December 10, 2010

Inaugural Blog Tour: The Castle In Transylvania by Jules Verne


The formerly scarce Verne classic reviewed on the horror blog: And Now The Screaming Starts.

More and more, we find ourselves in awe of the quality, depth and variety of places on the internet talking about books. Thus, we’ve decided to take a year-end look at how those places talked about our titles. (Read the kickoff.) The point is to highlight not only the titles we proudly published in 2010, but also some of the great writing about those titles from around the internet. In some cases the writing may only mention our book. In these instances the posts would of course have to be extraordinary.

Easily among our most entertaining books of the last year, Jules Verne‘s The Castle In Transylvania contains all the traits that have become the hallmarks of this seminal author. That is not to say that our edition isn’t without it’s unique differences. It just wouldn’t be Melville House otherwise.

No difference is as important or apparent as the one concerning the editing of Verne. Known as a writer of adventures, he had a tendency, however, to catalog the flora, fauna and geography of the regions his adventures took place within. British and American ublishers trimmed these expository passages heavily in order to keep the plot moving and the action front and center. In some cases this deprived the reader of Verne’s most interesting writing.

This brings us to today’s blog. The malevolently titled And Now the Screaming Starts works the graveyard shift in the blog realms. The site covers the horror genre with wit, candor and in the case of the following quote, perspicacity:

As an aside, for a long time, English readers were spared some of the worse excesses of Verne’s mania for trivia: translations of Verne intended for the casual reader often simply cut out his data dumps. This heavy-handed editing produced novels that emphasized narrative thrust and minimized world-building. The end result of this is that English-speaking fans of Verne have often missed out on some of the more curious details of Verne’s works.

So what exactly are the reader’s getting in Melville House’s edition that they might otherwise have lacked? Our blogger writes,

The Transylvania of Verne’s book isn’t the mist-shrouded Western European’s nightmare vision of their vaguely pagan, uncanny eastern neighbors. Unlike Stoker, who simply imagined the world he needed, Verne used the real country for his setting. Verne’s book is packed with geographical, anthropological, and historical data about Transylvania. Too much maybe. Sometimes you get the sense that Verne never met a bit of research he didn’t like. Where Stoker is content to tell you that Transylvania weather is mean, Verne prefers to discuss how various individual mountains in the Carpathians are famed for the curious microclimates they produce, the specifics of which he’s happy to share.

In The Castle In Transylvania you get a sort of companion travelogue to go with the futurism and horror of Verne’s devilish plot. While you’re being entertained by the ghost story you get to catch a glimpse of a remote, often misconceived area of the world.

It could perhaps be construed as disingenuous of us if we failed to include the main criticism And Now The Screaming Starts had of our book. That is namely that it contains no zombies, either of “the voodoo classic model nor the post-Romero flesh-eating variety.” It’s true. There are no shambling corpses dressed in the tattered remnants of a business suit. There is however a terrified village that believes itself to be under the sway of supernatural evil. Not to mention a brooding noble, who while trying to prove to the villagers that there is nothing to fear comes face to face with the undead visage of his lost love.

So you say tomato and we say potato. Deal? In all seriousness, it’s a wonderful blog with a vigorous approach to criticism.

One more place to stop before we move on is Book Covers Anonymous who raved over the cover design of The Castle In Transylvania as well as Jean-Christophe Valtat‘s steampunk epic, Aurorarama. Not so coincidentally both books are designed by Kelly Blair. Check it out and have fun with the cover judging.

Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.