Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Book Beyond Imagination

Hola Readers!  Who's ready for another rambling?  I am YAY!  Today let's ramble about...The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers.  It is part of his Zamonia series but can be read as a stand alone like I did.  I think this one was recommended to me by my baby sis...which is always a good thing.  Let me tell you people this book hit all my literary emotions.  It was not at all what I expected in a very very very good way. What the heck do I mean?  I'll tell you, but first, as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
First of all, let me just warn you that I am not going to be able to get a billionth of this book into the synopsis 'cause every page, every word is dripping with meaning and story and well...yeah.  So instead I'm gonna try and just give you enough of an outline to not be too lost, but seriously you just should go read it. Our story is narrated by Optimus Yarnspinner, a Lindworm (a being that resembles a dinosaur) from the fabled Lindworm Castle, home to many a worthy author.  Optimus has just lost his authorial godfather Dancealot and has set out on a quest to find the author of a fantastic manuscript left to him.  This manuscript has the ability to run the reader through every emotion known to living beings and yet it has not been published.  To find this mysterious author, Optimus heads to Bookholm which is essentially a city devoted to all things books.  It is filled with book sellers, book binders, book publishers, cafe's with book themes, literary music, ink, pens whatever you can possibly relate to books you will find in Bookholm (kind of like my blog lol).  Upon arrival Optimus is thrust into an adventure that any book hero would envy.  He starts by showing his book to a couple of very interesting book vendors in the hope that they will recognize it.  This leads him to various other places and to aquiring the book The Catacombs of Bookholm by the famous Book Hunter Colophonius Regenschein and we as the readers learn along with Optimus all about the catacombs of Bookholm.  Optimus is finally directed to Pfistomel Smyke a collector of the rare book brought up from the catacombs and also a kind of literary scientist.  He turns out to be one nasty dude and after reading the manuscript reveals his nefarious plan to Optimus.  Smyke's whole goal in life is to essentially turn all art mediocre, to eliminate any greatness and essentially control everything.  To this end he drugs Optimus and traps him in the catacombs beneath Bookholm...and this is where his adventure really starts.  Optimus uses the knowledge he aquired to try and traverse the catacombs, but disaster keeps befalling him.  After several misadventures he is rescued by the not so malicious
Booklings, who despite their fearsome reputation, choose to care for Optimus.  They show Optimus many of the safer wonders of the catacombs and inspire him with their dedication to memorizing all the works of all the authors.  Tragedy strikes when an unusual alliance of Book Hunters finds the Booklings Grotto and destroy it along with killing many of the Booklings.  Optimus is shoved into a bookshelf contraption and sent spinning through the catacombs to more adventures.  He eventually ends up in the Hall of the Shadow King, a mysterious character that plays a part in almost all the scary tales of the Underworld of Bookholm.  After even more adventures (are you sensing a theme here?) we finally get the Shadow Kings story.  Turns out that he is the author of the fantastic manuscript, but that it was also his downfall.  The Shadow King started out life as a human who had the misfortune of running into Smyke, who of course could not stand the idea of such great art outside of his control.  Smyke then used many arcane techniques and wondrous supplies to turn the human into what is now the Shadow King.  He was made to be pretty much immortal, strong, smart, literary and unable to ever enter sun or moon light on the dire consequence of bursting into flame.  More conversation and writing and adventuring and book stuff and Optimus and the Shadow King decide to go back up to the surface regardless of the consequences.  They face down a hoard of Book Hunters, discover a confession and will and finally confront Smyke.  The Shadow King allows himself to catch on fire, burning down a good portion of Bookhom and Optimus escapes, inspired finally to write his first masterpiece.  This does not even BEGIN to remotely tell the rich and full story of this insanely wonderful world...but then short of reading the book, I don' think anybody could do it justice.
World Building - This book is set in the fictional world of Zamonia...which I cannot wait to read more of!  We got to visit Bookholm and the insane amount of detail was just fantastic!  I felt like I could find myself in any section of this city and know exactly where I am.  It felt whole and complete and layered.  There were customs, cultures, rules, consequences, legends, language, all in abundant variety.  There were notes that added to the depth of this world and for having so much shoved into one book, the world was not confusing in the least. I loved the little touches, like the cafe's with the literary inspired treats, or the various parts of the city dedicated to different area's of the book process.  It was just so full in a good way, it felt almost endless, like there was always another nook or crany or passageway to explore, new treasures to find, so cool.   Again this is just one part of whole world and this one book has made me very eager to explore the rest of it...such amazing world building.

Story - The story was whole and complete.  It had a beginning, middle and end.  It was in some ways your typical adventure story, but more along the lines of an epic saga like Beowulf with many small adventures, meetings and incidents adding to the whole adventure.  The story had a fairly classic structure with a lot of original ideas, giving the reader the comfort of structure and the thrill of discovery, very cool story.

Character - Variety is the word I think best describes the characters in this book.  In this book we see so many species (Lindworms, Booklings, Uggly's, Spinxxx and so many many many more), characters from different backgrounds, classes, shapes, sizes, needs, modes.  Again you would think that this would detract from actual character development, but I found that the characters that mattered where very fully formed and all the other characters added some delicious flavor.  Yay characters.

Editing - I'm shocked at how well this book is edited.  Again (are we getting sick of me saying this yet?)  it is just stuffed full of so many things that it should feel cluttered or choppy or overly long...but...it doesn't.  I found myself reading every single word, trying to absorb as much of the literary goodness that I could.  It was a page turner and I had very few complaints about the pacing.  Not sure how this happened, if the author is just that amazing, or his relationship with his editor is that good or some combination, but epic editing.

Book Lovers Dream - This book was written for lovers of the written word.  The language, the setting, the story, everything about it seems tailored to bibliophiles.  I seriously want to go wander into one of the bookshops and get me a stack of books, curl up in a cafe with a cup of Midnight Oil Espresso and a Book pastry and read my brains out.  The amount of literariness that has been poured into the book makes me feel like the author loves books and all things literary as much as I do.  It is finally a book about books that doesn't drive me nuts.  It is not just about reading books either, it is about how they are written, how they are published, the materials, the variety and the idea that there are types of books we can only imagine out there somewhere if we can just look hard enough.

Wordplay - If forced to choose a favorite component about this book, I would say it is the language.  The author uses a MASSIVE variety of words....and if there was no human word that was sufficient, he made one up and attributed it to one of his zillions of non human races.  On top of that the author would constantly list numerous books and their authors...I kept waiting for this to get annoying...but somehow it worked perfectly with the story.  To make it even better, he cleverly disguised some famous authors by anagraming their names.  For example:  Selwi Rollcar = Lewis Carroll, Aliesha Wimperslake = William Shakespeare, so very cool.  I love words, and when an author uses them correctly it just makes my little literary heart go pitter patter.

Not What I Thought - So to be honest I wasn't 100% sure what I was getting into when I started this book.  From the description and the titles of the authors other books in the series I thought it might be a kids book.  Then the illustrations and mostly almost silly animalistic characteristics of most of the characters led to me thinking it might be a light hearted tale....Nope.  This is definitely a book for at the very least older kids.  There is violence (so much violence), betrayal, complex ideas...not a book for 7 year old.  It was great though and the juxtaposition (sorry this book makes me pull out my big girl words) of the simple illustrations, the fun characters and the adult writing were very original and a great read.

Overall Impression - Ok, so I don't think I have been able to impart even a tenth of what I want to about this book.  In the end all I can say is that it is an experience, and one I think anybody who loves books should have.  I give this book 9 out of 10 Animatomes and really encourage every book reader to pick it up....even if it's just to figure out what the heck I'm talking about.  Happy Reading Everybody!!! 

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