First, my thanks: I would never have learned of this book if not for The Book Snob. My eternal gratitude, and may you always have delicious cake.
Alrighty: on to the book. The City of Dreaming Books is the fourth book in Walter Moers’ Zamonia series. Zamonia is a world sort of like ours but not quite; this is the only book of the series I’ve read so I need a bit more help with regard to the universe. Still, don’t let that put you off. You can enjoy this book without reading any of the earlier three books in the series. That’s what I did.
As with any speculative fiction book, this introduces you to a very different world; one that is seemingly familiar yet not quite. Zamonia is a world wherein literature is revered. Authors are top tier, and books are considered valuable enough to kill and be killed for. Literally, of course, as we have the streets of Bookholm (the absolute capital city for bookstores, publishers, poetry readings, and even critics) and the catacombs underneath it littered with bodies – all for books.
Now who wouldn’t want to live in a world like that?
I had a grand time trying to figure out the famous authors of Zamonia – Moers used anagrams so it took me quite some time to guess who he was talking about. Aliesha Wimperslake, anyone? It helps that he uses actual quotes sometimes. It’s fun, like having a puzzle with your book. I laughed a few times – OUT LOUD. How rare is that?
At first the novel reads like a children’s book, but too late you discover that it’s actually quite horrific at times, if not downright terrifying. It strays into macabre territory very, very, very easily. More importantly, the book really is a lot more adult than it seems, so don’t let kids read it without supervision. I mean, you wouldn’t let your child watch Hostel, would you? I thought so.
But enough with that. The real reason why I love this book and started recommending it to friends even before I finished it is the fact that it loves writing and literature and everything that goes with. The entire book is an homage to the process of writing.
I’m no writer – well, not published, anyway – but I love to write and I love to read and this book pretty much captures the entire experience. It’s like I found a kindred spirit in Optimus Yarnspinner, though perhaps I do not sweat as much nor smell as pungent. I’m no Lindworm after all.
The good news: the second book will be available in English (it’s originally in German) this November. Yay!
I actually got teary when the Bookhunters invaded the Leather Grotto. The Fearsome Booklings! Who would protect their library now? Of course, I cheered when Al and the rest reappeared. Hooray for the Booklings!
*END OF SPOILERS*