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Veniss Underground Paperback – 17 Oct 2003
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A nightmare vision that shows off VanderMeer's many virtues. The denouement is as powerful as any I have read. -- Michael Moorcock, The Guardian, December 2003
A strange, enigmatic and wonderful tale. Highly recommended. -- Third Alternative, November 2003
A timely and cautionary tale regarding the manipulation of genetics...a marvellous trip into a future world... -- Dreamwatch, October 2003
An outstanding first novel brimming with startling ideas made unpleasant flesh by VanderMeers deliciously decadent prose. -- The Scotsman
Darkly compelling. Not to be missed! -- CNN.com
Five stars! VanderMeer is a major author to watch. -- SFX, October 2003
Jeff VanderMeer explores the limits of love, memory and obsession in a far-future SF novel that combines the grotesque and the sublime with a compelling mystery
This is Jeff VanderMeer’s outstanding debut novel. Its powerful prose has been likened to Dante’s Divine Comedy and J. G. Ballard’s writings, taking reader on an unforgettable journey exploring the limits of love, memory and obsession.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product description
Top customer reviews
If 'The New Weird' means anything - and meaningful definitions are hard to come by - it appears to mean a form of hyper-romantic fantasy that draws at will on urban fantasy, dark fantasy, SF, horror, noir and thriller elements. Its direct ancestors include Michael Moorcock, Angela Carter and, even more pertinently, M. John Harrison, whose 'Viriconium' stories are the template for 'Veniss' and similar work by other writers - notably China Mieville. More generally, this is fleshy fantasy, post-Cronenberg, post-Barker, post-Gaiman.
This makes 'Veniss' sound more attractive than it is. In practice, VanderMeer lacks the imagination of the writers mentioned, and especially Harrison's acute feel for tone, essential when dealing with deliberately mannered prose. The brief opening section of the book is quite horribly overwritten; almost a textbook example of how to alienate a reader by being simultaneously pretentious, obscure and coy. I almost abandoned the book at this point. I wonder how many readers have never progressed further?
The second and third sections are more lucidly written, but what emerges, disappointingly, is a standard fantasy narrative, loosely derived from the classical myth of Orpheus's descent into the underworld. VanderMeer packs a great deal of hectic incident and implication into a relatively small space, but as a result much of what happens feels underexplained, unmotivated and repetitious - as though 'weirdness' (and a very adolescent, Dali-Bosch idea of weirdness) for its own sake was the governing aesthetic.
This borrowed visual imagination means that VanderMeer's Veniss never makes an indelible impression, resembling as it does too many similar creations in familiar films and books. The emotional temperature too is operatically overwrought throughout, as though the fate of the universe were at stake, but the characters are so thinly imagined that it's never clear why we should care about them.
I understand that VanderMeer has written better elsewhere, but 'Veniss Underground' left me with little enthusiasm to investigate further.
There are some great ideas in `Veniss', especially in the middle section. Artificially created Meerkats act as servants to the rich and famous, but do they have a hidden agenda? When the final, and largest, section of the book begins, we go from the strange and interesting, into the plain crazy. Vandermeer loses his way as Shadrach stampedes through too many different places all in the same world; underground mines, mountains of limbs, strange seas. A confused story entirely loses its way and you become less lost in the world of Veniss and more lost in a world of confused storytelling.
`Veniss' is a book that peaks halfway through, as it borders on the crazy, but remains one step aloof. When Vandermeer does let his imagination run riot, it is at the sake of a coherent narrative. The many great ideas in the book make it worthwhile reading for harder science fiction fans, everyone else is best off giving it a miss.
But kudos to Michael Moorcock for pointing me in the direction of this.
Looking back on Veniss Underground, it's hard to believe that this is a debut effort. It's a polished, accomplished, masterful piece of work, and as usual, I'm in danger of running out of superlatives!
The story of a man looking for his missing sister, it alternates between first, second, and third person perspective, in an effortless manner, that in the hands of a lesser author, would probably collapse in a heap.
Long does this live in the memory as a masterful piece of work.