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City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer

City of Saints and Madmen

by Jeff VanderMeer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Ambergris (Expanded edition of 1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,458265,132 (4.02)67
  1. 80
    Perdido Street Station by China Miéville (bertilak)
  2. 20
    The Islanders by Christopher Priest (anglemark)
    anglemark: Eerily similar in style and theme.
  3. 20
    The Drowned Life by Jeffrey Ford (gonzobrarian)
  4. 10
    The Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard (Anonymous user)
  5. 10
    Viriconium: "The Pastel City", "A Storm of Wings", "In Viriconium", "Viriconium Nights" by M. John Harrison (whiten06)
    whiten06: Viriconium was clearly an inspiration for City of Saints and Madmen.
  6. 21
    Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (ParadoxicalRae)
  7. 00
    At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror {4 stories} by H. P. Lovecraft (tetrachromat)
    tetrachromat: Seems likely Vandermeer was inspired by Lovecraft. Both have "subterranean terrors". Tons of other similarities too, though thankfully lacking Lovecraft's racist commentary.

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» See also 67 mentions

English (25)  French (1)  All (26)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
City Of Saints and Madmen is made up of a series of stories connected by their setting. There’s a depth to Ambergris, a heft that only comes from a fully-realized world. Middle-Earth has it, as does Arrakis: a sense that the craziest things make perfect sense because you’re so grounded in the world the author has created.

Before we reach the "beautiful cruelty" of the book’s end, we’ve gotten a tour of various parts of the city, we’ve met the mysterious original inhabitants of Ambergris, the gray caps, we’ve taken a peek at religion in the city, and we’ve seen the Festival of the Freshwater Squid, which is beyond anything you can imagine. We’ve met cantankerous academics, slumming in tour guide footnotes. We’ve been treated to a scientific monograph where a whole ‘nother story emerges if you read all of the notes. We’ve seen a story entirely in code. And we’ve met X, an author with a history very like VanderMeer’s, who is being held in a psychiatric ward because he thinks he has actually seen the fantasy land (called Ambergris) that he writes about (the ending is a delightfully vicious little thing).

The detail in the stories is lush and rich and entirely believable, and amazingly, it doesn’t get in the way of the main action.

Together, the stories add up to more than the sum of their parts. The specific and abundant details combined with the poetic and dreamlike images paint a compelling picture. It’s very easy fall into the same trap as the ubiquitous "X"; how can you not believe in Ambergris? I’ve physically visited cities that have not had as much of an impact as VanderMeer’s stellar creation, and memories of Ambergris have been creeping into my dreams. VanderMeer may well be the best fantasist working today. He slips past your defenses and seeds the hidden recesses of your imagination with spores that fruit in unexpected ways ( )
  Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer is a collection of short stories and supporting material that is classified as postmodern fantasy. The connection between the stories and other material is that they are all set in VanderMeer's fictional city of Ambergris.

VanderMeer has created a totally new, unique world in Ambergris and for that he is to be applauded. Although humans currently live in Ambergris, they are not the original, or only inhabitants. Originally a race of mushroom-like humanoids nicknamed "gray caps" had a city on the same site, but they were violently killed or driven underground and their city was mostly destroyed. In Ambergris you will celebrate the Festival of the Freshwater Squid, which is even more dangerous than walking down Albumuth Boulevard. And you will want to get off the streets at night when the gray caps come out.

Since City of Saints and Madmen features recurring characters and self-referential plots, you need to take your time reading it because the details and characters will matter. Even though it is very involved, dense material, it will not be difficult or drudgery to read because VanderMeer is a very good writer and there is a lot of humor found in the stories and supporting material.

I enjoyed the footnotes in "The Hoegbotton Guide to the Early History of Ambergris." In "The Strange Case of X," the institutionalized X is a writer who carries around his book, City of Saints and Madmen. He is convinced he is really from a city called Chicago and made up Ambergris. "The Transformation of Martin Lake" is a World Fantasy Award winning short story. Even the Glossary, A Note on Fonts, and About the Author sections should not be skipped.

I should note that there were earlier editions of City of Saints and Madmen that do not have all the material found in the 2006 edition. I wanted to read City of Saints and Madmen before VandeerMeer's other two books set in Ambergris, Shriek: An Afterword and Finch.
Very Highly Recommended - but it's not going to be for everyone; http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/
( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
Vandermeer has a way of drawing weirdness and beauty into nearly every page of his work, meshing utter life in with fantasy so much so that what's created is both surreal and, absurdly, something that seems to have come from the back of your own mind's fantasy, there to flit about on the page with horror and love and humor.

It's not so much something to be described as it is to be experienced, and it's rather wonder-full.

Recommended. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Feb 7, 2016 |
I have had this book on my to be read pile for quite a while and was excited to finally pick it up to read. While it wasn’t the easiest book to read; Vandermeer does an amazing job creating an imaginative city that ends up seeming incredibly real to the reader.

The book is a collection of a number of stories which I have written in more detail about below. The book’s climax occurs once you get to The Strange Case of X in which you find out more about the author of Dradin, In Love and the Transformation of Martin Lake. The Appendix is a series of items and stories found in the possession of X which help the reader stitch together a more complete image of the city of Ambergris.

Parts of the book are a bit of a slog to get through, but the book is also darkly humorous at times. The stories range from humorous and witty, to grotesque and darkly disturbing with more than a hint of madness running throughout. Definitely an adult read.

The book is completely unique (I have never read anything like this before) and does an excellent job of immersing the reader in the strangely beautiful yet grotesque city of Ambergris. This is not a book for the faint of heart or those who like their stories defined and clear cut.

Overall I am glad I read it but doubt I will read it again. The detail and depth that goes into creating the strange and unique city of Ambergris is amazing; I love how the reader has to piece together facts about the city from the various documents provided. That being said this is not an easy read and is plain boring at parts. I would recommend to those who are into Cthulhu mythos and are interested in strangely beautiful yet disturbing stories and don’t mind some ambiguity. See below for comments on each section.

Dradin, In Love (4 stars)
About a young man named Dradin who returns from an expedition to the Jungle as a missionary and falls in love with a young woman. As he proceeds to woo the young woman he finds that there are darker parts to city living than there every were in the jungle.

The Hogbotton Guide to the Early History of Ambergris (3 stars)
This is a history of Ambergris and explores in more detail the relationship between the people who now inhabit Ambergris and the grey caps or mushroom folk that originally lived in that area and were displaced. This was very cleverly done and was in turns boring, amusing, and disturbing. I was impressed with the detail included, it really made Ambergris and its history come alive. However this definitely wasn’t the easiest thing to read and at times read like a history book.

The Transformation of Martin Lake (4 stars)
This was a story about an artist who lived in Ambergris. The story alternates between an art historian's account/interpretation of Martin’s famous works and the story of Martin himself and the events that actually led to him making his famous paintings. This was well done although the art historian parts were a bit of a drag to get through.

The Strange Case of X (5 stars)
This is about a patient named X who is apparently the author of both Dradin, In Love and The Transformation of Martin Lake.. He is being interviewed by a psychiatric doctor about his delusions and the fact that he believes Ambergris is real. There are some delightful twists in this story that really bring all the previous stories together.

Appendix (4 stars)
A collections of stories, notes, etc found in the possession of X from the story above. Many of these details the mysterious interactions with the grey caps as they haunt and torment the city of Ambergris. There is also an Appendix to Ambergris. ( )
  krau0098 | Oct 11, 2015 |
The fumbling priest, Dradin, who is in love with... a lovely lady in a window, of course. You must read some parts of the Appendix to understand his state fully. What of Martin Lake, then, the famous painter? And Voss Bender, the composer and art-tyrant? Before you know it, you will think of these people and their curious existence a natural part of the real world of Ambergris. And the case of X, which is a collection of various stories and documents, will require patience to reveal itself as a cabinet of curiosities of all shapes and forms, all seemingly unrelated yet related in unseen ways. And what of the King Squid, you say? Well, you will learn all about this magnificent creature, of course, which may or may not make you hungry for some calamari.

A well-written, sumptuous world full of love, lust, dirt, and fungi... and academics! VanderMeer captivates as he tells the stories of individuals in the city of Anbergris, where the city itself is perhaps the main character. The history of Ambergris could be taught in history class, for we have some valuable lessons to learn from it (though humans don't seem to be the learning kind.) ( )
1 vote bluepigeon | Dec 15, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jeff VanderMeerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Coulthart, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eagle, ScottCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moorcock, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nurrish, GarryDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, MarkIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaller, EricIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"What can be said about Ambergris that has not already been said? Every minute section of the city, no matter how seemingly superfluous, has a complex, even devious, part to play in the communal life. And no matter how often I stroll down Albumuth Boulevard, I never lose my sense of the city's incomparable splendor--its love of ritual, its passion for music, its infinite capacity for the beautiful cruelty."
--Voss Bender, Memoirs of a Composer, Vol. No. 1, page 558, Ministry of Whimsy Press
For Ann, who means more to me than words
First words
Dradin, in love, beneath the window of his love, staring up at her while crowds surge and seethe around him, bumping and bruising him all unawares in their bright-roughed thousands.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
"City of Saints and Madmen: The Book of Ambergris" is a different work from "City of Saints and Madmen".
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553383574, Paperback)

In City of Saints and Madmen, Jeff VanderMeer has reinvented the literature of the fantastic. You hold in your hands an invitation to a place unlike any you’ve ever visited–an invitation delivered by one of our most audacious and astonishing literary magicians.

City of elegance and squalor. Of religious fervor and wanton lusts. And everywhere, on the walls of courtyards and churches, an incandescent fungus of mysterious and ominous origin. In Ambergris, a would-be suitor discovers that a sunlit street can become a killing ground in the blink of an eye. An artist receives an invitation to a beheading–and finds himself enchanted. And a patient in a mental institution is convinced he’s made up a city called Ambergris, imagined its every last detail, and that he’s really from a place called Chicago.…

By turns sensuous and terrifying, filled with exotica and eroticism, this interwoven collection of stories, histories, and “eyewitness” reports invokes a universe within a puzzlebox where you can lose–and find–yourself again.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:50 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Fantasy. Collects all of the Ambergris novellas and stories.

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