in Books, sf

Veniss Underground, by Jeff Vandermeer (Books 2008, 12)

I bought this in a second-hand bookshop, and tucked into the back there was a cutting from ??The Guardian?? of “this review”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2003/nov/29/featuresreviews.guardianreview22 by Michael Moorcock. So go and look there if you want a plot summary: he does it much better then I could.

It’s an interesting, dark story, and I’m not totally sure how I feel about it. It straddles the SF/fantasy divide, at least in the sense that it is set in the far future, there are hints of spaceflight being common, and there is much genetic and somatic manipulation; but there are also talking animals.

Of course, the talking animals (mainly meerkats) are enabled by the genetic engineering, so really it’s unabashedly SF. However, Shadrach’s descent into the literal underworld of the levels below the city are straight out of mythology. And the description of the organ bank, while striking, are just fanciful to the point of unbelievability.

It’s the first thing I’ve read by Vandermeer, and while I enjoyed it, it doesn’t immediately make me want to go out and read more. That said, his ??City of Saints and Madmen?? does attract me, if only because it’s such a great title. I keep hearing (well, reading) people referring to him recently, so I don’t doubt that he’s got a lot to offer.

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