July 27th, 2003


Veniss Underground.

i guess i'm in the mood for talking about the books i've read, in mini-reviews (or mini-opinions) than i usually am. i'm sure it won't last.

anyhow: i read jeff vandermeer's veniss underground over the weekend. a slim, lavishly written novel about genetic experimentation, an underground city, and revenge. it's entirely worth the time of any individual to track down, and they will be treated to some fairly exciting prose work, most notably in the third, and largest, section of the novel, with the main narrator, shadrach.

veniss underground has three main narrators--nicholas, nicola, and shadrach--and it begins with nicholas' first person narration:

Let me tell you why I wished to buy a meerkat at Quin's Shanghai Circus.

the narrative then follows the ramification of nicholas' purchase, and his interaction with quin. it's a fine journey to make, as the city of veniss, shown through vandermeer's eyes, is utterly alive: twisted, dark, oddly beautiful, and utterly compelling. you'll be drawn into the locale, find yourself wishing that vandermeer had written a larger book, with more of it. (there are, apparently, some short stories set in veniss, and with any luck, they'll be collected.) there are, naturally, faults: the characters are a somewhat flat, especially shadrach, and vandermeer has made a conscious effort to make quin enigmatic. the latter of the two is more of a personal fault, just something i'd like to see, as, i guess, the first might be too. but still, that's what i think. oh, and the meerkats themselves were out of place for me--the one out of place image in the otherwise seamless world.

the book has been well reviewed across the web, so it shouldn't be hard for you to track some down if you want to read more. but, before you do, beware: they will probably discuss some of the scenes that happen in veniss underground, and in doing so, i think, they will dispel some of the surreal beauty in which they emerge. trust in me, trust in vandermeer's considerable skill (he won a world fantasy award) and give the book a whirl without them if this sounds like your kind of thing.
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