Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Veniss Underground - Jeff VanderMeer

Do Meerkats Bladerun from The Island of Doctor Moreau? after reading Jeff VanderMeer's Veniss Underground, you will probably have an opinion on the subject.

The 2003 Tor collection of three related stories of increasing length, the last hence being a novella. Each different story features a different main character, and they are all known to each other, whether acquaintance, sibling or lover.

The Spectra collection adds four other Veniss-milieu short stories to the other 3. The ones with the capitalised titles, or the last four. It almost omits the add-on story fragment/origin of Quin and afterword in the Tor version. The extra stories aren't all as good as the related initial 3, which would make this version a not quite 4.25 sort of book overall, but you could also look at it as bonus material I suppose - although the left out Quin part is certainly interesting. The two best of these are also online at infinity plus.

A setting that has parts reminiscent of what two other men with guns have found when going searching, whether in Logan's Run, or perhaps the movie version of Blade Runner.

However, the weird biotech is brought to the fore in this book. Whereas most of us think meerkats are cute pack oriented little furry creatures we see in zoos, none of us have met uplifted highly intelligent four foot tall assassin gourmets with kangaroo and gorilla genes as found in the second story. Nor carried their disembodied heads in our pockets, either, as per the third.

There are many more weird things to be found, similar creatures in micro-elepants.

Each of the three characters is looking for something, or someone, and in the last and best part of the book, VanderMeer a la Saberhagen (and the odd ancient Greek bloke) has his main character head for the underworld in search of a woman --a strange place as is mentioned more than once "You hardly knew there was a tenth level below ground". Nine levels is not enough in this world, it seems.

The Moreauesque figure is the Quin of the alternative title to the first story, a man whom many seek.

There is where it gets weird, and nasty, and you pretty much know early on in the piece that it ain't just the animals being experimented upon.

Veniss Underground : Nicholas [Quin's Shanghai Circus] - Jeff VanderMeer
Veniss Underground : Nicola - Jeff VanderMeer
Veniss Underground : Shadrach - Jeff VanderMeer
Veniss Underground : THE SEA, MENDEHO, AND MOONLIGHT - Jeff VanderMeer
Veniss Underground : DETECTIVES AND CADAVERS - Jeff VanderMeer
Veniss Underground : A HEART FOR LUCRETIA - Jeff VanderMeer
Veniss Underground : BALZAC'S WAR - Jeff VanderMeer

Meerkat commerce.

3.5 out of 5

Giving me crabs is ok if you cook them, fuzzy, but killing me for dessert isn't on the menu.

3.5 out of 5

In the Underworld Revolution Furnace, having Gun Without Occasional Music.

4 out of 5

No swimming.

3.5 out of 5

Muttie corpse wave.

3 out of 5

Meerkat commerce, again.

3.5 out of 5

"So, she's a dog..."

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

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