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City of Saints and Madmen Hardcover – 2 Apr 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 2 Apr 2004
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Tor; New edition edition (2 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405033959
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405033954
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,337,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A masterful novel. Complex and textured, decadent and decaying. A beautiful work of art, both as physical object and text. -- Locus Online, 2002

Beautifully written, virtually hallucinatory work. Connoisseurs of the finest in postmodern fantasy will find it enormously rewarding. -- Publishers Weekly, 2002

It is a rare treasure, to be tasted with both relish and respect. It's what you've been looking for. -- Michael Moorcock, intro to the book

[a] truly wonderful creation...startlingly nasty and/or beautiful revelations. -- Gahan Wilson, Realms of Fantasy, 2003

Book Description

Jeff VanderMeer has been acclaimed by authors such as Lauren Beukes, Richard Morgan, Michael Moorcock and more. By turns sensuous and terrifying, this collection of four linked novellas is the perfect introduction to VanderMeer’s vividly imagined worlds. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
On the surface, City of Saints and Madmen is a collection of short stories set in the fantastic city of Ambergris, stories suffused with sorrow and wry humour, some of them straightforward, others told through various metafictional conceits and devices. On the surface, we have four novellas and an appendix of sundry shorter delights. But apart from the fact that each story is an absolute nugget in its own right, there's much more going on here in the way these tales relate to each other. As the novellas progress, various fake historical glossaries, academic footnotes and art history interpolations are used to make Ambergris far more rounded and real than most fantasy backdrops, building VanderMeer's city of musicians, poets and sinister mushroom-dwellers in the reader's imagination until in the last of the four novellas we are taken right through the looking glass. In an insanely ambitious move reminiscent of Alasdair Gray's Lanark, or a writer such as Borges, fact and fiction are flipped inside-out and the reader is plunged deep into a world all the truer because it is given to us through the artefacts of Ambergris --illustrated chapbooks, monograms, bibliographies, magazine clippings or lunatic's notes. Metafiction can be tricky in its tricksiness, but VanderMeer pulls it off wonderfully. In a way this becomes a novel with the reader himself as the protagonist, a traveller wandering through VanderMeer's strange, dark, literary vision. And, lit with flashes of sheer brilliance, VanderMeer's Ambergris is more than just worth a visit. This is a must-read book, a delightful treat for the fan of fantasy as a genre, for those who enjoy Angela Carter, Gabriel Garcia Marquez or any of the Magic Realists. In the end this book is for anyone who likes their books intelligent, playful, comic, tragic and with a vision just a wee bit skewed from the norm.
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Format: Hardcover
Come and see a city, one like no other, filled with more madmen than saints.
You'll find no farmboys possesing magic talents here, no buff warriors or mighty sorcerors... instead the beautiful yet darkly secretive Ambergris is populated by out-of-work missionaries, struggling artists, unhinged marinebiologists (and at least one slightly unhinged author) and other still more curious individuals. Each is led into the darkest corners of both the city and the human consciousness, and every tale is woven through with the silent question that no Ambergrisian can answer - the darkest of all the city's secrets.
Not only does VanderMeer present his readers with finely crafted, delicately sculpted prose on every turning page but as the readers are propelled into appendices and glossaries, footnotes, bibliographies they are continuously rewarded with the most imaginative and most fully-realised fiction being written today.
It may also be the most beautifully presented artifact of fiction you could hope to possess - painstakingly designed from cover to cover, filled with illustrations and diagrams, each designed to draw the reader further down the rabbit hole.
By turns darkly horrific, emotionally charged and hilariously comic, City of Saints and Madmen is a wonderfully clever, crazed and adventurous collection of experiences you cannot miss out on.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having first encountered Jeff VanderMeer’s work in the splendidly odd ‘Annihilation’, it seemed that I may have found another favourite author. This volume, however, may equally have convinced me of the opposite.

This huge book (700’ish pages) consists of four novellas/short stories and a mish-mash of shorter stories plonked into an appendix, all set in the teeming anarchic city of Ambergris. The first story, ‘Dradin in Love’, tells the tale of a priest’s return to the city after a period of missionary work in the jungle and serves as an excellent introduction to the metropolis and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The entire cityscape is superbly detailed and consistently well-imagined while the narrative has pace and mystery (and mushrooms). Things go rapidly downhill, however, in the second offering. This historical guide to the city does succeed in providing a rich context to the city but the profuse and verbose footnotes significantly impeded narrative flow to the point that I stopped reading them. The allegedly award winning ‘The Transformation of Martin Lake’ follows. This is the story of the rise to fame of a struggling artist following an invitation to a bizarre beheading and is a hard read with a most unsatisfying conclusion. This is followed by ‘The Strange Case of Mr. X’ in which the author effectively regales the unfortunate reader with an interview with himself under the guise of a psychiatrist interviewing a patient in an asylum; dull introspection which I skip-read until the closing, not entirely unexpected, twist. Then I hit the appendices which make up over half of the volume, by which time I was thoroughly bored by the whole thing and finally gave up when I hit a whole section printed in an unreadably blobby manual typewriter style typeface.
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By Jane Aland VINE VOICE on 26 Jun. 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful introduction to the fantasy city of Ambergris, combining the fantasy world-building of China Mieville with a healthy dose of humour, and a dark Lovecraftian underbelly of horror concerning the bizarre fungus-like `Mushroom Dwellers' that live beneath the city. Less a novel as such and more a collection of pieces, the main part of this book is comprised of 4 stunning novellas, while an equally long appendix provides numerous short stories and fragments to complement the whole. If I do have a slight quibble (and it's the only thing that prevented me from giving this full marks) it's that the book feels slightly lop-sided, as while the 350-odd page AppendiX (sic) does contain much entertainment it also shows a little repetition of theme and inevitably feels rather bitty compared to the main four novellas. Still, this is a brilliant fantasy novel, with Vandermeer displaying a real love of language with prose to match his bizarre ideas, while the post-modern unreliable narrative that creeps in with the story of `X' (a fictitious character or the creator of a fictitious world himself?) only makes things more interesting. This is also one of the best designed mass market paperbacks I've ever seen, with great layouts and differing fonts and illustrations giving the illusion of a bundle of various documents. Excellent stuff.
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