Book Review: The Grand Tour by E. Catherine Tobler

Bex's Book Reviews: insights from a book-a-day addict

Cover of The Grand TourFrom the moment that I heard Apex Book Company would be putting out this collection, I was as impatient as a child waiting for the Circus to open with a ticket gripped tightly in a snotty fist. The Kraken Sea had blown me away with its voice, so my expectations were high. And The Grand Tour did not disappoint.

Normally I devour any book I open cover to cover, often in one sitting. But I knew from the first story that I had to savor these. I didn’t want the experience of reading the collection to end. So I tried to limit myself to one or two stories at a time with a day or two between. This worked well until the time I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with only about a third of the book remaining. I was desperate for distraction and lacked the willpower to make myself stop.  When I got to the last page, I felt like crying because there wasn’t any more to devour.

If you haven’t read The Kraken Sea yet (you should, you know–it’s worth it [and they have  a preorder bundle]), don’t let that hold you back from picking this one up. I have read hundreds of books in between these and had no issues getting into the collection. While Jackson was the focus in Kraken, he is a side character here. You won’t feel left out if you don’t know the story of his youth. I am still missing one piece (*hint hint*)–something explaining how and why Jackson came to create the circus.

I did sometimes feel a bit like I struggled to make Jackson-as-shown-in-the-stories fit what I remember (disconnected by time, of course) of young Jackson from Kraken. But as the POV in each piece is a different character, we are seeing them with their eyes, often eyes that have only just met him. I also think that some of it relates to how Jackson developed as a character (there once being a lack of Jackson when he was called something else) in the many years Tobler spent creating these stories. These variations and layers of Jackson did not keep me from enjoying the stories at all–they just intrigued my brain, especially as a writer.

Now I know most people highlight a few favorite stories when they edit collections and anthologies, but I have never been very good at favorites. Each story appeals to me in its own way or challenges me in some way. It had some interesting recurring themes and elements that I enjoyed (and which also made me wonder what other people will think of my work as a body if ever I have enough and am good enough for a collection). I think also with the different perspectives, the stories have plenty of variety to help make sure that most readers will find at least a few that resonate with them.

The collection has the dark overtones I have come to expect from most Apex selections, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly dark for reading in these emotional pandemic times. I felt like it dealt with dark things but left a sense of acceptance and hope that I needed.

Overall, the book earns the full 5 stars from me. I am not one who usually plans to reread things–I often only reread things when I run out of stuff to read or don’t have other things handy–but this one I plan to reread. I think with the way the characters appear and reappear, and especially with adding The Kraken Sea into it as well, that I will find more and more layers and understand more of the bits and pieces with reading it again.

So once again Apex is putting a dent in my star hoard. And I want more like this, please!


If you want to check this book out, I recommend going straight to Apex’s web site. They have some great deals for preorder. If you can’t afford it, maybe you can request it at your local library? 

My writing group got to talk to E. Catherine Tobler about this collection. The INKterview will be coming soon on their blog.

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