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In Search of the Unknown

Robert W. Chambers

Book Overview: 

Robert Chambers was a contemporary of Lovecraft, and this book consists of "weird supernatural tales" in a somewhat similar manner, except that the emphasis is on humor rather than horror. The narrator works for the newly opened Bronx Zoo in New York. He describes his adventures trying to obtain various rare specimens for the zoo's collection, animals that range from the merely extinct to the considerably more unusual. Along the way, he invariably finds a beautiful woman to fall in love with.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .It irritated me beyond measure to find myself at last on the very border of the unknown country, and yet checked, held back, by the irresponsible orders of a maiden lady named Smawl. However, my salary depended upon the whim of that maiden lady, and although I fussed and fumed and glared at the mountains through my glasses, I realized that I could not stir without the permission of Miss Smawl. At times this grotesque situation became almost unbearable, and I often went away by myself and indulged in fantasies, firing my gun off and pretending I had hit Miss Smawl by mistake. At such moments I would imagine I was free at last to plunge into the strange country, and I would squat on a rock and dream of bagging my first mammoth.

The time passed heavily; the tension increased with [55]each new day. I shot ptarmigan and kept our table supplied with brook-trout. William chopped wood, conversed with his mules, and cooked very badly.

"See here," I said, one morn. . . Read More

Community Reviews

My second foray into Chambers after reading 'The King in Yellow' a few years ago. This was definitely less weird than that collection - for some reason the narrator Gilland and his stories of searching for unknown creatures struck me as a less abrasive & boisterous version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle'

This is a very strange book, and I suspect that a good portion of that for me is due to more than a century of distance in reading it. However, that is not completely it. First of all, the book is laid out in almost a series of connected short stories. These stories somewhat build on each other, and

Loosely connected stories of whimsy and mystery, mostly involving an amusing young man very susceptible to young women (view spoiler)[but who NEVER gets the girl (hide spoiler)] and to the wackadoodle in life. A story about a search for the great auk is followed by stories of increasingly unlikely encounters with increasingly off

This was a fun read. The book is really a series of short stores, and they'd be best read maybe in a monthly magazine, because reading them all together gets a bit repetitive--narrator (who in most of the stories works at the Bronx Zoo, but a couple have a different narrator), heads off to find a bi

I enjoyed this. I don't care so much for supernatural stories, so while these bordered on that at times (especially the last one), they also elicit snickers and smiles along the way. The narrator flirts with and falls in love with any young, single lady he encounters (and they're all the most beauti

3.5
This was a different book, with its strengths and weaknesses. It feels weird to give it a single rating, as there are so many different elements that I loved and didn’t care for at the same time. But let’s try to break it down.

The writing style is beautiful. Chambers does an especially fantastic

A charming, engaging, mischievous and easy-reading collections of stories merged as a single novel. It has a nice ensemble of likable character, radiates an upbeat adventurous mood and pleases with its great literary quality are wordplay. With a charm of its age 'In Search of the Unknown' might be t

This is actually a series of short stories cobbled together by the author to create a novel but it just doesn't work. Too many things had to be broken to fit into the box. I look forward to reading the stories in their original form.
However--I do love Chambers' writing style. He has a certain capti

I read "The Harbor Master," which is the first 5 chapters of this book. I enjoyed it. I'd say it was a nice Lovecraftian tale, but it predates, and I think inspired, the work of H.P. Lovecraft

This book is a collection of five stories hunting for strange animals and the supernatural. They are vaguely linked by a frame narrative (our protagonist is sent to help secure an odd creature) and similar structure (our protagonist falls in love and fails to win the heart of the source of his infat

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