Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dr Shuker's Casebook by Karl P.N. Shuker

I hadn't really intended to review any nonfiction books on Skunk Cat, but I just finished Dr Shuker's Casebook and loved it so much I just have to share.

Karl P.N. Shuker is a zoologist whose interest in undiscovered, misplaced, mythical, and unusual animals led him to a career as a cryptozoologist. I own another of his books, The Search for the Last Undiscovered Animals (originally published as The Beasts that Hide from Man), and love it too, so I was thrilled when my mother bought me Dr Shuker's Casebook for Christmas.

In this book, Shuker ranges away from his usual cryptozoological topics, although he does talk about mysterious animals and monsters too. The book is partly made up of updated and expanded articles he's had published in various journals, and is partly new writing. It's pretty clear that anything Shuker found interesting made its way into the text: flying men, merfolk, UFOs and USOs, rains of fish and frogs, ghosts, and all sorts of other topics. It makes for fascinating reading.

What I love most about Shuker's writing is the way he presents possible solutions to mysteries. He doesn't have an axe to grind; he's certainly not a crank. He approaches the data as a scientist first and as an interested person second, which means he looks first for logical explanations and then suggests more fanciful theories--but he doesn't usually endorse any particular solution. He lets the reader draw conclusions. It's nice that he assumes his readers are as intelligent and thoughtful as he seems to be.

I love also that he writes about lesser-known topics. I love well-written, well-researched books about mysterious phenomena, but a lot of the mysteries Shuker writes about are either new to me or ones I've seldom read about.

Shuker's writing reminds me a lot of Willy Ley's cryptozoological essays from the mid-20th century, which is why I've shelved Shuker next to Ley in my library. I never thought I'd find anyone who could capture my imagination and intellect the way Ley does. Thank goodness Shuker has written a lot of books. I'm going to have to collect them all.

B&N link

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