30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Literary Fiction

Labyrinth of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers, 432 pages, read by Courtney, on 04/16/2013

This is going to be a difficult review for me to write as I am extremely conflicted regarding my feelings about this book. First things first: I’m a huge fan of Walter Moers and I’ve read everything of his that’s been translated into English. This is the sequel to City of Dreaming Books, which I adored. Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to this one ever since I found out that it even existed (and then I had to wait for the translation). So, there’s all that. When last we left our protagonist, Optimus Yarnspinner, he had been to Bookholm, become imbued with “orm” and had battled all manner of evils in the labyrinth only to see the city go up in flames along with the mythical Shadow King. Our story now picks up 200 year later (Lindworms like Yarnspinner evidently live very, very long lives). Yarnspinner has been resting on the laurels of his best-selling status for some time now. He’s churned out countless works, making him one of the most well-known authors in all of Zamonia. Thing is, the “orm” has left him and his works aren’t getting the reviews they once did. Yarnspinner could hang up his hat and live out the rest of his days in comfort, but he receives a most curious letter written in a style that could best be summed up as “pre-orm Yarnspinner-esque”. Yarnspinner realizes that while he didn’t write the letter, someone has gone to great lengths to get his attention, particularly because of the very last sentence: “The Shadow King lives”.
Yarnspinner heads back to Bookholm and runs into a couple of his old friends who have apparently conspired in some way to bring him back to the bookish city. So that’s the first few chapters. The rest? Yarnspinner’s musings and digressions on the “modern” Bookholm. Seriously, that’s pretty much it. Not that it isn’t entertaining to read, because it is. It’s really clever; almost painfully so. Observant readers may note that the names of all the authors, composers and artists mentioned are anagrams for real world counterparts (and yes, it all works in context as well). I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure them all out, not to mention the fact that I pestered my co-workers for days to get help on some of the trickier ones. I *did* feel pretty smart when I figured them out though. A bit exhausting though. And takes one out of the narrative, particularly when there’s a whole string of anagrams. There’s also a very “meta” feel to the whole thing as Yarnspinner revisits his experiences and engages in new experiences like puppetism. Yarnspinner even watches an entire puppet play of “City of Dreaming Books”, which is described in great detail.
The kicker, though, is at the end where Moer’s “translator’s” note indicates that he had to split the sequel into two halves (a la “Kill Bill”) because it would have been unwieldy otherwise. So, evidently, the rest of the plot will be happening in the third book. Which probably won’t be translated for another couple of years. All I can say is that it better be worth the effort of reading Labyrinth of Dreaming Books. Who am I kidding? I’ll totally read it either way.

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