by Jeff Vandermeer (2001)
I truly don’t know how City of Saints and Madmen ended up in on my radar. I saw it was the only fiction book on Jim’s wish list and got it for Christmas for him only to learn he’d never heard of it. Maybe I added it by accident after some mention, maybe it was just fate – but however it happened, I’m glad because this is one of the most intriguing novels I’ve come across recently.. Even if it doesn’t always seem that way as your reading it.
Based on the fictional city Ambergris, the novel is a patchwork of styles and faux historical texts: from meta short diction to city guides for tourists, from “classic” fables to standard sci-fi fiction. The book covers a range of the unusual city’s history giving the reader a immersive portrait of an amazing place.
Deadly festivals, giant squids, mushroom people who live underground, hostile takeovers, plagues.. There’s so much interesting stuff here, my only complaint is that some segments worked better than others. I’d sometimes be taken out of the carefully constructed world Vandermeer has created. But the novel is sum is greater than its parts and the novel is best a few days after you finish it and thoughts of Ambergris come bubbling into your dreams.