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Third Bear Paperback – 12 Aug 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tachyon Publications; 1 edition (12 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892391988
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892391988
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 506,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'I think the need for me to stop reading shows exactly how good Jeff is as a writer. I encourage everyone to give this a go, whether you read it one story at a time with long intervals between each one (like me), or have the stomach to read it all in one go (I applaud you for doing so!). It's very well written, engages the readers imagination, and will make you think about the stories long after you've read them.' - Nayu's Reading Corner blogspot January 2011 "A fine introduction to one of our very best contemporary practitioners of the fantastic." -- Publishers Weekly "These 15 elegantly crafted stories ably demonstrate VanderMeer's skill ... calls to mind the works of Borges, Kafka, and Lem." -- Library Journal , Starred Review "VanderMeer proves again why he is so essential and why everybody should be reading him." --Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao "One of the things that sets VanderMeer apart is his embrace of technology and media. His online presence is considerable and includes a number of web sites, frequent blogging, a short film adaptation of his novel Shriek (including collaboration with pop rock band The Church), his Alien Baby photo project and even a project involving animation via Sony Playstation." "Jeff Vandermeer is not to be trusted. He hypnotizes with shiny objects, bizarrely beautiful shapes and phrases, then (more often than not) gently drifts you into very dark places. You won't know where you're going till you get there and then, of course, it's too late." --Mike Mignola, creator, Hellboy "In the hands of a brilliant writer like Jeff VanderMeer, writing fantasy can be a means of serious artistic expression... It is also playful, poignant, and utterly, wildly imaginative." --Peter Straub, author, The Talisman "Fascinating ... the harmonics between the stories cross all sorts of boundaries." --Locus Magazine "Jeff VanderMeer is an extraordinary writer ... passionate, beautiful, complex, terrifying." --Tamar Yellin, author, The Genizah at the House of Shepher

About the Author

Jeff VanderMeer is the founder and editor for Ministry of Whimsy Press. He is a regular contributor to's book blog, Omniverous, and his short fiction has appeared in Wired magazine. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bendaju on 18 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback
This compilation of intriguing and downright chilling short stories has yet again demonstrated Vandermeer's range of voices, scintillating prose and capacity to defy genre.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Original, excellent short stories 7 Aug. 2010
By Stefan - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Third Bear is an excellent collection of Jeff Vandermeer's category-defying short fiction, filled with stories that are unique, mostly excellent, and often incredibly hard to describe. Asking someone who has read this book (say, a reviewer) what one of the stories is about could well get you a blank stare as a response, or a few mumbled words, or simply "you'll have to read it for yourself." Pinning these stories down in a few words is very hard, not to mention a bit unfair to both the stories and the new reader. In that spirit, I'm going to stay as vague as possible in this review, but please, don't let that stop you from picking up this truly excellent collection.

Jeff Vandermeer has been compared to Kafka, Borges and Nabokov, and the first two of those are definitely appropriate comparisons for this collection. (I couldn't attest to the third one because I'm not much of a Nabokov expert, but I'm sure those critics wouldn't just make it up.) A story like "The Situation" reads like something Kafka might have written if he'd had easy access to the more popular Sixties-era recreational hallucinogenics. And as for Borges -- "Finding Sonoria" is a little gem of a story about a stamp collector, a down and out private detective, and their attempt to find a non-existent country on the basis of a mysterious stamp. If this story were a student, it would probably want to sit next to Borges' "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" in the back of the class, so they could pass notes back and forth and mess with the teacher's perception of reality. It also includes one of my favorite lines in the entire book: "Bolger snorted. "You got that right." It was the kind of snort Crake would've expected from a sausage, if a sausage could snort."

These precise, surprising word choices that make you blink, think and then nod somehow help the reader adjust to, and be drawn into, each story's particular brand of strangeness. Be prepared for mostly gradual, but occasionally jolting, changes to your expectations. "The Quickening" features a talking rabbit that adamantly insists it is, in fact, not a rabbit -- which is not the most interesting thing in this story. "Predecessor" reads like the final scene of what would be a chilling -- and very bizarre -- horror/action movie. Trying to puzzle out what the rest of the movie looks like is part of the enjoyment of this chilling story, and its lack of context enhances the surreality of, well, everything in it.

This is also one of those collections where each reader will have his or her own favorite story, and one person's favorite may be someone else's least favorite -- and, maybe more importantly and the entire point of this terribly convoluted sentence, someone's least favorite story may turn into a favorite upon rereading, which happened to me twice as I browsed and re-browsed through the collection for this review. And so, because I don't want to have to eat my words later, I won't list the few stories I currently consider the weaker ones (where "weaker" is anyway meant to be taken as relative to the generally mind-blowing quality of the others) and only list those that, after a few readings, are my favorites:

* "Lost" is a gorgeous prose poem that packs a mighty punch in just five short pages.
* "The Goat Variations" gave me the same kind of existential chill, and almost physical sense of discomfort, as some of Philip K. Dick's better novels.
* The collection's final story, "Appoggiatura," pulls together its bizarre and disparate elements so stunningly at the end that you're almost forced to reread it.

Those 3 stories are listed here in the same order in which they appear in the collection, and after reading every one of them, I quite literally thought: "Okay, this has to be THE story of the collection -- it can't get possibly much better than this." Until the next one, and then the next one, and in between each of them, my mind was quite thoroughly blown more than a handful of times

If you're looking for adjectives and categories, the two on the back cover are as good as any: "surrealist" and "absurdist." Despite fantasy elements in many of the stories, and a few touches of horror, I'd definitely shelve this one with literary fiction rather than SF&F. Whatever box you try to put it in, The Third Bear is simply an excellent collection of short fiction that you're guaranteed to think about long after you turn the final page. Highly recommended.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Atmosphere? Check. Plot? Um... 3 Dec. 2010
By flaviolius - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jeff VanderMeer is massively talented. Of that there's little doubt. His ridiculously emotive pen (keyboard, etc.) is able to effortlessly concoct phrases, conjure images, and create characters which are incredibly immersive and atmospheric.

However, in my experience with his work, I've often found his plots to be lacking; that is, what happens in his stories and novels don't reach the dizzying heights of his writing. I'm not sure if "disappointing" is the right term to describe my reaction - "frustrating" might be more accurate - but I typically come away from VanderMeer feeling like I just woke up from a vastly affecting dream that I can't recall any significant details from. My head swirls with ghosts that have little substance.

The novels I've read of his don't suffer from this as much, probably because events are needed to tie everything together. Unfortunately, this sensory fragmentation is amplified in his short fiction, of which The Third Bear is a collection.

Perhaps I'm not literate enough to "get" what VanderMeer is doing. It might be way over my head. Still, I feel that many of these stories simply don't work as complete narratives (and yes, I understand that's part of the point he's getting at). I think that's kind of an incomplete way to write short fiction; it's like playing part of an opera for someone, then cutting the power and saying to her "Awesome, yeah? Just imagine how great the rest of it is! But too bad - that's all you get!" For me, the most successful short fiction combines mood AND plot to create complete precious little jewels that work on all levels.

I have many questions about the stories in The Third Bear. For example, what happens after the events in the title story? It's a great prelude for something cataclysmic, but I'm left hanging. And what about "Predecessor", which seems like the finale to something incredible - a haunting fragment, yes, but ultimately, an unfulfilling fragment nonetheless. I felt like I was spoiling the end of a novel; I got the gist, but wow, talk about having few points of reference! And "The Situation", a baffling workplace-metaphor collage, seems to rely totally on pure strangeness for its identity. VanderMeer's done a great job showing me the skeleton, now what about the meat?

As experiments with mood, viewpoint, and structure, these stories have few peers (e.g. "Errata"). As a template for how to create effective style and use thickly layered language, they're unmatched. But I couldn't tell you what many of these stories are actually about. Sure, I could give you a vague outline and tell you how the stories made me feel, and you'd say "Wow - how weird, how creative!", but you'd walk away wondering about the rest....just as I did when I closed this book. It's like hearing a joke where you don't understand the punchline; somehow you know it's hilarious, but you're not laughing, and you wonder if there's actually a punchline at all.

As poetry, The Third Bear is a staggering triumph. As a collection of successful short stories, it doesn't quite work for me.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Stories, Hidden Treasures 29 Aug. 2010
By J. T. Glover - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a very fine collection to add to your bookshelf. Each story, whether a fable about a shark god, a novella about a surgeon, or a tiny story about a magician, is full of the twists and turns of character and language that readers expect from Jeff VanderMeer. This is a great book for readers who enjoy engaging, thought-provoking stories that will linger in your memory long after you have finished reading them.
Read this book! 27 Oct. 2013
By Ray Garraty - Published on
Format: Paperback
This collection of short stories (one original, other 13 were published in one form or another in magazines and anthologies) by Jeff VanderMeer can confound all those who believe that the format of the short story had died. After reading «The Third Bear», it becomes clear to anyone that the story is alive and is not going to die for a few hundred years more at least.

«The Third Bear» is a shooting gallery for the reader. The book is populated by huge numbers of animals and the creatures that pretend to be animals, and when the eye-gun hits the target, then as a gift you take a story about an animal.

In «The Third Bear», which after the first page seems the standard fantasy, but then turns into something more sophisticated and unconventional, a kind of monster that people call for the convenience The Third Bear, attackes the village of Grommin, abducting people and devouring them. The Third Bear, of course, is not a bear, and got his nickname because of the consonance with Theeber. The village already is in a mess, but the monster eats strong men, placing the existence of the entire community at risk. Head of the village at any price has to stop the dangerous animal. You can’t find in the story typical clashes between conan-villager and man-eating bear; powerful wizards; king defender, guarding his citizens. Vandermeer does not give the answer where the bear came from and for what purpose. Author does not give an answer to the question, what kind of world is this, as well. This well may be the Earth in feudal times, this may be another planet, another world. And is it so important when you stay cut off from the world, with your village in front of the forest with the most terrible creature, which you ever saw?

VanderMeer leaves unanswered the appearance of the speaking rabbit in the story «The Quickening». Parents of 12-year old Rachel died in a car accident, and now she lives in a house with his aunt Etta. One day a stranger near the pond gives the girl a rabbit and says his name is Sensio. Sensio soon begins to talk to the girl and tells her that he is not a rabbit. The Aunt Etta, having learnt about the abilities of the beast, at first gives him royal honors, and then decides to make money. To some people the fabula of «The Quickening» may seem unoriginal: how many times we've read about talking animals? But Sensio is anything, but not an animal. This is a story (not without a bit of black humor) about the blackness of the soul and tyranny, about the narrow-mindedness and breadth of meanness. «The Quickening» could be written by Updike or Carver, if they came up with the story of a girl, her despot aunt and a creature in the guise of a rabbit.

«My manager was extremely thin, made of plastic, with paper covering the plastic» - so begins «The Situation», very weird office farce. Conspiracy is building up against the protagonist, his Manager every day asks whether he loves her, colleagues mutate. The expression "office plankton" should be understood literally. Very weird.

Each story in this collection is not what it seems. «Fixing Hanover» is more than steampunk. «Errata» is more than a postmodern story on how to write a story. «Shark God Versus Octopus God» is more than a story based on a myth. «The Surgeon's Tale» is more than the retelling of "Frankenstein."

Vandermeer has everything that a good storyteller should have: he is original, he knows how to build a structure of a story, and he can change style depending on the story. Read this book, or you will be eaten by the bear.
Phenomenal & Mind-Bending Short Fiction 24 Jan. 2011
By Logan Stewart - Published on
Format: Paperback
Jeff VanderMeer's The Third Bear has been on my TBR pile for quite a while now. I've never read anything by the author, though his highly acclaimed novel Finch has garnered a load of attention. Likewise, his collection of bizarre short stories contained in The Third Bear has collected lauds and nods from nearly every review I've read. The book has a strange type of magic that charms the reader and takes him on a journey like never before.

So I made preparations to read this book, curiosity piqued. The library purchased it on my suggestion, and then when the book arrived, I promptly forgot about it. Too many other things to read. A fellow blogger's review reminded me about my library request. That very day I went and picked up VanderMeer's work. I was immediately stricken.

There's really no good way to describe this book. It defies genres. It defies expectations and normal thinking, subverting tropes and typical story-telling methodology for something unique and unforgettable. There are some stories that, upon completion, I couldn't bring myself to describe coherently, even if the tale was spectacular. This holds true for many of the stories, the inability to put into words what you just read, but it only serves to make the reading experience all the better.

For this reason, there's no way I could give reviews to each story in this collection. I don't know if I could pick my favorite, as nearly all have their own speciality, but a few of my favorites are below.

The titular tale, "The Third Bear," is a dark and somewhat familiar story. It reads like an old fairy tale, and the growing sense of dread throughout makes for an unsettling read.

"The Situation" is baffling. Part office-life, part post-apocalyptic, part Idon'thaveaclue, this story sealed the deal for me. I read it after reading "The Third Bear" (which I recommend you do as well, even though it doesn't follow the story in the layout of the book) and noticed a few coincidences that I could not ignore. I'm not sure at all how to describe what's going on in this story, but I highly recommend you read it.

"Errata" is possibly the weirdest piece of fiction I've ever read. I daresay fiction because the story is about a writer named Jeff VanderMeer and he's working on a story around Lake Baikal. The thing reads as a letter written by VanderMeer to an editor and seems to be taken as a true story. Suffice it say that this story unfolded beautifully and still lingers in my mind.

"The Surgeon's Tale" is probably the longest piece in this collection, but one of my favorites. It's reminiscent of Frankenstein, but it's also much more. This tale was emotional and beautifully written. I could smell the sea salt on the pages. I could watch the sargassum dance beneath the surface. The protagonist's longing was tragic, but his love was uncanny.

And lastly is "Appoggiatura," a story so twisted and confusing, so different, so essential, that it practically begs to be re-read immediately. Reading this was like catching glimmers of the City out of the corners of my eyes, almost as if I myself were somehow involved in the rich tales collected in the book.

I think one of the main reasons I enjoyed The Third Bear so much is because Jeff VanderMeer knows his craft. It's like taking a Salvador Dalí and transmogrifying it into prose. His voice is strong; his imagery is top-notch; his creativity is uncapped. I'm tempted to say I've never read a work that evokes more imagery in the mind than this book (see the remarks regarding "The Surgeon's Tale"). His prose is fluid, flowing through the surreal landscapes he's created with ease, making the reader feel both comfortable and lost. He takes little-to-no time explaining himself, but instead leaves what he's told as fact and we're to accept it and go on. There's no reasoning why the rabbit can talk in "The Quickening," it just can. Once these weird truths are accepted, the stories shine like a reappearing sun after an eclipse, bright and glorious.

After finishing "Appoggiatura" and the Author's Note, I felt the desire to return to some earlier tales, though I resisted this urge. Some other day.

Am I gushing? Perhaps, but The Third Bear is worthy of it. The book was so unlike anything I've ever read that it has me wanting to read the rest of VanderMeer's catalog immediately. If you're in a rut and tired of reading the same thing over and over, check this book out. Or, if you're just wanting to experience the thrill of Vandermeer's magical oddity, do yourself a favor and read The Third Bear. I can't recommend it enough.
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