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Condition: Used: Acceptable
Comment: Ex-library softcover book. All the usual marks/stamps. Heavy wear to cover and edges of pages. Curled corners on cover Stains to book edges
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Veniss Underground Paperback – August 19, 2004

45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his masterful first novel, VanderMeer (City of Saints & Madmen) sets a dark, phantasmagoric tale in and beneath a decadent, far-future city where Living Artists craft monstrous works of biological art and genetically enhanced meerkats plot to make humanity obsolete. The story is told from three viewpoints, that of Nicholas, a Living Artist not quite talented enough to succeed; his more pragmatic, vat-grown twin sister, Nicola; and her former lover, the unsavory Shadrach, who has survived a childhood lived in the dangerous levels beneath the city and now operates above ground as an agent for Quin, the world's greatest Living Artist and the perverted master of much that is evil within the city of Veniss. When Nicholas's apartment is robbed and the tools of his trade are stolen, he goes to Shadrach and begs an introduction to Quin, hoping to find employment and resurrect his near moribund career. Alas, he fails to follow Shadrach's directions and soon disappears beneath the city, where he undergoes a wonder-filled journey that echoes Dante's Divine Comedy, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and the landscapes of Hieronymus Bosch, while also paying homage to the work of such genre masters as Cordwainer Smith and Edward Whittemore. VanderMeer's eye for just the right gruesome detail brings his nightmarish landscapes and bizarre, partially human creatures alive in astonishing profusion. Not for the faint of heart, the story packs a strong emotional wallop.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In the far future, on an Earth of many-leveled cities, such as Veniss, and man-made deserts, the bioengineering known as Living Art is burgeoning. If you can afford them-- and as always, few can--you can have manufactured creatures to do whatever tasks you set them. Living Artist wanna-be Nicholas wants a meerkat and is prepared to work for the prodigious Quin, greatest of Living Artists, to get one. When Nicholas disappears, his twin sister, Nicola, tries to find him; after acquiring a meerkat herself, as a gift, she is all but killed by . . . Nicholas. Her ex-lover Shadrach, who grew up in subterranean Veniss and escaped to the surface to better himself, then sets out to find her, Nicholas, and, eventually, Quin. VanderMeer, founder of the sf-fantasy small press Ministry of Whimsy, is nothing if not adventurous. The novel's three parts are in the first, second, and third persons, respectively; its milieu recalls Philip K. Dick, its passages of prose poetry Edgar Allan Poe, its wry fatalism Jim Thompson. Wow. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Wildside Press; 1st Trade Edition edition (August 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1894815645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1894815642
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,473,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on September 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In "Veniss Underground" Jeff VanderMeer has produced a fascinating retelling of the underworld mythology that so riddles our collective subconscious. Although clearly inspired by Dante and the myth of Orpheus and Euridcye, there is also a more primal, basic undercurrent that infuses his work. Specifically, it is the divine, yet flawed spark that inhabits each human being; the desire to exercise god-like powers even though we must inevitably pass our own shortcomings into any creation.
Set in the future, one's instinct is to read "Veniss Underground" as science fiction, but to do so would mean missing something very fundamental at work. In reality, the novel is set in the future because it allows VanderMeer the freedom to use certain plot devices to propel his story forward. However, the real power of the novel comes from its exploration of our humanity.
That said, his future is a fascinating construct: set in a world where each city has become a power unto itself, surrounded by impassable wastelands of human creation. In this regard, VanderMeer again harkens back to mythology, as Athens and the like were beacons in a strange, dangerous world. Veniss is a city where genetically engineered meerkats talk and act as servants, and where walking, breathing Ganesha's provide security and courier services. Moreover, the city itself is a marvel, a world unto itself. However, Veniss is coming unglued, and it is all its fragmented leadership can do to keep it together. Moreover, Veniss survives because of the Underground, a sort of slum where untold thousands live out their lives in a kind of indentured servitude, hoping only to escape their all to literal hell.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sven Reiche on July 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
Although, or better to say because, the book is rather short (I needed about 4 hours to read it) it is intense and grotesque in many aspects.
First, the formal layout of the book is three chapters, written in the first, second and third person perspective. This produces in particular for the two first two chapters a personal almost intimidating experience. This is emphasized by the rather erratic language, which are more an assembly of half-sentences and second thoughts than well written prose, but it serves its purpose to enhance the claustrophobic, dooms-day feeling of the main characters.
The central part is the last chapter (I regard the first two chapter as a prologue to it) describing the voyage from the surface to the deepest level of the underground. It feels like a modern version of the Dante's Inferno. Vandermeer describes that which the progress in the underground humanity is more and more withdrawn. First it is only reflected in the behavior of people living there in despair. Then even their appearance alters (like the reappearance of the main character of the first chapter). Further down the underground is populated with creatures which only remaining humane character treat is suffering because they recognized the agony to live in that place and the awareness of their own doomed and flawed existence. At the end even that is gone and what remains is a chaotic dog-eats-dog world.
I rarely encountered a book which provoke so much emotion while reading and long after that. The book defies any classification into SF or Mystery and its use of first and second person narrative makes it so distinct to other who tried a similar approach.
Highly recommended
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Read on March 29, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
.... At the risk of overselling, I was floored by this book. I've been a fan of Jeff's work for over a decade (and, in the interest of full disclosure, a friend), so I've known he was a great writer for a long time. But this, his first novel, surpassed any expectation I could have had and made clear to me how good he really is--and he's just getting started!
"Veniss Underground" succeeds on so many levels. First, it has fully realized characters who fully engaged me. Not only did I see them as real, their respective plights became important to me.
Second, it has a simultaneously exotic, beautiful, terrible, and revolting far-future setting that is vividly described. One thing that I especially appreciated about Jeff's work on the settings is that he never feels the need to describe how such a crazy place came to be, what century we're in exactly, or what part of the world. The city of Veniss just *is*.
Third, the action and pacing are brisk enough to keep the book moving and create suspense, but just leisurely enough to allow lingering on the settings and the abundance of strange creatures. The third section of the book, in particular, is a hell of a ride. There are scenes in this third section that will stay with me forever. I can't provide much description of the third section of the book without spoiling the fun and surprises, so I won't try.
Fourth, the prose itself is near-perfect. As always with Jeff's work, each sentence is so obviously crafted with loving care. As a writer myself, I know the kind of painstaking, repeated rewriting that it takes to get prose that is both this poetic and this tight.
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