The Shambling Guide to New York City – Review

ShamblingGuideAuthor: Mur Lafferty
Series: The Shambling Guides #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Date: January 2013
Source: Own copy
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Zoe’s last job was a train wreck. She’s back in her home town of New York City, desperate for a new start, but running out of cash fast.

So when she finds an ad for a seemingly-perfect job as a travel guide editor, she’s not going to let the excuse that ‘she’s not the right type for the job’ and ‘wouldn’t fit in with the team’ stand in her way. Sheer determination wins her an interview in a dilapidated theatre and dinner with her potential new boss.

It turns out the job is to write a guide book for New York’s visiting monster population. The boss is a vampire, and the payroll includes zombies, an incubus and a death goddess. Zoe has to come to terms with the existence of another world, hidden in plain sight in her city, and learn to deal with her new co-workers often-disturbing feeding habits. When the balance between humans and coterie (monster is an offensive term) starts falling apart, Zoe is caught in the crossfire.

The Shambling Guide to New York City is an absolutely delightful almost-debut from RPG writer, Escape Pod editor and podcaster extraordinaire Mur Lafferty, whose career I’ve been following for some time. This is not her first published work (she has self-published the Heaven series through Kickstarter and her novel Playing For Keeps came out from Swarm Press in 2008) but it is her best yet.

She presents us with a rich supernatural underground to New York City, full of hilarious anecdotes and smart tweaks to reality (the MoMA’s closed galleries are really hired out by visiting demons who are too big to fit in human-sized hotels) told through excerpts from the book Zoe is writing. As a protagonist, Zoe is made even more likeable because she shows real strength of character, even as she has to accept her weaknesses in dealing with an overwhelming situation.

After her engrossing and thought-provoking novella Marco and the Red Granny, Lafferty gives us another kick-ass elderly woman to love and cheer on in the hilarious and irreverent Granny Good Mae. The rest of the varied cast of characters is also handled perfectly so that the reader even likes the brain-eating zombies. This is also a very funny book, Lafferty’s humorous touch is spot-on throughout and her dry observations on the human or coterie conditions made me snort out loud several times.

In short, I can’t wait for the second instalment in this series, The Ghost Train to New Orleans, and you should all go read The Shambling Guide to New York City, out in UK and US bookshops now. You can also go to Mur’s website to listen to a chapter of the audiobook for free every week.



Briar Wilkes, daughter of a folk hero and widow of the criminal mastermind responsible for the zombie plague, embarks on a rescue mission when her teenage son Zeke sneaks into the walled city of Seattle.

Briar & Zeke must navigate the underground labyrinth Seattle has become, decide who they can afford to trust, and stay alive long enough to find each other & get back home safely.

Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker came up first when I searched ‘Steampunk’ on Audible. I’ve been trying to read and watch more Steampunk lately, to get a better idea of the genre hopefully some inspiration for The Paradise Swarm.

I remembered hearing very positive feedback about Boneshaker on a couple of podcasts I follow, I really loved the cover, and saw that Wil Wheaton was one of the narrators. That’s pretty much all it takes to make me click ‘Add to basket’, Wil Wheaton is a damn good narrator, and did I mention the cover?

The story is extremely engaging from the beginning, Briar’s very relatable motivation to find her son brings urgency and tension to the narrative, and the cluelessness displayed from Zeke’s point of view only reinforces it. This is the book for you if you want to read dual point of views, deceiving appearances and partly unreliable narrators done right.

There is a great other-wordly dimension to the setting throughout, plus a rich and intriguing lore, supported by airships, gas masks, pirates, mechanical body parts, evil geniuses and zombies galore.

The cast of secondary characters was impressive, and I especially loved the moments when neither the reader nor the character knows who to trust for certain.

I was especially struck by the feeling of imminent danger that was ever present throughout the book from the setting and environment. Most of the action takes place in tunnels underneath the city, as the simple act of going above ground is so dangerous. The idea that walking in the street is such a deadly enterprise particularly inspired me to ramp up the tension and danger in my own writing.

I am now waiting impatiently for my next Audible credit so I can buy the sequel, in which we follow an airship captain.