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City of Saints and Madmen

di Jeff VanderMeer

Altri autori: Vedi la sezione altri autori.

Serie: Ambergris (Expanded edition of 1)

UtentiRecensioniPopolaritàMedia votiCitazioni
1,736377,553 (4.03)76
In City of Saints and Madmen, Jeff VanderMeer has reinvented the literature of the fantastic. You hold in your hands an invitation to a place unlike any you’ve ever visited–an invitation delivered by one of our most audacious and astonishing literary magicians. City of elegance and squalor. Of religious fervor and wanton lusts. And everywhere, on the walls of courtyards and churches, an incandescent fungus of mysterious and ominous origin. In Ambergris, a would-be suitor discovers that a sunlit street can become a killing ground in the blink of an eye. An artist receives an invitation to a beheading–and finds himself enchanted. And a patient in a mental institution is convinced he’s made up a city called Ambergris, imagined its every last detail, and that he’s really from a place called Chicago.… By turns sensuous and terrifying, filled with exotica and eroticism, this interwoven collection of stories, histories, and “eyewitness” reports invokes a universe within a puzzlebox where you can lose–and find–yourself again.… (altro)
  1. 100
    Perdido Street Station di China Miéville (bertilak)
  2. 30
    Viriconium: "The Pastel City", "A Storm of Wings", "In Viriconium", "Viriconium Nights" di M. John Harrison (whiten06)
    whiten06: Viriconium was clearly an inspiration for City of Saints and Madmen.
  3. 20
    The Islanders di Christopher Priest (anglemark)
    anglemark: Eerily similar in style and theme.
  4. 20
    The Drowned Life di Jeffrey Ford (gonzobrarian)
  5. 21
    Finch di Jeff VanderMeer (ParadoxicalRae)
  6. 10
    The Dragon Griaule di Lucius Shepard (Utente anonimo)
  7. 00
    Le montagne della follia di H. P. Lovecraft (tetrachromat)
    tetrachromat: Seems likely Vandermeer was inspired by Lovecraft. Both have "subterranean terrors". Tons of other similarities too, though thankfully lacking Lovecraft's racist commentary.
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» Vedi le 76 citazioni

This type of narrative is typically a difficult sell for me.

CSM contains a number of shorter stories (novellas and novelettes) which are loosely connected, and weaves a single narrative thread through them. The reason I find this sort of thing difficult is because no sooner have I become attached to one character, they are gone and time has skipped on, sometimes by centuries. I prefer a lengthier investment.

Not all the stories are equal. The first is the weakest, imo, though it picks up towards the end. Martin Lake's tale stood out to me, though it had no surprises, because the enjoyment (much of it, anyway) comes between the comparisons of what we know to be true of his experience, and what historians believe to be true of his influences.

Some of the passages were a little too dry, too "rpg splat book" for my preference. I skimmed any and all endnotes, glossaries, and the pages of fake academic references. A nice touch, but not really readable in story terms. If, however, you are the kind of reader who likes to extract every iota of detail, every hidden nugget or sly joke, every tiny puzzle piece of the vast mystery that is Ambergris, then all of that is certainly there for the harvesting.

I mentioned the RPG splat book feel; the sense that this is more a fantasy setting with some stories attached. It's another reason why this sort of book is generally a hard sell for me (although, I feel compelled to add, it is exactly the sort of thing my partner loves reading.) How you feel about this aspect will be completely specific to you and your tastes. If you are the sort of person who reads RPG books for fun, this is probably something of a motherload.

###

Still, I've given it 5 stars, after spending a night thinking about it... so reasons why this made the 5 star list:

- I didn't enjoy every story equally, but I did enjoy every story, and each one build on previous stories to add layers, richness, metatextuality, and depth

- the metatextual elements were of course a big draw, and the novel's engagement with metafiction, surreality, horror was satisfying to me. A lot of analysis went into this book and there is a lot to get out of it, if you wish to do so.

- the writing is lovely. Maybe this goes without saying in a Vandermeer book but on the other hand, good writing is always worth singing praises for.

- the humor really appealed to me. I've highlighted one particular chapter where the insulting tone of the narrator had me laughing out loud.

- it's just so *complete* as a book. The worldbuilding is breathtaking, the scale and depth and layers to it. As someone who is a weak, half-assed worldbuilder, I was duly impressed, and (I hope) I learned a lot from this read. Ambergris feels very real, both present and distant, both fantastical and believable. That in itself is a lovely achievement

- It kept me very interested and engaged despite, as I said before, this not being quiiite the type of book I usually enjoy. Nice to push the boundaries, of course. ( )
  Sunyidean | Sep 7, 2021 |
A spectacle in imaginative prose, greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Jeff VanderMeer is truly a unique author, even when compared with veritable giants such as Sanderson and Gaiman. His use of language and structure when creating the worlds his character’s inhabit breathes life into the mundane, allowing the reader a depth of insight rarely seen in modern fiction.

‘City of Saints and Madmen’ is the first novel in the ‘Ambergris Trilogy’, and is largely comprised of short stories, faux-historical manuscripts and typewritten letters from the world’s inhabitants. VanderMeer plays fast and loose with his timeline, with different pieces taking place across a multitude of eras. Whilst this may be confusing to some, his dismissal of linearity allows the reader to build a more complete picture of the society the stories exist within.

There are peaks and troughs, no doubt. Whilst VanderMeer’s writing remains positively poetic throughout, some stories stand up on their own better than others. ‘Dradin, In Love’ , his first offering, is an absolute delight, blending fantasy trappings with Lovecraftian prose. It’s a wonderful feeling when an author spins a yarn the reader truly cannot predict, and VanderMeer evokes discomfort and curiosity in equal measure. I was rather unsure as to the narrator’s reliability until the final third, and the ending pays off that uncertainty in spades. ’The Transformation of Martin Lake’ is equally impressive, highlighting the author’s ability to draw conflict and wonder from the mundane. Truly, I’ve never been more enthralled in dense description of fictional pieces of art than by that which VanderMeer excels in.

On the other hand, certain tales failed to resonate with me to quite the same degree. I found ‘In The Hours After Death’ to be particularly disappointing, within which VanderMeer relies far too heavily on dense, surrealistic prose to create atmosphere. Consequently the plot became lost amongst the trees, as it were - the world building, whilst beautiful, entirely obscuring the story being told. For all that previous tales impressed, this one in particular lost it’s way by failing to balance story, structure and world effectively. I could offer no more insight into the author’s intent here by the end than I could at the very beginning, a blemish on an otherwise fantastic collection.

In summary, ‘City of Saints and Madmen’ is an intriguing introduction to the world of Ambergris, albeit one marred by a sense of over-ambition on occasion. As one of the cornerstones of New Weird, VanderMeer excels at finding the brilliant in boring and creating vast cityscapes that feel entirely distinct from more settings smattered across the face of genre fiction. If you enjoy novels that reject convention, or perhaps even the works of fellow New Weird pioneer China Miéville, then you’re going to love the world of Ambergris. ( )
  DannyFrankland | Aug 15, 2021 |
This 700 page book took me a day and a half to read. The penultimate story in this novel was the last thing I read last night and the first thing I thought about when I woke up this morning. Driving home from errands, I found myself thinking about it again, along with thoughts of David Foster Wallace, and tearing up. This review might take awhile. In the meantime, this book is awesome, and you should probably read it. ( )
  amyotheramy | May 11, 2021 |
The four stories contained in this book are not only astounding because of their stories, but also because of how they are written. Literary format can be as important as the contents and language of the story itself, and canderMeer's experiments have paid off. Each story is written slightly differently, but each plays with the boundaries of meta-fiction by pairing the main story with a non-fiction sounding frame that emphasizes the sense of madness-inducing reality of the city of Ambergris. I particularly enjoyed that the story of Martin Lake pairs the actual events (presumed) of his life with what an Ambergrisian art historian has interpreted about his life from his paintings. The frame story sounds like a work of non-fiction, but since the speaker cannot know the details of Martin Lake's actual life it becomes a fictionalized account as well, while the main story becomes a work of non-fiction because the reader must presume that this speaker (an omniscient narrator) knows what actually happenned to Martin Lake. ( )
  JaimieRiella | Feb 25, 2021 |
What the what? ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Sep 2, 2020 |
nessuna recensione | aggiungi una recensione

» Aggiungi altri autori (2 potenziali)

Nome dell'autoreRuoloTipo di autoreOpera?Stato
VanderMeer, Jeffautore primariotutte le edizioniconfermato
Coulthart, JohnIllustratoreautore secondarioalcune edizioniconfermato
Eagle, ScottImmagine di copertinaautore secondarioalcune edizioniconfermato
Moorcock, MichaelIntroduzioneautore secondarioalcune edizioniconfermato
Nurrish, GarryDesignerautore secondarioalcune edizioniconfermato
Roberts, MarkIllustratoreautore secondarioalcune edizioniconfermato
Schaller, EricIllustratoreautore secondarioalcune edizioniconfermato
Simon, ErikÜbersetzerautore secondarioalcune edizioniconfermato
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"What can be said about Ambergris that has not already been said? Every minute section of the city, no matter how seemingly superfluous, has a complex, even devious, part to play in the communal life. And no matter how often I stroll down Albumuth Boulevard, I never lose my sense of the city's incomparable splendor--its love of ritual, its passion for music, its infinite capacity for the beautiful cruelty."
--Voss Bender, Memoirs of a Composer, Vol. No. 1, page 558, Ministry of Whimsy Press
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For Ann, who means more to me than words
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Dradin, in love, beneath the window of his love, staring up at her while crowds surge and seethe around him, bumping and bruising him all unawares in their bright-roughed thousands.
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A footnote on the purpose of these footnotes: This text is rich with footnotes to avoid inflicting upon you, the idle tourist, so much knowledge that, bloated with it, you can no longer proceed to the delights of the city with your customary mindless abandon.
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(Click per vedere. Attenzione: può contenere anticipazioni.)
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"City of Saints and Madmen: The Book of Ambergris" is a different work from "City of Saints and Madmen".
CITY OF SAINTS AND MADMEN is a separate work to CITY OF SAINTS AND MADMEN: THE BOOK OF AMBERGRIS (ISBN 1587154366)
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In City of Saints and Madmen, Jeff VanderMeer has reinvented the literature of the fantastic. You hold in your hands an invitation to a place unlike any you’ve ever visited–an invitation delivered by one of our most audacious and astonishing literary magicians. City of elegance and squalor. Of religious fervor and wanton lusts. And everywhere, on the walls of courtyards and churches, an incandescent fungus of mysterious and ominous origin. In Ambergris, a would-be suitor discovers that a sunlit street can become a killing ground in the blink of an eye. An artist receives an invitation to a beheading–and finds himself enchanted. And a patient in a mental institution is convinced he’s made up a city called Ambergris, imagined its every last detail, and that he’s really from a place called Chicago.… By turns sensuous and terrifying, filled with exotica and eroticism, this interwoven collection of stories, histories, and “eyewitness” reports invokes a universe within a puzzlebox where you can lose–and find–yourself again.

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