Reading Level: Adult
Length: 704 pages
Release Date: February 28, 2006
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Swapped through Paperbackswap.com
Rating: 4/5 stars
I have had this book on my to be read pile for quite a while and was excited to finally pick it up to read. While it wasn’t the easiest book to read; Vandermeer does an amazing job creating an imaginative city that ends up seeming incredibly real to the reader.
The book is a collection of a number of stories which I have written in more detail about below. The book’s climax occurs once you get to The Strange Case of X in which you find out more about the author of Dradin, In Love and the Transformation of Martin Lake. The Appendix is a series of items and stories found in the possession of X which help the reader stitch together a more complete image of the city of Ambergris.
Parts of the book are a bit of a slog to get through, but the book is also darkly humorous at times. The stories range from humorous and witty, to grotesque and darkly disturbing with more than a hint of madness running throughout. Definitely an adult read.
The book is completely unique (I have never read anything like this before) and does an excellent job of immersing the reader in the strangely beautiful yet grotesque city of Ambergris. This is not a book for the faint of heart or those who like their stories defined and clear cut.
Overall I am glad I read it but doubt I will read it again. The detail and depth that goes into creating the strange and unique city of Ambergris is amazing; I love how the reader has to piece together facts about the city from the various documents provided. That being said this is not an easy read and is plain boring at parts. I would recommend to those who are into Cthulhu mythos and are interested in strangely beautiful yet disturbing stories and don’t mind some ambiguity. See below for comments on each section.
Dradin, In Love (4 stars)
About a young man named Dradin who returns from an expedition to the Jungle as a missionary and falls in love with a young woman. As he proceeds to woo the young woman he finds that there are darker parts to city living than there every were in the jungle.
The Hogbotton Guide to the Early History of Ambergris (3 stars)
This is a history of Ambergris and explores in more detail the relationship between the people who now inhabit Ambergris and the grey caps or mushroom folk that originally lived in that area and were displaced. This was very cleverly done and was in turns boring, amusing, and disturbing. I was impressed with the detail included, it really made Ambergris and its history come alive. However this definitely wasn’t the easiest thing to read and at times read like a history book.
The Transformation of Martin Lake (4 stars)
This was a story about an artist who lived in Ambergris. The story alternates between an art historian’s account/interpretation of Martin’s famous works and the story of Martin himself and the events that actually led to him making his famous paintings. This was well done although the art historian parts were a bit of a drag to get through.
The Strange Case of X (5 stars)
This is about a patient named X who is apparently the author of both Dradin, In Love and The Transformation of Martin Lake.. He is being interviewed by a psychiatric doctor about his delusions and the fact that he believes Ambergris is real. There are some delightful twists in this story that really bring all the previous stories together.
Appendix (4 stars)
A collections of stories, notes, etc found in the possession of X from the story above. Many of these details the mysterious interactions with the grey caps as they haunt and torment the city of Ambergris. There is also an Appendix to Ambergris.