Thursday, 5 May 2011

Monstrous Creatures review

As I am sure you know, Jeff Vandermeer is the author of the Amberigris series of novels, as well as being writer of countless short stories and editing a number of fiction collections by way of winning a load of awards.
This book, however, is a bit different. What we have here is a collection of Vandermeer’s reviews, articles, interviews and introductions to various collections.
It is a wonderful read. There are a few occasions where information is repeated, although this is understandable as it happens in pieces that have been written for different publications.
I’m trying to think of one or two examples where things didn’t work, but I honestly cannot. But on the other hand, there are many highlights.
The interview with author China Melville is very interesting. Both Melville and Vandermeer are fearfully intelligent and widely read and make for some awesome conversation. I’d like to get the two of them on a stage at a convention sometime, and I suspect that if we got them on the first panel of the day, we wouldn’t need to schedule any more…
While the interview with Melville is great, there are a couple more in there that are even better. The one with Joseph Nigg is heart warming and rather beautiful. And then, right out of left field, there is an interview with Melanie Typaldos. Who is she?, you may rightly ask. Well, she is the owner of a capybara. For no other reason than being interested in the animals, Vandermeer has interviewed her, and the result is a fascinating article.
The book ends with a couple more wonderful pieces. Vandermeer writes love letter to the novella that makes me feel guilty for net reading enough of them. And then there is a nice article on hiking- this, I think, hit home more because I read it at the perfect time, having just returned from a holiday where we had hiked up a mountain (and, I should add, down again). Because of this I was able to identify with a lot of what Vandermeer describes- not quite as many alligators where I was though.
And that’s just five of the many articles in this book!
There is too much in here for me to mention it all. I’ll settle for saying that Vandermer is a very good writer. He writes with an amazing intelligence and breathtaking breadth of knowledge. His reviews are insightful and sometimes toe-curlingly honest. And why had I never thought of the through-line between Lovecraft and Nigel Kneale before?
Each review or article is, as you can imagine, short enough to read in a few minutes, making this an ideal book to dip in and out of.

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