Monday, November 01, 2010

Book Review: "The Third Bear"

The Third Bear (Tachyon, 2010) is a collection of Jeff VanderMeer's recent short fictions, most of which (like his novels) take the reader in very unexpected (and generally very dark) directions. I found myself entirely creeped out by a few of those included here (including the initial story from which the volume takes its title), confused by others, and all the time in awe of VanderMeer's talent for creating an dark, brooding, bizarre atmosphere that is downright weird and at the same time completely absorbing.

It takes a certain kind of author to come up with stories as odd as "The Quickening" (one character in which is a very enigmatic talking rabbit), "The Situation" (office politics where the manager literally self-ignites when angry) and "Errata" (a reporter, trapped in a flooded Lake Baikal hotel with seals and - for reasons unknown - a penguin called Juliette).

"The Goat Variations," imagining the events of 9/11 through a series of alternate realities, kept me up at night; I was really disturbed by it, but found it compelling in a sort of strange way. I guess that's how I feel about most of VanderMeer's writing: it's wonderful, and bizarre, and it keeps me coming back for more.

No comments: