The geek population of Edinburgh were rejoicing in the streets when this place turned up. If you're even remotely interested in fantasy, sci-fi or steampunk genres, Transreal Fiction is the place for you.
The range is the best I've seen in Edinburgh, stretching from DVDs and novels to the likes of specialist art books and educational material. What drew me in were the art books. Most of the time you have to venture online and pay extortionate overseas shipping charges if you want one of these badboys, but Transreal cuts out the fuss and offers a decent selection for the art enthusiast.
Prices seem a little steep, but that's to be expect with specialty books such as these. Not really the retailer's fault and I assumed that going in.
Given that Edinburgh's Forbidden Planet is a little lacklustre in terms of variety (both Newcastle and Glasgow branches have entire areas dedicated to specialist books... Edinburgh? Nowt.), it's good to see somewhere in town that has a focus on such a highly popular subject.
A long time overdue. Check it out if you're even slightly geeky.
& Space Dust
As the name implies, Transreal is a specialist shop that's devoted to the world of science fiction and fantasy. There's floor to ceiling bookshelves packed with otherworldly stories and some cute displays showing new and recent titles. Not being a fan myself, I have to admit most of the names and titles were a mystery to me but I noticed there was a lot of American and European imports between commercial tie-ins like Star Wars, Star Trek and Lord of The Rings.
For the true geek, Transreal also stock board games, magazines, mugs and sci-fi toys.
If there's one thing that really turns me off, it's sci-fi fiction. I really can't stand it, and if I was dating a guy who suddenly revealed a penchant for all things fantasy, I think I would run a mile. The same goes for folk who are right into comicy dragons and Warhammer games. I'm sure it's great, but I just don't fancy it at all.
So why I decided to step into Transreal Fiction is really a mystery in itself. This shop specialises in all things fictional and fantasy-like, such as Warhammer, Dragonlace, Tolkein-esque figures and much more. Not my bag at all baby.
There are plenty of books and mags to choose from if you are of that persuasion though, as well as gifts like calendars and mugs emblazoned with faeries and whatnot. Meh. To me it's overpriced, but then so are shoes, the difference being I love shoes.
Different strokes for different folks. A wet dream for those of us who love all things fantasy though.
Bit surreal when you stumble into a book shop and find an epic tale about a steampunk cat, destined to take over a futuristic realm.
But this is what Transreal specialises in - science fiction and fantasy books. From Tolkien's hobbits to Iain M Banks, it's got a much more extensive sci fi collection than you're likely to find in high street book stores.
There's a big steampunk section, new releases and Terry Pratchett old school stuff. There are enormous book series displayed orderly and concisely, and a small collection of figurines. There's also a small number of cute wee cuddly toys that would come under the strange and bizarre category.
The owner seems to handpick stuff he likes, but at least you know then that he is passionate and knowledgable about his stock. He was laid back and approachable.
I didn't realise it was a sci fi shop so I was a bit surprised when I came across the book about the cat astronaut. But this shop also had popularised TV series such as Doctor Who, Star Trek and some surprises such as cinematography collections. I'd probably three star it for myself since sci fi isn't one of my burning passions, but I'm four starring it since it has its merits, and people into the genre would find it useful.
Inventive accounts of dwarves and dragons, an insight into Elvish mystery and tradition, an epic journey through our galaxy and beyond...if any of this interests you then Transreal's healthy stock of all things science fiction and fantasy should satisfy such pursuits to a pleasing degree
Not even the faintest whisper of music or small talk from the owner can result in a stilted and even awkward browse around the shelves (as I discovered), still for those that love such books these imperfections will be easily overlooked.
I have a small amount of sympathy for Stephanie, this shop that specialises in science fiction, is a bit one sided with its selection of books that, if this was your first taste of sci-fi, would give a slightly construed vision of what the genre is about and probably doesn't do a lot to dispel certain myths.
Scifi is really quite an artificial term that is used to try and lump everything from high concept meditations on the human psyche and explorations of civilisation's relationship with technology to stories about space marines shooting aliens.
I am a massive nerd and I won't pretend I'm not. But what I don't really like is "genre fiction" or at least genre fiction for the sake of it. I am just as bored as the next person about yet another story about a warrior, an elf and a dwarf on a quest to find a magic item. For one that's because they are usually written for the sake of it and utterly pointless (a far cry from, say, the writings on Tolkien) and two, usually badly written (because they are written fast, in serial form, to make money).
So I am disappointed by Transreal's emphasis on the sort of assembly line scifi/fantasy that gives the impression that all writing of the sort is the same. There isn't enough of writers like J G Ballard or Ursula Le Guim, artists who used the future, technology, imagined worlds, to explore ideas- and therefore are unfairly judged when they are lumped together- because these ideas carry nothing intrinsic, they might be bad, you might hate them, but don't write them off because Amazon classified them as "scifi". Scifi, at the end of the day, is just a category, and it would be as unfair of me to write off Romeo and Juliet because I don't like romance novels, as it would be to write off I am Legend because it's scifi.
Okay so that was quite a rant, but hopefully you can see my problem with Transreal. In its defence, there IS a market for this sort of fantasy fiction, and in all honesty its a mostly harmless market. I do respect Transreal and even if there is an emphasis I don't like, there is still some great books there with respected authors like Ian M Banks represented. It is a small shop, and I noticed that there were some more interesting books in the "new titles" section, so my guess is that they can't keep everything, and they keep the most popular.
And at the end of the day, nerd that I am, I am still far more comfortable in a shop like this than I am in most.
I really like this shop, and wonder like the previous reviewer, how it manages to stay afloat. Despite liking it, I've not bought anything here in ages, mostly because it's just simply easier and cheaper to order online from Amazon. I always expect to see it go out of business when I go by and am always surprised to see it hasn't yet.
I hereby make a resolution that I will shop more at this store. For despite it being a bit more difficult to get to than Amazon.com, it has the advantage of not being a 'chain' store like Waterstones or Borders, and of carrying only fantasy and science fiction. The owner is a great guy who really loves what he sells and picks what he likes.
To go with the books, there's usually a selection of slightly kooky gifts for the fantasy or SF fan in your life.
You can't beat Transreal Fiction, if you want a whole series of something this guy will have it. He doesn't stock too many graphic novels, so if you're looking for them try elsewhere. The owner knows his stock and can get things in that you want, normally within a few days. I used to use this shop for bulk purchases when it was my responsibility to buy stock for a public library. He has a great Star Trek range and likewise Doctor Who. There is Non Fiction here as well. Books about TV series and movies like Lord of the rings can be bought from this shop. I once bought a toy wolf here. It was so cute I had to have it.
I often wonder how this little bookshop stays afloat. It is a perfect haven for lovers of the sci fi and fantasy genres,and that makes it a favourite of mine, but it just never seems very busy. That has its upside in that you can browse in peace to your hearts content. The owner works in the shop and really knows his stuff when it comes to these types of books, he can order anything that you want, and he sells the books at retail price, so no bumped up costs. There are also some nifty gifts, toys and unusual books to be found here.
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