Book Review: City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer

This is a beautiful book about the dimensions where world-building can go. The details about the world from the newspaper advertisement clippings to letters is astonishing. But I have to say while I enjoyed some of the short stories and appendix material, especially the story inside the story inside the book with a weird and wonderful combining power, yet, I wouldn’t say this was something I highly enjoyed. I’m not sure why? Maybe it was sometimes the overwritten tone or some of the short stories just didn’t speak to me, I’m not sure what. But now as I think about it, maybe it is more about getting overwhelmed by the information overflow. The same thing I marveled about the book.

City of Saints and Madmen has that weird fiction feeling. The same I get when I read China Miéville, making the reading experience enjoyable. But I would conclude that while the book’s atmosphere is compelling, the writing is more cumbersome than in Annihilation, which instantly drew me in. I think you can paint complex worlds and ideas with simple language and still make it as compelling and vivid. Sometimes too much trying gets in the way.

The book has so much to offer. The ideas behind it and the world Ambergris are fantastic, and they have potential. This is a book for those who love world-building. Not that the stories aren’t strongly motivated by characters, but sometimes the mystery of it or need for the details takes strength away from the characters’ speaking power. They are more like spectators than participants.

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