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Powell’s Books Indiespensable Subscription Box Review – Vol. 66

Anna Reilly
ByAnna ReillyMay 26, 2017 | 19 comments

Check out my review of Powell's Indiespensible box for May 2017!

Powell's Books Indispensable is a book subscription box by the iconic bookstore in Portland, Oregon.

Check out my review of Powell's Indiespensible box for May 2017!

Every 6-8 weeks, subscribers will receive another box of expertly curated new books with a focus on indie publishers. Note that this subscription raised its prices recently. Here's what they said:

Dear valued Indiespensable subscriber,

As the curators of Indiespensable, we place the highest importance on offering unique, collectible books along with additional value that exceeds the amount we charge per installment.

Since we launched the program in 2008, we have maintained our commitment to these high standards. Unfortunately, the cost of books, slipcases, and shipping has climbed significantly. We must regrettably recover some of those cost increases in order to continue providing the same value and quality you expect from the Indiespensable program.

Effective with Volume 66, Borne by Jeff VanderMeer, our new volume price will be $44.95.

Thank you for your continued commitment to Indiespensable. We hope to bring you many more wonderful volumes in the future.

Sincerely,

The Indiespensable team

My Subscription Addiction pays for this subscription. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes).

Check out my review of Powell's Indiespensible box for May 2017!

The Subscription Box: Powell's Books Indiespensable

The Cost: $44.95 a shipment (every 6-8 weeks)

The Products: Thoughtfully curated new books, with an interest in indie authors, plus fun extras

Ships to: Shipping is free in the U.S. and $12.00 per package outside the U.S.

Check out all of our Powell’s Indiespensable reviews and all of our Book Subscription Box reviews!

Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist!

Check out my review of Powell's Indiespensible box for May 2017!

In Volume 66, things get a little eerie. The box features two books, as usual—a special-edition hardcover by Jeff VanderMeer and a paperback by VanderMeer-endorsed Jac Jemc. Indiespensable includes a thorough booklet of insights about the featured book (Borne, by Jeff VanderMeer) and its author.

Check out my review of Powell's Indiespensible box for May 2017!

For me, it's this booklet that sets this subscription apart from other book subscription boxes I've seen. The reason I wanted to check out this box was that I trust Powell's as a curator—this booklet helps explain the thinking behind what Powell's has curated for me, with thoughtfully written criticism, insights from the author, and more.

Check out my review of Powell's Indiespensible box for May 2017!

Reading all of this info really upped the intrigue I felt towards this book! Let's check it out.

Check out my review of Powell's Indiespensible box for May 2017!

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer - Value on Amazon $21.15 (Retail price $26.00)

This edition of the book seems to be especially for Indiespensable subscribers. It's the regular hardcover, but with a special cardboard sleeve. The design on the outside is done with some kind of glossy ink rather than a darker shade of purple—it creates a neat textural detail, and I like how the design fades or emerges depending on how the light hits the cover.

Check out my review of Powell's Indiespensible box for May 2017!

This book is a strange, human depiction of a post-apocalyptic world. I'm always a little apprehensive of sci-fi stories that attempt to create an entirely new universe with its own expectations for what's normal and what's not—it can be done, but it's rare it's done well. This story, however, commits to its bizarre, brutal world from page one and expands from there. I kept reading not just to keep learning about the characters, but the eerie, odd world they occupy. With its woman protagonist and dark, post-apocalyptic vibe, it felt like the adult interpretation of a dystopian YA novel—but told through sophisticated, evocative language and with R-rated levels of maturity.

Check out my review of Powell's Indiespensible box for May 2017!

Book Summary on Amazon:

Named one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Book Riot, Chicago Reader, The Week, and Publishers Weekly.

“Am I a person?” Borne asked me.
“Yes, you are a person,” I told him. “But like a person, you can be a weapon, too.”

In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company―a biotech firm now derelict―and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.

One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump―plant or animal?―but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts―and definitely against Wick’s wishes―Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford.

“He was born, but I had borne him.

But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same.

Check out my review of Powell's Indiespensible box for May 2017!

The book is autographed by the author, which is always a nice touch. I love that he turned the book logo into a little creature!

Check out my review of Powell's Indiespensible box for May 2017!

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc - Value $15.00

The second book in the box is a paperback that tells a similarly unsettling story. It could just as easily exist as a compelling, psychological horror movie. It's full of supernatural events, suspicion, and ever-gaining anxiety.

I love the language in this book—it's straightforward, yet still effortlessly artful. For instance, there's a line that says, "Remorse stings through me, like a hangover without having a drink."

Check out my review of Powell's Indiespensible box for May 2017!

Book Summary on Amazon:

One of Nylon's "50 Books We Can't Wait To Read In 2017"

One of Chicago Reader's "Books We Can't Wait To Read In 2017"

A chilling literary horror novel about a young couple haunted by their newly purchased home

Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It tells the eerie story of a young couple haunted by their new home. Julie and James settle into a house in a small town outside the city where they met. The move―prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check―is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But this house, which sits between lake and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple. As Julie and James try to settle into their home and their relationship, the house and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The architecture―claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms―becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall―contracting, expanding―and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mold spores taint the water that James pours from the sink. Together the couple embark on a panicked search for the source of their mutual torment, a journey that mires them in the history of their peculiar neighbors and the mysterious residents who lived in the house before Julie and James.

Written in creepy, potent prose, The Grip of It is an enthralling, psychologically intense novel that deals in questions of home: how we make it and how it in turn makes us, inhabiting the bodies and the relationships we cherish.

Verdict: I really liked this eerie installment of Powell’s Books Indiespensable box. I'm not sure whether the special edition of the one book would fare in the collectors' market (it's not like it's a first edition or anything), but it does look handsome on my bookshelf. And the stories themselves are creative, bizarre, and imagination-inducing―just the kind of thing I like. The value I estimated for the books in the box is about $36.00, which falls quite a bit below the $44.95 price (after the increase, effective starting with this box). That doesn't account for the sleeve on the hardcover book, nor the booklet of author information and criticism (which does add a lot of value to the experience for me). But if you're just looking for a few good reads each month, then paying more just for a booklet of additional insights probably seems extraneous.

What do you think of Volume 66 from Powell’s Books Indiespensable box?

Anna Reilly
Anna Reilly
Anna loves collecting little treasures, be they pop-culture finds, handmade mementos, or new potions to put in her makeup bag. Beauty boxes got her interested in the subscription world, but now she's swooning for all things kawaii!

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19 comments

Agnes Mack

The Quarterly literary box also feautured this book. Strange!

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Erin

The Nocturnal Readers Box also sent Borne this month. We received signed first editions.

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Kathleen

Erin, what else came in that Nocturnal Readers box? They don’t have that month’s contents listed yet on their site. I got this Powell’s box, but am considering subscribing to Nocturnal Readers, too.

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Erin

This might post a bunch b/c my previous comments weren’t showing up.

The theme was “Corporate Overlords” & the previously released title was Normal by Warren Ellis. We also received:

InGen socks (Jurassic Park)
Megadodo Publications “Don’t Panic” hand towel (Hitchhiker’s Guide)
Southern Reach Expedition notebook (Jeff Vandermeer’s previous trilogy)
Paper Street Soap Co. bar soap (Fight Club)
Velociraptor/dino dna pin
Sombra bookmark & Shardik art print (Drak Tower series)

I’ve gotten 3 boxes from them so far, & they’ve become my favorite sub. I’m a huge horror/sci-fi/dark fantasy geek, & I think they nail their themes. If you subscribe now, I’m pretty sure your first box would be July’s “feast” theme, which looks to be heavy on gore & cannibalism. You can always skip months, & they often have random prizes & contests in the boxes too.

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Erin

The theme was “Corporate Overlords”, & I think they did a great job. Normal by Warren Ellis was the previously released title. We also received InGen socks (Jurassic Park), a Megadodo Publications microfiber hand towel (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), a Paper Street Co. bar of soap (Fight Club), a Southern Reach Expedition notebook (from Jeff Vandermeer’s previous trilogy), a Borne bookmark, a velociraptor/dino dna pin (Jurassic Park), a Sombra Co bookmark, and a Shardik art print (both from the Dark Tower series).

I am a huge horror/sci f/dark fantasy fan, & I think they nail their themes and send unique, usable items. I’ve gotten 3 boxes so far, and it’s become my favorite sub. If you subscribe now, I’m pretty sure your first box would be July’s “Feast” theme, which sounds like it’s going to be heavy on gore/cannibalism. They let you skip months, & they often have signed books/bookplates & random prizes in boxes too.

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Erin

Normal by Warren Ellis was the previously released book. We also got InGen socks (from Jurassic Park), a Paper Street Co bar of soap (from Fight Club), a Megadodo Publications microfiber hand towel (from Hitchhiker’ s Guide to the Galaxy), a Southern Reach Expedition notepad (from Jeff Vandermeer’ s trilogy), a velociraptor pin, a Sombra Co bookmark and Shardik art print (both from the Dark Tower series).

I have gotten 3 boxes from them so far and it’s my favorite sub. I am a huge horror/sci fi/dark fantasy fan and so far they have definitely delivered. If you subscribe now, I think your first one would be July’ s “Feast” box.

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Angeline

I see from the jacket photo that The Grip of It is an uncorrected proof.

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Dorian

Anyone who liked in the grip of it, it sounds a little similar to House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski if you’d like something along the same lines

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Sarah

I thought these were first editions. They haven’t removed that from the description at any rate.

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Utena

I also checked my book and it’s a signed and a first edition. Just check the copyright page and it should state what edition it is.

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Sarah

I just checked mine on the copyright page and it is still a first edition.

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Aimee

The page with the signature shows that it is a special Indiespensible edition. Although the copyright page says that it is a first edition, it is actually a book club edition.

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Aimee

This one is a signed special Indiespensible version instead of a true first edition. I feel like they mislead me a bit here.

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