doesn't seem to use many literary conventions but those of his own devising. Which made me think: maybe I'm just too obtuse to get these stor...more
Nov 28, 2009 Alan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Doctorowvians
Recommended to Alan by: I do believe it was bOINGbOING
Surreal and pleasantly loopy. That's a good thing, right? These stories are mostly light—some very light, one-page mood pieces that reminded me more than a little of some of the better posts to the Usenet newsgroup talk.bizarre, back in its heyday in the 1990s.

Rosenbaum's already high-profile—his Acknowledgements page thanks a dozen or more luminaries of modern and post-modern sf, and his work has appeared in an astonishing range of venues whose names I recognized, from McSweeney's and Lady Chur...more
The first few stories in this book are actually the weakest in my opinion -- or maybe Rosenbaum's internal logic just made more sense to me as I read on. Many of these tales combine seemingly unrelated ideas in unexpected ways, like the incredible "Sense and Sensibility," a gloss on Jane Austen that takes place in a cosmology where planets are actually human bodies (themselves living on ever larger human bodies), and incorporates occasional metafictional asides that directly verbally abuse the r...more
I read about one-third of this story collection and enjoyed much of what I read. Rosenbaum doesn’t create traditional plots or three-dimensional characters so much as he paints weird little, dream-like fables. The best of what I read were the very short, very surreal stories “The Fig” and “Falling.” Also memorable were “The Orange,” a flash fiction piece, and “Orphans,” a riff on the classic children’s book character Babar. Some of the stories sort of put me off though. I suppose that you really...more
Lettie Prell
Please understand, my 4-star reviews should probably be 5s; 3 stars from me is like 4. Make no mistake, The Ant King is good literature. At his best, Benjamin Rosenbaum's tales remind me of Donald Barthelme's. Pieces like "The Blow", "Fig" and "Red Leather Tassels" are near-perfect surreal delights. The story for which the anthology is named is modern and unpredictable in its unfolding. I loved it. Overall, a great debut, and I'm looking forward to more.
Kelly Flanagan
ok, so I like weird. in fact, My mother warned me "Do NOT talk to strangers!" This has never been an issue for me, as I have never met anyone stranger than I am. Ever.
This book, if it were human, and therefore maybe the author himself, is almost as odd an entity as I am.
Read along my fine normal friend(s)Maybe afterwatrds, I won't be able to talk to you...
Really entertaining and inventive short stories. A vast range of wildly different narrative voices, almost all endearing and enjoyable. Many will leave you smiling.

Recommended even for those who normally eschew science fiction (the term need be applied very loosely) if you enjoy the short story form. Also, for those who love the author vs reader battle, the penultimate story is a rollicking treat.
.OTHER REVIEWERS I LIKED:.he imagines a waterfront district where old women cruise grandmothers' bars.
...he has written not one, but several, one-page stories that have altered my hope for the future.
...when he writes about a woman turning into gumballs it isn't a silly surrealist throw-away, but an important clue to understanding a story.
Includes the strangest Austen story you’ve ever seen- set in a cottage on a precancerous mole, a manor carved into a rotten molar, and the perilous journey in between. Fav story: Start the Clock, where a gang of 9 year olds (who’ve been 9 for 25 years after a virus freezes everyone at the age they were) shop for real estate in Pirateland.
In the vein of Cory Doctorow, Rosenbaum's stories are contemporary, inventive and thoughtfully referential in an original and engaging way. His reworking of Pride and Prejudice is amazing and the title story blurs the line between video games and the real world while laying waste to rampant capitalism and corporatism. Great stuff!
Contains one of my favorite short stories of all time, "The House Beyond Your Sky" (readable for free at if you're interested). Every time I read it, I see something different in it, just an amazing story. Rosenbaum is awesome and more people need to know about him!
I love this wacky writer. Every chapter is a different story of a different bird...figuratively. I don't think there are more than one bird story. He made me laugh like no other. Maybe it's the age and having children thing. Mark wasn't as keen on him.
Claudia Piña
Hay historias muy breves aquí, pero con premisas divertidas y alocadas. Presentan escenarios extraños, mucho caos y hay algunas bastante imaginativas.

Algunas son bastante olvidables, pero en general me dejo una buena impresión y varias risas.
Some stories might not be as accessible as others. A couple were on the verge of turning me off a few times, but that's only because I almost lost the patience needed to wrap my head around them. I stuck with it and was rewarded, every time.
Jeff Szymanski
The title story is a good one. I also enjoyed "Other Cities" and "A Siege of Cranes." Others are less memorable, but all in all, a decent collection. Note that this is a free eBook from :)
Read some of it. Didn't dig it. Disappointed. It's all online from Small Beer Press, if anyone else wants to read it.
Kate Sherrod
Call it 4.5 stars. This story collection contains a lot of fun, a few duds, and one magnificent bastard of a yarn "A Siege of Cranes" that is itself worth the modest purchase price.
Loved it. Very whimsical, incredible stories that relate to real life problems and some that have nothing to do with anything but are purely entertaining.
Bill Glover
These stories are at once playful and brilliantly insightful. Careful when you pick this book up. You won't put it down until it's finished.
I really some of these, mostly the really bizarro ones, but some were duds...especially the last one.
Quelques très jolies nouvelles (Falling, Siege of Cranes) et d'autres...
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