The Asylum of Dr. Caligari

James Morrow

2017 Shirley Jackson Award nominee

If you think today’s profiteers are diabolical, blink again. In this witty, satiric tour de force, James Morrow (The Last Witchfinder) offers a provocative take on a film classic.


The Asylum of Dr. Caligari

by James Morrow

ISBN: Print ISBN: 978-1-61696-265-4 : Digital ISBN: 978-1-61696-266-1

Published: June 2017

Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and Digital Books


If you think today’s profiteers are diabolical, blink again…

It is the summer of 1914. As the world teeters on the brink of the Great War, a callow American painter, Francis Wyndham, arrives at a renowned European insane asylum, where he begins offering art therapy under the auspices of Alessandro Caligari—sinister psychiatrist, maniacal artist, alleged sorcerer.

Determined to turn the impending cataclysm to his financial advantage, Dr. Caligari will—for a price—allow governments to parade their troops past his masterpiece: a painting so mesmerizing it can incite entire regiments to rush headlong into battle.

As the doctor’s outrageous scheme becomes a reality, Francis joins with his brilliant, spider-obsessed student, Ilona Wessels, and a band of lunatic saboteurs to thwart the mercenary magic.

By radically reimagining the most famous of all German Expressionist silent films, satirist James Morrow has wrought a timely tale that is by turns funny and erotic, tender and bayonet-sharp—but ultimately The Asylum of Dr. Caligari emerges as a love letter to that mysterious, indispensable thing called art.

Praise for The Asylum of Dr. Caligari B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of June 2017 Amazon Best Books of the Month: Editor’s Picks (June 2017) io9 Summer Reading List Best Summer Books, Campus Circle Feature, Barnes & Week’s New Sci Fi and Fantasy Books   “Entrancing prose enhances the unusual plot of Morrow’s successful melding of history and fantasy.” —Publishers Weekly “This provocative novella is well worth a look.” —Asimov’s SF “James Morrow explores ideas with visionary audacity and a satirical (yet nonetheless disturbing) bent perhaps unequaled since Philip José Farmer’s Riverworld series—as if directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.” —See the Elephant  “It’s a rich and wonderful mash-up of political satire, psychological fairytale and German Expressionist horror story . . . There’s a gorgeous edge to Morrow’s writing, a sense of fun and irreverence that never detracts from the dark jeopardy at the heart of the story. 10/10 stars.” —Starburst “[Morrow] is a crafty wordsmith who likes to hone in on poseurs and pretensions . . . Readers who are fond of wry esoteric musings will not be disappointed.” —Diabolique “As is always the case with Morrow, he keeps the ride interesting and at times painfully funny.” —Locus “A satirical, thought provoking, and stimulating novella.” —New York Journal of Books “I was reminded time and again of some horror greats including Dracula and Frankenstein.” —The Booklover’s Boudoir “No one does history-meets-the-fantastic like Morrow. The Asylum of Dr. Caligari is a great example—Impressionism versus expressionism, psychology in the asylum of ‘dreams,’ the weaponization of art, big laughs and big ideas, a wild imagination, and smooth, subtle writing.” —Jeffrey Ford, author of A Natural History of HellThe Asylum of Dr. Caligari is a fast, funny book . . . Brilliantly walking the line, its zippy energy camouflages a surprisingly powerful resonance. It’s yet another seriocomic triumph from one of the genre’s best satirists.” —Christopher East [STARRED REVIEW]“This is an erudite, fun book that can be enjoyed on many levels; it succeeds as a satire of geopolitics and warmongering elites, as a comic fantasy, and as a pastiche of the 1920 film that appears on so many fans’ ‘best of’  lists.” —ForewordThe Asylum of Dr Caligari is exquisite, inventive madness of epic proportions, laced with wicked humour.” —Strange Alliances The Asylum of Dr. Caligari is laugh out loud funny, even as it tosses about ideas surrounding perhaps our most serious and vile aspects of existence: war and indoctrination to war.” —Speculition “The story makes points about the effect of art on humanity and its relevance to society, but it’s also terrifying, with dark humor and a clever tone.” —RevolutionSFThe Asylum of Dr. Caligari succeeds in being at once a brilliant rendering of an antique spooky passion play and a timeless lesson about megalomaniacs, art, science and love.” —Locus “This is a satire for the ages, a skillful blending of the history of World War One, and the fantastical realm of alchemy and magic . . . The wry, tongue-in-cheek amusement of Morrow’s writing reminds me of reading Jonathan Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal.’” —The San Francisco Review of Books “It really reminds me of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel . . . sumptuous and philosophical, thought-provoking as well as just good fun.” —Art District Radio “A perfect fit for people who are not just interested in fantasy, but also history, art, geography and linguistics.” —New Books Network “I don’t think there is anyone writing today like James Morrow.  I’ve seen him compared to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and to Harlan Ellison, but Ellison is too pedestrian compared to Morrow, and Vonnegut not quite risky enough . . . The Asylum of Dr. Caligari is another tour de force from James Morrow.” —Looking For a Good Book

About the Author James Morrow is the author of the World Fantasy Award–winning Towing Jehovah, the New York Times Notable Book Blameless in Abaddon,  and the Theodore Sturgeon Award–winning  Shambling Towards Hiroshima. His most recent novels include The Madonna and the Starship The Last Witchfinder, hailed by the Washington Post as “literary magic,” and The Philosopher’s Apprentice, which received a rave review from Entertainment Weekly.  A master of satiric and the surreal, Morrow has enjoyed comparison with Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Updike. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania with a collection of Lionel trains and a rapidly growing library of DVDs of questionable taste.

Praise for James Morrow “James Morrow is a wildly imaginative and generous novelist who plays hilarious games with grand ideas.” —New York Times Book Review “Watch out for James Morrow: He’s magic.” —Washington Post Book World “I am so besotted with James Morrow’s talent that I cannot find a word big enough to deify it.” —Harlan Ellison “James Morrow is an original—stylistically ingenious, savagely funny, always unpredictable.” —Philadelphia Inquirer “Writing a brand of masterfully understated comic prose all his own, Morrow is a genius…” —Booklist “America’s best satirist.” —James Gunn, editor of The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction “Morrow’s satire is funny and sad, and increases our ability to see the little bits of truth in our own world.” —Denver Post “James Morrow demonstrates that he may be the Jonathan Swift of the late 20th century.” —Des Moines Sunday Register “Morrow is even more inventive than Vonnegut.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer “The man defines fantasy.” —Chicago Tribune “Morrow is the greatest kind of American author. ” —The Stranger Praise for The Madonna and the Starship An June Must-Read Science Fiction and Fantasy Book [Starred Review] Jonathan Swift meets Buck Rogers in this hilarious send-up of the golden ages of television and pulp sci-fi . . . This delightful romp from Morrow (Shambling Towards Hiroshima) provides the breathless answer in short order; no need to wait for next week to tune in and find out. —Publishers Weekly “The story has the tone of a manic tall tale, and is often just as hilarious….” —Locus “To whatever extent the Qualimosians represent the spirit of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, the ‘live and let live’ moral of The Madonna and the Starship is closer to Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World. And what’s more, it’s funny!” —InterzoneGalaxy Quest, eat your heart out.” —Bookish “This latest book by the inimitable James Morrow is rife with gonzo charm and buried barbs and offbeat parables galore.” —Locus On The Last Witchfinder “Intrepid, impeccably researched…” —Publishers Weekly, starred review “James Morrow’s novel about early American witchcraft pulls off so many dazzling feats of literary magic that in a different century he’d have been burned at the stake.” —Washington Post “This impeccably researched, highly ambitious novel — nine years in the writing — is a triumph of historical fiction.” —Booklist

Visit the James Morrow website.

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