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City of Saints and Madmen [Paperback]

Jeff Vandermeer
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 28 2006
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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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

A master of postmodern game playing, VanderMeer (The Exchange) here gathers all the fiction published in his earlier trade paper collection (also titled, in a typically Borgesian maneuver, City of Saints and Madmen), plus an equal amount of new material. Set in the haunted city of Ambergris, with its Borges Bookstore, these stories feature bizarre recurring characters and intensely self-referential plots. Among the highlights are the World Fantasy Award¤winning Transformation of Martin Lake, the tale of a talented painter who's obsessed with a great composer; The Strange Case of X, which concerns an incarcerated lunatic found wandering the streets of Ambergris carrying the very book being discussed in this review; the wonderful new story The Cage, in which an antiques dealer becomes infected with a fungus that's slowly taking over much of the city; and, oddest of all perhaps, an untitled short story, which fills the entire dust jacket and concerns an unnamed traveler who has a close encounter with a giant squid in the river that runs through Ambergris. Other pieces take many forms, including a history of the city complete with footnotes, psychiatric records from a local hospital, an amazingly funny work of pseudo-biology entitled King Squid and entirely bogus bibliographies and glossaries. This beautifully written, virtually hallucinatory work isn't for every taste, but connoisseurs of the finest in postmodern fantasy will find it enormously rewarding.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"One of the best books of 2001" CHINA MIEVILLE "Other fantasy authors may stripmine their invented worlds for the last scrap of ore; VanderMeer keeps going deeper, and finding new forms of gold" LOCUS --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly realized body of work Aug. 29 2003
Its difficult to know where to begin describing Jeff VanderMeer's remarkable "City of Saints and Madmen"; with it's interweaving plot lines cutting across stories, one is never sure where one section begins and another leaves off. Moreover, the world of Ambergris is so fully realized, and yet so willfully fanciful, one can never quite find one's footing. In the hands of a less skilled writer, all of this would add up to a bizarre mish-mash, but VanderMeer somehow weaves it together into one unified work.
Moreover, this is a book for booklovers; the arrangement is a work of art in and of itself. The use of fonts, illustrations, footnotes, even the binding adds to the illusion. The cover itself is remarkable, as it contains both a short story and a hilarious fictional biography of the author. VanderMeer and his publisher have succeeded admirably in creating a volume that harkens to an era when books were not only repositories of writing, but valuable for what surrounded the writing.
And what writing it is! VanderMeer flashes descriptive powers that border on the hallucinogenic; the pages absolutely drip with the essence of Ambergris. From the giant squid that inhabit the River Moth, to the serenely vicious Grey Caps, the author has produced a world that is both bizarrely foreign and completely believable at the same time. One of the keys to this success is VanderMeer's wise decision to left some things unsaid; for every piece of information about Ambergris that he doles out, he holds back ten, leaving the reader craving more, but also making his world believable because of its very complexity. In this regard (at least), he is the equal of China Mieville, who has likewise created a world that is both foreign and familiar.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ah, the perfume of Ambergris! May 28 2003
Did you ever start a book and think --about two paragraphs in-- that you'd just discovered the literary equivalent of Shangri-La: a paradise heretofore undiscovered by man? If so, you'll know the feeling I had when I started this book.
VanderMeer's writing just soars off the page. This is not a page-turner, but fiction to be savored like an old single malt scotch. Not only that, but the stories are wonderful and fully-fleshed in every way. The piecemeal and referential introduction to the world of Ambergris was also quite affecting, and contrary to a previous review of this as being a detraction, I thought that this actually enhanced the reading experience. Hell, there are a thousand other novels out there that postulate their own world and exploit them to the fullest. This book takes the opposite tack, touching on some of the salient points and the lives that happen therein, and letting Ambergris bleed through the spaces.
For me, this is a book to keep --and reread-- for life. A marvellous experience. "Martin Lake" and "Dradin, In Love" are some of the best stories I've ever come across. Did anyone mention humor? Yeah, there's plenty of that, too: the laugh out loud kind. And the hardcover (which I bought after I'd read the paperback) is incredible, with additional features and stories; "The Cage" is a masterpiece, I think. If you happen to be a demanding reader, this just may be the gold at the end of your rainbow.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unpredictable twists and turns Nov. 10 2002
Along side the River Moth, a city called Ambergris rose. Founded on the blood of its original inhabitants shed in its making and evolution, and steeped for centuries in the aftermath of a calamitous struggle, the cruelly beautiful and complex metropolis of Ambergris is a place of artists and composers, thieves and murders. Enhanced with an introduction by Michael Moorcock, City Of Saints And Madmen: The Book Of Ambergris, is a bizarre, eclectic, and unique science fiction narrative enhanced with appendices of "reference" documents, written by Jeff VanderMeer, a mysterious, reclusive, and brilliantly talented author. The unpredictable twists and turns, fantastic setting, and exciting narrative make City Of Saints And Madmen: The Book Of Ambergris an engrossing read for those seeking something fresh and different by way of a literary experience. Highly recommended for a sophisticated readership, City Of Saints And Madmen: The Book Of Ambergris is also available in a paperback edition (Wildside Press, 1587154366, $amount).
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Book Aug. 20 2002
Beautiful and lush imagery highlight this collection; sure to be one of th best genre books of 2002. This edition of the VanderMeer collection contains each of the four novellas from the 2001 paperback (including the World Fantasy Award winning 'The Transformation of Martin Lake') and augments them with two major new novellas and assorted other Ambergris material, including an expanded Ambergris glossary.
The collection begins with the fantastic 'Dradin in Love'; the story of a former missionary who moves to the city of Ambergris and immediately falls hopelessly in love. The story details Dradin's exploration of Ambergris and his growing infatuation with a woman he has not met. His correspondence with his love is facilitated by a dwarf who has a map of the world tattoed on his head. 'Dradin..' is beautiful and exciting and serves as an excellent introduction to the city of Ambergris.
Second is 'The Hoegbotton Guide to the Early History of Ambergris'; a fascinating historical study of the origins of Ambergris. An excellent piece.
Next up is 'The Transformation of Martin Lake' which tells the story of a painter Martin Lake's transformation from an obscure artist to a master. The story is told against the background of a turbulent time in Ambergris. The death of famous composer Voss Bender has polarized the city, dividing the citizens into Reds (Bender supporters) and the Greens (Anti-Bender). This is a beautiful story that justly won the World Fantasy award.
'The Strange Case of X' features a best-selling author named Jeff VanderMeer who is apparently under the delusion that Ambergris actually exists. Nicely done.
The material original to this volume is equally compelling. Most notable is the lengthy biography of the King Squid, a creature native to Ambergris.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars dark and inspiring. thanks Jeff!
Really, I don't usually gush about books, but this one has hit me a little like a bowling ball hits a creamy whipped potato salad. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2007 by B. Salomons
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but I wish it were longer
Really enjoyed this book, Jeff has a wild and coherent imagination. Only wished the book contained the stories I later learned were only available on the extended edition. Read more
Published on March 17 2003 by Yanuly Sanson
4.0 out of 5 stars A flemish work of exquisite texture
Vandermeer's words are beautiful hues in a Flemish painting. Ambergris is any town in all its colours,and one cannot admire enough the splendid tapestry of a strange alternate... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2002 by Ventura Angelo
4.0 out of 5 stars A flemish work of exquisite texture
Vandermeer's words are beautiful hues in a Flemish painting. Ambergris is any town in all its colours,and one cannot admire enough the splendid tapestry of a strange alternate... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2002 by Ventura Angelo
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly fantastic
It has been a long time since I've been this excited about being introduced to an author. Indeed, VanderMeer reminds me of the last author to get me this excited, Gene Wolfe. Read more
Published on Oct. 2 2002 by Glenn McDorman
2.0 out of 5 stars It was OK
I dont' want to be harsh on this book because it is quality fantasy. In other words, it's not of the epic fantasy genre. Read more
Published on Sept. 23 2002 by Eric Vondy
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely beautiful book!
Do you love books? I mean, really love them? Then this is a book that should be on your shelf. The writing is top-notch. Read more
Published on July 25 2002 by John Klima
4.0 out of 5 stars Weird City Makes Good Reading
I picked this book up because the author wrote an interesting article on Angela Carter another web site. I was not disappointed. Read more
Published on July 16 2002 by sebastian hope
5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure-Trove of the Imagination
This book is filled with riches - from the dust jacket story through the four novellas and the textual, illustrative and typographical variety of the Appendix to the final... Read more
Published on June 30 2002 by Joe Nigg
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