Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Tor (Macmillan UK)
Release Date: May 2004
ISBN: 1405033967
Format Reviewed:Trade Paperback
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Genre:   Fantasy
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:  

City of Saints & Madmen
By Jeff VanderMeer

      …And now for something (almost) completely different, as Monty Python used to say. If you liked the stylishly surreal works of Mervyn Peake and Michael Moorcock and yearn for more in the same vein, then dive into this volume about the fantastic city of Ambergris. Here are some of the collected works of award-winning US fantasist Jeff VanderMeer telling of life in this teeming metropolis, and a very bizarre life it is too. Giant freshwater squid live in the nearby river, strange beings called mushroom dwellers lurk, and the ordinary humans are anything but. There's humor in here, tragedy too as well as romance, violence, and some fun experimentation. It isn't even all just straight stories either, but lots of facts about life in Ambergris that make it seem more real: a whole section about those squid for example, and a history of the place. Some Aubrey Beardsley-type pictures, and a joke bibliography after the squid chapter which had me hlaughing - a hilarious satire on bibliographies in general. The same typeface isn't even used throughout so you can just hear the thump of rulebooks being thrown out and bouncing down the bookstore steps…

     This isn't going to be to everybody's taste by a mile, but there is plenty of ordinary fantasy out there for Tolkein aficionados. When I opened the book I imagined that it would be too much like Peake or Moorcock and therefore still derivative, just of a different style of writing. But it is a lot more than that as I hope I have conveyed; real imagination is at work here. It isn't a quick read and maybe not even a book you only read once, and probably not even necessarily from cover to cover in the manner of a novel. Leave it on your coffee table and see what happens!