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The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  87 ratings  ·  40 reviews
From Ann and Jeff VanderMeer--esteemed editors of The Big Book of Science Fiction and scholars of the fantastic--comes a globe-spanning anthology that unearths the origins of fantasy fiction. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL.

From the fairy tales we first heard as children, fantasy stories have always been with us. They illuminate the odd and the uncanny, the wondrous and the fantastic:
Paperback, 848 pages
Published July 2nd 2019 by Vintage
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  87 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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4.5 stars

An exceptional selection of fantasy stories ranging from the 18th century to the first decades of the 20th century, and encompassing most continents. Many of the classic stories and authors are here (Hoffmann and Hawthorne, Grimm and Gautier, Meyrink and Machen) but there are also a significant number of remarkable and little known works and writers, some never before translated into English. As someone already very familiar with the fantasy canon, these lesser-known works were the most
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am a sucker for humongous anthologies -- if it has the words Big, Giant or Mammoth in the title, I'm gonna read it! It might take me awhile to read through a book several inches thick (or an egalley file in this case), but I'm going to read every word and savor each story. I like anthologies of short stories and novellas because every story is different....a different author, a new style, new ideas. When I come across a large anthology I really like...I take my time and savor it like a lovely ...more
Mel (Epic Reading)
Apr 01, 2019 is currently reading it
Shelves: arc-netgalley
Certainly I’ll have read a fair few of these stories before. But 14 unpublished in English until now!! Count me in!
eARC received. Read and review to come closer to publication date.
Sydney S
Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC.

So this is a great compendium, and one I’ll definitely buy when it’s released, but it has flaws. I appreciate the variety of stories here, most of which I had never read, but a lot of them didn’t have satisfying endings and they’re all super weird. I love that they’re weird, but some of the endings annoyed me. I think a lot of it has to do with them being translated to English. Overall, I think this is an awesome collection of classic fantasy, fairy tales and
Janne Janssens
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a great collection, considering the variety of authors and styles, and the fact that Ann and Jeff Vandermeer succeeded in publishing an admirable number of stories that have never been translated to English before.

I did not like every story, but it is not the purpose of that book to only tell stories that are public pleasers. This Big Book contained stories of very well-known authors and authors I have never heard of. I liked reading short stories about those famous authors, which were
Keith Chawgo
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Big Book of Classic Fantasy has something for everyone is the quintessential book of incredible short story fantasy. Including the works of Kafka, Benson, Tolkein, Sakutaro and Wells is just the tip of this glorious mountain of work. You will find extraordinary stories of fiction written from the past including a whole host of literary geniuses.

The classic fantasy collection has an incredible focus on including works of fantasy across many time frames which also has Rip Van Winkle and Poe an
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, perused
Some good gems in this here book.
Alex Sarll
Aug 16, 2019 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I don't normally put reviews on books I've not finished, but there are certain books where finishing isn't really the point – they're more for dipping into when the mood takes one, part of the furniture of a life. For some people the Bible would be the obvious candidate, but I'm talking more things like the Anatomy of Melancholy, or the mammoth anthologies the Vandermeers somehow find time to compile on a regular basis. The other one I own from them, The Weird, I've been reading bits and bobs of ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available to purchase on July second.

In case it isn’t painfully obvious based on my other blog posts, I love fantasy of every kind. I was so excited to delve into this collection of stories, some that are well-known to me, and many others that I read for the first time.

And let me tell you; this selection is vast. The editors went through a ton of effort to gather a varied representation of an e
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
808 pages of classical fantasy: new and old. Multiple authors representing the foundations of the genre. A long haul, but imminently worthwhile to the reader.
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Firstly, let's be clear: when the editors call this a big book, they're not kidding around. It's enormous.

"Classic" fantasy here extends from the late 18th to the mid-20th century, and the stories (and excerpts from novels) are arranged chronologically, so patterns emerge naturally as you read through. The early stories are not what we think of as short stories today; they're narrations of a series of events, and the characters are barely characters at all, just names with a couple of qualities
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

The editors define classic fantasy to include stories written between the early 1800s and WWII. They attempt to represent the natural diversity of the genre (which they point out is far more extensive than what most readers might assume, given the conservative biases of many other anthologies), while being mindful of how many of the stories of this era have aged (for example, in rega
Dan Trefethen
Aug 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, anthologies
First, let's define our terms.

The Vandermeers define “classic fantasy” as strange tales written between the early 1800s and WWII, when the concept of the 'fantasy' was being formed. They do not mean “classic” in the sense of “works that are widely accepted as the definitive works in the field”. There are actually very few of those works in this book (Kafka's “The Metamorphosis” one of the notable exceptions), since they saw it as boring to reprint the famous fairy tales and fantasies that everyo
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Originally published on my blog: Nonstop Reader.

The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is a massive anthology of classic speculative fiction (as defined by editors Ann & Jeff Vandermeer). Released 2nd July 2019 by Knopf Doubleday on their Vintage imprint, it's 848 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

The sheer breadth and volume of this anthology is impressive. I can't imagine the legal and practical ramifications of securing even limited publication rights to the stories contain
Joel Mitchell
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Having read and greatly enjoyed Ann & Jeff VanderMeer’s massive anthology entitled The Weird, I jumped at the chance to review another one of their tomes. This volume collects “classic fantasy” stories (and excerpts from longer books) ranging in date from the early 1800’s up until World War II when fantasy became more of a defined genre. The blend of authors includes classic fantasy/sci-fi/weird writers, classic literary legends dabbling in the fantastical, and many authors less known to the Eng ...more
Realms & Robots
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is the new gold standard for fantasy literary history, providing an excellent cadence of essential stories we all know and love, and often overlooked stories that are equally brilliant. I have my fair share of anthologies and this stands above the rest. Most notable are the many writers not commonly read in the West. This isn’t just a collection of stories you’ve already read, but a full compendium of imagination from all over the world. It definitely makes for a ...more
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredible collection of fantasy works throughout several periods in literature. This is probably the largest file I have ever received from NetGalley, so when the title says "Big Book" you can believe it.
I was impressed with the scientific approach to determining what to include in this collection. The first thing was to define "fey" which the authors were clear about stating that there is a fluidity in the definition over time. What intrigued me the most about their process was the
Ralph Blackburn
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, Ann and Jeff Vander Meer Ed.- As they did with the Big Book of Science Fiction, the Vander Meer's have fashioned a large volume of early classical fantasies. Not much swords and sorcery here, no Conan, no Elric, just as it states, classic fantasies of the likes of Washington Irving, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe and many more. Also early fairy tales from different countries around the world add a new dimension to the classic tale. It's a really b ...more
Dec 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Eclectic collection of stories. And a lot of really good stories. Some of my favorites:

Iktomi Tales by Zitkala-Sa. This makes me wonder how big an influence Dakota folktales were on Jack Vance's creation of Cugel the Clever.

The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan by W.B. Laughead. I have loved Paul Bunyan stories since early childhood.

The Shadow Kingdom by Robert E. Howard. I am a huge fan of the Kull of Atlanta series.

The Jewels in the Forest by Fritz Lieber. I love Fahfrd and Gray Mouser stories
Lory Hess
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is what it says it is: a big book of fantasy stories, by authors who have either created classics in the genre, or are well known for other types of writing but also dipped into the realm of the fantastic.

While some selections will be familiar to those well-versed in fantasy literature, others are more obscure, and the editors have made a laudable effort to counter the "Anglo bias" in most anthologies. With so many stories, if some are not to your taste, you need only move on and you'l
Breanne Gibson
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you for the free review book, NetGalley. Fantasy is my favorite genre, and this collection is a gem. The depth and variety included in this collection of fantasy stories is impressive. This is one I will definitely be purchasing in physical format to have on my shelf!
Sep 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Review forthcoming at Spectrum Culture.

(Short version: the stories here are great but the method for inclusion is a mess; the VanderMeer's seem to be mining their unimpeachable anthology The Weird to diminished results; still very much worth owning, though.)
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
DNF, I tried, but the type is so tiny and it's so long, I finally gave up and took it back to the library. There's some great stuff in here, and I will probably eventually buy a copy so I can finish it and go back to spend more time with some stories.
Alexis Stankewitz
Aug 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Very interesting collection of classic fantasy stories,alot of them I actually hadn't heard of before reading this collection.
Robert Scott
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Only partially finished at page 522. Returned to library. Will Check out again.
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a great anthology to help me explore other famous writers of fantasy. I loved the tale by Mary Shelley.
Jan 24, 2020 marked it as long-term-hold
Part of a larger plan
Christian McKay
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fantasy
Beautiful, terrifying, strange, uplifting. Everything. Seriously.
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Somewhat disappointing, I was expecting more sword and sorcery adventure. Much of the book is not what I think of as traditional fantasy. There are stories of the surreal and strange, including the over-anthologized "Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka, but not much to scratch a Tolkien itch. While some stories are fun discoveries, many are tedious. "Dance of the Comets: An Astral Pantomime in Two Acts" by Paul Scheerbart is particularly hard to get through. Most of it reads as stage direction and tec ...more
Ehhhhh, I dunno. VanderMeer is not an authority on anything relating to fantasy (attending terrible fantasy writer's workshops doesn't count) and any collection of literature labeled "classic fantasy" arguably shouldn't include Hawthorne, Melville, Gogol, Cather, Tolstoy, Du Bois, Nabokov (?!?!).

The introduction makes a really weak argument for including anything even vaguely fantastical as "classic fantasy" but hopefully any sane person would agree that Leo ****ing Tolstoy is not a fantasy wri
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Ann VanderMeer is an American publisher and editor, and the second female editor of the horror magazine Weird Tales. She is the founder of Buzzcity Press.

Her work as Fiction Editor of Weird Tales won a Hugo Award. Work from her press and related periodicals has won the British Fantasy Award, the International Rhysling Award, and appeared in several year's best anthologies. Ann was also the founder

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