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McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories

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3.52  ·  Rating details ·  921 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
Michael Chabon is back with a brand-new collection that reinvigorates the stay-up-all-night, edge-of-the seat, fingernail-biting, page-turning tradition of literary short stories, featuring Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Peter Straub, David Mitchell, Jonathan Lethem, Heidi Julavits, Roddy Doyle, and more!

Margaret Atwood- Lusus Naturae

David Mitchell- What You Do Not Know Yo
...more
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published (first published November 2004)
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Pascale
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly enjoyable book to read late at night in the bathtub…or while walking to one’s car in a dark and deserted parking garage! This collection of short stories reminded me of the guilty pleasure of reading horror stories: it…could…happen… (couldn’t it?). Although I didn’t care for some of the stories, a few stand out, like “Lisey and the Madman” by Stephen King, about a disastrous day in the life of the wife of a famous novelist, “The Scheme of Things” by Charles d’Ambrosio, about a small ...more
Susan DeFreitas
I picked up this book because I'm interested in short stories that suck you in the way old pulp fiction did, back when short fiction was something almost any respectable magazine published alongside its usual articles and departments. Whether or not I actually like them, I have to admit, all the stories in this collection so far have done that for me. Which cannot be said for every one (or even most) of the collections of literary short stories I've read in school. What I take from that: basical ...more
John Bruni
Considering the stellar line-up of this anthology, one would think it would rate more than two stars. Shockingly, I couldn't get into most of these stories. In my opinion, there are a lot of great writers doing substandard work in this one. Not even Stephen King pulled through for me. (To be fair, it was an excerpt from my least favorite book by him, LISEY'S STORY.) The stories I liked: "Minnow" by Ayelet Waldman, "7C" by Jason Roberts and "The Devil of Delery Street" by Poppy Z. Brite. I also l ...more
Joem
Sep 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This might just be my favorite collection of short stories ever, even though I really didn't care for some of the stories (like Stephen King's one). I've told several people that this is worth owning/reading for the Mieville story alone (and it is), but almost all the rest are really good as well. For me, this book was not just a great introduction to many authors I had been meaning to check out, but it's a set of stories I come back to again and again. Some of the stories barely deal with the s ...more
Mattia Ravasi
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
#5 in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIWkw...

The same awesomeness of McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury, but this time with horror as a common thread. One or two authors didn't quite understand the sense of the book again and some stories are absurdly better than others (Stephen King's, Jason Robert's, Joyce Carol Oates OMG JOYCE CAROL OATES) but that said the quality is generally high and of course, the all-star guest list is simply stellar.
Perhaps even better than th
...more
Kim
Oct 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Usually, it takes me a long time to get through a collection of short stories, but this book was a quick read because I was constantly wondering how much stranger the next story would get, especially if it were written by a well-known author.
David
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked a lot of these stories quite a bit. Nice to see further erosion of boundaries that are mainly marketing categories anyway. Some I dug more than others, but there was at least something good in each.
Alicia
Oct 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My overall rating of this book is basically the average of each individual rating I gave for each story. The average was actually 3.5 stars, which I rounded up. I rounded it up because in the end there were actually more stories that I enjoyed rather than didn't enjoy. Really it's difficult to give an overall rating to a book with 15 short stories written by different people.

My two favourites were The Child by Roddy Doyle and the Devil of Delery Street by Poppy Z. Brite. Almost everything else p
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Kelsey
Jun 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of horror/mysteries, Stephen King, and/or China Miéville; people with short attention spans
A pretty solid collection of creepy short stories edited by Michael Chabon, who is a pretty well-known champion of genre fiction and the short story format and definitely puts his money where his mouth is here. He gets some pretty heavy-hitting contributors, too; for my money the whole collection is worth it just for China Miéville's "Reports of Certain Events in London," which uses the awesome old-school framing device of "author just happens upon random documents of undetermined origin." It ha ...more
Ethan
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Just plain mediocre, especially considering the fact that many of these folks are established (if not big-name) authors. I'm guessing that Chabon solicited these stories, which may explain things; it seems the "best of" anthologies are a lot better.

What's wrong with these stories? They're well written (mostly--Roddy Doyle's story was excruciating, like taking a bath in battery acid) but, with few exceptions, lackluster. A run-down is as follows:

Atwood "Lusus Naturae" - funny voice, good little s
...more
Gemma
Sep 19, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
McSweeney's exploration of pulp fiction is definitely clever and at times utterly surprising and delightful. All of these smart and wonderful authors got together to have a little fun with genre fiction, to perhaps make the point that putting "genre" in front of the word "fiction" is always a little reductive. At least, that's the point Michael Chabon makes in his unbearably condescending introduction. But tone aside, it's a good point.

Except...not all of these stories live up it. Some really do
...more
Natalien
Feb 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of authors only
Well, really the rating is more like 2 and 2/3 stars which is an average of stars I gave to each story that I read from this only-slightly-astonishing anthology. Yeah, I only read 11 of 15 stories as I didn't have time to read authors I did't know which is sad and I'd normally read every story, but I just could not manage it and I didn't care to read them in the end as there is so much stuff I want to read before I loose my sight of old age. I'm gonna review each story I've read when I'll find t ...more
Cassidy Cassidy
I just pulled this off of a friends' bookshelf, in need of some reading that couldn't be described as obsessively detailed revolutionary American history. (Low bar, right?) It was a fun, easy read. I'm just not a huge fan of horror stories, and didn't see that description anywhere on the cover. I know, I know, judging a book by it's cover blahblahblah (and ignoring the bizarre cover pic, which was probably the best warning that "scary" stories lie hidden within. But it's McSweeney's, who don't s ...more
Geoff
Jan 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty good collection of fiction short stories. China Miéville contributed a great story that solidifies my thinking that this guy puts out some of the most original stuff this generation. Stephen King had "Lisey & The Madman," supposedly the first chapter of his new novel "Lisey's Story", but after advance readings it seems the story happens after this event. So it was great to have this short story as a prelude to his new novel in October rather than an inclusion. Peter Straub ...more
Letty
Oct 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


I am enjoying this anthology quite a bit. It's always great to see favorite authors like David Mitchell and Margaret Atwood trying their skills on a different sort of genre, using the short story as a format. I just finished the story "7C" and it is my favorite so far.
Without giving too much away, let me just say that the absolute logic of its premise, the absolute horror of the actions undertaken in it, and its inexorable conclusion are brilliantly executed. The fact that it's written in a cal
...more
Zachary
May 27, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
even at its best, this isn't worth reading. Felt like rough first drafts with little to no care for the reader. Stephen King and the 7C story were standouts among this collection but forgettable when compared to better stories.

I just read this Steinbeck letter about writing short stories ...
http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/05/...
... and was struck by this quote:
"The basic rule you gave us was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from writer to reader and th
...more
John
Feb 23, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The quality of the stories in this collection is varied. Rather than go all in-depth, I'd sum them up as follows:

Very Good: Miéville - "Reports of Certain Events in London"

Good: Atwood - "Lusus Naturae," Mitchell - "What You Do Not Know You Want," Erickson - "Zeroville," Roberts - "7C"

Ok: Lethem - "Vivian Relf," Waldman - "Minnow," King - "Lisey and the Madman," Handler - "Delmonico," D'Ambrosio - "The Scheme of Things," Brite - "The Devil of Delery Street," Oates - "The Fabled Light House at Vi
...more
Karin
May 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Edited by Michael Chabon, McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories is a collection of stories that twist and surprise. Written by authors such as Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Lethem, Heidi Julavits, Roddy Doyle, Poppy Z. Brite, Ayelet Waldman and others, the 2004 collection reveals the strengths of these writers within the context of short stories, which pull the reader in and then throw her in unexpected directions. McSweeney's is known for publishing such off-kilter stories, stories t ...more
Anna
Aug 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery fans, short story enthusiasts, people who fall in love with sea creatures
overall, i liked this one better than the other short story compilation chabon oversaw, ( mcsweeney's mammoth treasury of thrilling tales). margaret atwood is always amazing, one by daniel handler is an old-school mystery/riddle story, but with gorgeous writing, and china mieville's "reports of certain events in london" is...i can't even describe it. for the first couple of pages you have NO IDEA what's going on, and then you figure it out and it's CRAZYTOWN. and while i hated we were the mulva ...more
David
Jul 31, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I have decided to read this book one short story at a time between novels. I plan on reviewing each short as I go.

Lusus Naturae by Margaret Atwood

Believe it or not, this short is the first of any Atwood I have ever read. A brief story of a child that become a werewolf or werecreature. Sympathy runs deep at the end. Odd story to start with as I just finished Royal Assassin. July 18, 2010
Maria
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This actually IS a book of astonishing stories! I wanted to read the book because it was edited by Michael Chabon and I knew it contained a Margaret Atwood story. It has stories that are creepy, but not necessarily horrific (I'm not into horror) and some that just leave you scratching your head or uneasy. I'm not a fan of Steven King's novels, but his short story here is breathtaking.

This collection reminded me of how much fun the short story can be and that I sincerely hope that 'genre' contin
...more
Eli
A collection of literary thrillers and modern gothic tales by some great writers -- this one was a fun diversion. A few are skippable (Heidi Julavits, Roddy Doyle), most are enjoyable enough, and a few had me literally on the edge of my seat, frantically pawing pages. If you just want the highlights, Jason Roberts, Stephen King, Charles d'Ambrosio, China Mieville, and Joyce Carol Oates really steal the show. Plus, it benefits 826 Valencia, so for that reason alone, this is one book that's worth ...more
Robin
Sep 28, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who really, really like odd short stories.
Recommended to Robin by: library book sale
This book had a few really interesting stories, a few stories that didn't really matter to me, and a few that felt like the longest short stories I've ever read. That's besides the two stories I'd most looked forward to, those by Stephen King and Jonathan Lethem. Unfortunately, while these stories were perhaps exclusive upon the time of publishing, I had already long ago read both.

Perhaps I liked the other McSweeney short collection too much, and expected to much of this collection, but I just c
...more
Wheeler
Not so much astonishing tales, as horror tales. But not really horror tales, either. So, astonishing is right?
Incredibly well written stories by a series of also incredible authors, from stalwarts like Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates.
They're all weird. They're all genre of some kind.
Some fall flat. Some take awhile to get up and go. Some are too easy to see coming.
of especial note, is 7C by Jason Roberts.
Great collection. Go read it. Some stories are not great to read before bed. You could
...more
Adam Starr
Apr 02, 2015 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This book is full of very creative stories and also very intresting ones. one of the stories are very disgusting but they have great language use, such as very big words. it also has alot of other type of stories for us to benifit from. i think if id read a book again this would be one just like this one. i love this type of book for the reason being its short stories but enough of them to make you feel as if you've read a lot in a short time.
Ronnie
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a cool and interesting collection this is. Only a few the stories approached "astonishing" for me--namely, Joyce Carol Oates' "The Fabled Light-House of Vina del Mar," Margaret Atwood's "Lusus Naturae," and maybe Jason Roberts' "7C"--but I found all of them worthwhile and most of them excellent. If you like "Twilight Zone"--and who doesn't?--you'll like this. I hope to stumble across more in this series in some dark corner of a used bookstore, which is where I found this gem.
Joel
Mar 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a great collection of suspenseful, creepy, creative short stories. Most of the stories are of the type that totally suck you in, and keep the pages turning. A few are really excellent-- 7C by Jason Roberts for example. Others delight in seeing an established name explore a totally new territory, such as Margaret Atwood writing about a were-child. Unfortunately, a few of the stories are just plain bad-- the worst being Stephen King's Lisey and the Madman.
Greg
Jun 12, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For some reason I didn't find these stories as compelling as the first collection though still a decent diversion from life. If anything, I'd say they were a little stranger and left me a little more ambiguous about their purpose, if that makes any sense. Most of them are very readable which is, I think, important in a short story. As always, Chabon's introduction about genre writing is excellent.
JoLene
I'm not a huge fan of short stories. I'm also not a huge fan of "horror". Most of these stories are not really horror but just strange. I picked this up because I like many of the authors such as Chabon, Doyle and Atwood. In addition, I had been curious about Mieville, and Mitchell. Mitchell's story was my favorite, but even that I would only rate 3 stars. Sorry folks --- can't really recommend this.
Dree
I find it hard to rate an anthology. But none of these stories were disappointing. Weaker, yes--one was predictable, one was too sad, and a few were just too science fiction-y for me. But none of the writing was bad.

I found these to be the truly excellent stories (in the order they appear):
Vivian Relf by Jonathan Lethem
Lisey and the Madman by Stephen King
Reports of Certain Events in London by China Mieville
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Play Book Tag: McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories - 1 star 2 12 Mar 05, 2016 07:09AM  
  • McSweeney's #19
  • The Best American Short Stories 1997
  • McSweeney's #13
  • The Best American Short Stories 2000
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Michael Chabon (b. 1963) is an acclaimed and bestselling author whose works include the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). Chabon achieved literary fame at age twenty-four with his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), which was a major critical and commercial success. He then published Wonder Boys (1995), another bestseller, which was mad ...more
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