The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers

Bet you thought I’d forgotten how to read! Well, I haven’t. I’ve just been reading this book for the last month. But last night, I finally finished it!

If you like Jasper Fforde, you might like this one. It has the same sort of wordplay and cleverness about books and things, but I can’t decide if it takes it too far or not. Some of the things in it seem almost too twee. For example, there are little creatures called Booklings which our hero, Optimus Yarnspinner, encounters during his wanderings in the bookfilled catacolms beneath the city of Bookholm. They are named after Zamonia’s famous authors and they spend their lives memorizing their author’s works. They have names like Aleisha Wimperslake, Wamilli Swordthrow, Rasco Elwid, Doylan Cone, and Elo Slooty, who wrote a gargantuan novel that everybody’s said they read, but nobody has actually finished. Get it?

I have to say that I did find all the jumbles a bit distracting, but that’s mostly because I couldn’t figure them all out. Some are jumbled first name and last name, some are jumbled all together, and some I was pretty sure weren’t actually jumbles at all, but it bothered me because I couldn’t be sure. If anyone can tell me who Perla la Gadeon and Inka Almira Rierre are, I’d be ever so grateful!

There are Bookhunters who collect valuable books that are not only things like signed copies or first editions, but books that are actually alive. Things like that.

There is also a fellow called the Shadow King who is every bit as ominous as he sounds, but not at all what you’d expect.

The story is very windy (as in circuitous, not blustery) and Yarnspinner has a multitude of adventures, but at the end, for some bizarre reason, it feels as though not very much has happened. The translator’s note (not from the German to English, but from Zamonian to, well, German, I suppose) says that this is just an excerpt of the first two chapters of Yarnspinner’s 10,000 page masterpiece and somehow Moers has gotten it to feel that way – like it’s a tiny, tiny part of a much bigger story – something that’s not really important when taken in its larger context (a 10,000 page novel), but seems quite overwhelming when it’s singled out as a special detail.

As a sidenote, I’m a little worried that I may have stumbled into the most recent volume in a series because when I went to Amazon to get the picture to post here, the entry said City of Dreaming Books (Zamonia 3). None of the other books seem to say (Zamonia 1 or 2), but the subtitles or series numbers don’t consistently show up on Amazon (oh my, is that another jumble there, do you think? It’s not exact, but it’s so close and its a place full of books…I hadn’t even noticed!), I’ve found.

My rating: B+


3 thoughts on “Fiction

  1. Psst: Edgar Allan Poe and Rainer Maria Rilke are the culprits.
    Some of the others you might not have recognised are sure to be more obscure German writers (or some of the Russian writers he used maybe).

  2. Oh, thank you! Though I’m a bit embarrassed I didn’t figure those out on my own – Edgar Allan Poe, especially, I should’ve known. 🙂

  3. There are indeed two previous books in the series: Captain Bluebear and Rumo. They are connected by setting, and casual references, so I suppose a person could read, as you did, City of Dreaming Books without the others, but you probably felt it was all very strange.

    I thought Rumo was more fun than Captain Bluebear, but maybe I was just used to Zamonia by then.

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