More than 10,000 books and stories rated and reviewed! - About this site

Writers: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z
reviews of books and stories by author names and pen names

SF&F Timeline! 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000-Now
retrospective look at sf&f year-by-year
Best SF&F Lists! Recommended Reading
by genre, topic and length category
The Ultimate Guide to New SF&F Writers (from 1990 till now)


->

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

Q

R

S

T

U

V

W

Y

Z

Year

Best!
















































->

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

Q

R

S

T

U

V

W

Y

Z

Year

Best!

Jeff VanderMeer





Jeff VanderMeer's fiction, for my money, is the best value in modern fantasy; his every book is packed with delectable and wicked delights, loads of lush and ominous scenery, taut (bordering on poetic) writing and deep, dark currents of thought - an intense recipe that is sure to invigorate the whole genre of modern fantastic fiction. He has won two World Fantasy Awards, has been a finalist for the Hugo Award, Bram Stoker Award, Philip K. Dick Award, and as you will see below, currently displays no signs of slowing down.


(art courtesy David Fuhrer)

Scroll down for full reviews and ratings:

----------------------------------------------

"Ghost in the Machine"
(Veniss series)
© Fantastic Worlds, vol.1, 1995
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award
--/ rare find

----------------------------------------------



"The Situation"
© 2008, PS Publishing
--/ third place f novelette
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award
--/ style award
--/ emotion award

Jeff VanderMeer is not a pirate (swashbuckler, filibustier, rogue), nor is he a squid researcher, or a mushroom grower (though some of his writings may suggest all that, given their ferocious weirdness). He is, however, a damn good writer, who can easily cram a juicy epic into a thin sliver of a book: in this case, a 50-page worth Situation.

Somewhat reminiscent of Vernor Vinge's novella "The Monster Cookie", this particularly steamy slice of corporate Gormenghast for economy-haunted America provides plenty of emotional harakiri and gut-spilling visual thrills... it crawls around the astonished reader like a misshapen beetle (complete with the grotesque patterns on its carapace and clockwork-sounding clicks). At any point in time this novella seems to have enough potential to be turned into a full-blown 500-page paperback slab, but Jeff VanderMeer never makes this "Alienation in the Workforce" any longer than it needs to be. He lets it lie where it may (using the long-forgotten art form of understatement) - and boy, does the whole thing curl around your subconscious in deliciously disturbing ways!

Suffice it to say that anybody who's been slighted by the benefits-rich corporate culture, or has ever caught a whiff of something rotten emanating from the CEO's office (the Chairmen of the Board abide in a sort of a metaphysical tower and seem to be of insectoid, slug, or worse nature) - anybody who felt the foreboding of CHANGE ready to percolate down the managerial chain... anybody who was strangled creatively or artistically in the name of Almighty Routine... these readers would really appreciate the bizarre Kafka-esque environment of the "Situation", and may cherish it as a sort of confessional, akin to a conversation with a wise (if somewhat mischievous) priest at an altar. The words of wisdom seem to be "Get Out! While you can, and leave your red stapler behind" - but there is more to the particular kind of doom which Jeff VanderMeer carefully measures out. The unavoidable outcome of being fired seems almost a happy ending to a progression of humiliation and defeat.

So in a way, this is a quest, only in reverse. The happy start of the story occurred somewhere during the peaceful "belonging" stage of being gainfully employed. But when the situation developed, everything turned into a bloody, fleshy, surreal set-up (think of "Existenz" movie, or J. G. Ballard's particularly weird nightmares). With the final page the reader can expect to be emotionally exhausted, greatly desiring more details, and only getting fifty pages worth of text. Kind of like Harlan Ellison's angriest (and most laconic) best. Good things come in small packages, indeed.

Download the full text online here, read about the circumstances of how it was written in Jeff's interview on DRB, or order the book at PS Publishing site.

----------------------------------------------



"Secret Lives" (coll)
© 2008, Prime Books
--/ fourth place f collection
--/ idea award
--/ style award
--/ humour award

Speaking of Harlan Ellison's "angry candies", or his "From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet", here we have a similarly delicious set - a short collection (little more than 100 pages) of themed stories, vignettes of the secret lives of various quite ridiculous, or spectacularly boring characters.

This is a gauntlet thrown in the face of each of us: "Hey there, do YOU have a secret worth of writing about?" My completely uneducated guess would be that most people lead some sort of secret life, even if known only to the powers above. Admit it, or not, this is a voyaristic bliss package, capable to illuminate your boring life with rays of unadulterated lunacy, even if said lunacy is only a product of Jeff VanderMeer's mind.

This book takes my pick as the most intriguing and under-appreciated publishing event of the year (it even has a strange, unaccounted story on the other side of the cover). Don't try to search for it in your cavernous Borders store, and don't confuse this book with Jeff's previously-issued collection "Secret Life". You can order a copy through the Prime Books website.

----------------------------------------------


Click to go to "Dark Roasted Blend" site

COMMENTS:

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

LATEST POSTS:

Collecting Pulp Magazines

Ephemera Interview with Avi Abrams

Enchanting Victorian Fairy Tale Art

"Then world behind and home ahead..."

Exceptional British Scifi Artwork from the 1950s

Space Pulp Art by Ron Turner and other British artists

Pulp Pleasures: Eando Binder

Great space adventure fiction from the 1930s
"Where Eternity Ends" and other rare gems

Also read recent posts:
Author's Pen Names - Most Complete List Ever
The Wonder Timeline: SF&F Restrospective
Space Adventure Article


SEE OUR MAIN PAGE FOR MORE!


EXPLANATION OF THE RATING SYSTEM:

"SF&F Reading Experience" is part of "Dark Roasted Blend / Thrilling Wonder" family of sites. We try to highlight the most entertaining and rewarding science fiction and fantasy, with emphasis on memorable reader experience, not necessarily general acceptance by the critics. Have fun, and delve into our extensive ratings and reviews!

Most reviews are written by Avi Abrams, unless otherwise noted. Reviews also appear on our unique historical retrospective page Wonder Timeline of Science Fiction. Feel free to submit your own review, if a particular story is not listed here.


All major OFFICIAL AWARDS are highlighted in BLUE
("winner" has a letter "W" by it, otherwise it is a runner-up only)

Our PERSONAL AWARDS (ratings) are highlighted in RED and PURPLE:
--/ first place :
--/ second place :
--/ third place :

--/ fourth place :

--/ cool : (equal to fifth place)
ALL "BEST OF" LISTS ARE LOCATED HERE

These awards are given in the following categories:
- novel :
- series :
- novella :
- story :
- collection :

Also, there are our personal STYLE / GENRE SPECIFIC AWARDS. These reflect the story's content and the lasting impression on the reader:

--/ wonder award
sense-of-wonder, "visual intensity" and inventiveness

--/ idea award
originality of idea / concept

--/ adventure award
exhilarating plot, excitement / action

--/ style award
outstanding literary qualities, inimitable style

--/ romance award
intense and beautiful love / relationships

--/ humour award
funny and cool

--/ emotion award
touching, lasting impression, sensitivity

--/ shock value
altogether wild

--/ awesome scale
mind-boggling; further enhances sense-of-wonder

--/ rare find
very hard to locate, mostly from old pulps, never reprinted, etc.

Again, please feel free to leave your own review or comment under every writer's entry; also recommend us other stories you liked.