189. The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers
Publication: Overlook Hardcover (November 8, 2012), ARC, 432pp / ISBN 1468301268
Read: ?-October 27, 2012
Source: The publisher (thank you!)
Summary from Amazon:
It has been more than two hundred years since Bookholm was destroyed by a devastating fire, as told in Moers’s The City of Dreaming Books. Hildegunst von Mythenmetz, hailed as Zamonia’s greatest writer, is on vacation in Lindworm Castle when a disturbing message reaches him, and he must return to Bookholm to investigate a mystery. The magnificently rebuilt city has once again become a metropolis of storytelling and the book trade. Mythenmetz encounters old friends and new denizens of the city—and the shadowy “Invisible Theater.” Astonishingly inventive, amusing, and engrossing, this is a captivating story from the wild imagination of Walter Moers.
The bad thing about starting a series out of order1 is that you usually have no idea of what’s going on either in the story or in the author’s writing style. The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books actually has a whole chapter (or two?) dedicated to basically retelling The City of Dreaming Books2 and I still don’t really know what’s going on. By the end I was only just getting used to the author’s writing style, too, and the book finishes so abruptly that I’m left reeling.
Do you like William Goldman’s The Princess Bride? Specifically, do you like the narrative voice in that book? Because that’s sort of what you get here with Labyrinth in the form of protagonist Optimus Yarnspinner (aka Hildegunst von Mythenmetz from the summary), a whiny, cowardly, self-important, bloated, past-his-prime author who is still a surprisingly likable character for all that I’d hate to be even within an inch of him in real life. He’s funny and he goes off-topic a lot (mostly in interesting ways), and though he’s a big baby most of the time it ends up being hilarious because he’s a DINOSAUR. A dinosaur who wears Shakespearen-ish clothing. Ha!
The world of Labyrinth is nothing like The Princess Bride, however. There’s no action in this book. There’s some intrigue/mystery and the ending is quite exciting, but for the most part it’s Yarnspinner wandering around Bookholm looking at stuff, talking to people, and (in the last half) learning about puppets and the puppet movement that sprang up after the massive Bookholm fire 200 years(/one book?) ago. Reading about Bookholm, about the houses made from petrified books, about the newspaper gnomes and the various divisions of book-obsessed people (including people who obsessively “murder” books by pouring acid on them) was fun! It was like reading a travel narrative, only more fantastical. It definitely made me want to go back and read [tcodb], not only so I’ll finally understand this book but because it’d mean more Bookholm and more Bookholm residents. Also, The City of Dreaming Books seems like it might be more fast-paced than Labyrinth. Or at least less obsessed with puppets.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t like most of the second half of the book. The mystery of whether or not the Shadow King was alive, why Yarnspinner returned to Bookholm, all that stuff– all of it!– was dropped so he could focus on puppets. The connection between the earlier mystery and the puppets shows up about, idk, 100+ pages later? Which, well. I did a lot of skimming.3 I don’t think the connective tissue between the msytery of the early part of the book and the whole puppet arc (leading up to the mystery re-starting in the last three or so pages) was solid enough, and that was disappointing.
But here’s where I’m wishing I read the rest of the series first: because I think if I was more familiar with Walter Moers’ writing style, I wouldn’t have had as much as a problem with the plot pacing in this book. I’d have nestled into the narrative like a soft, familiar blanket, and I’d have enjoyed the last half of the book more than I did. And the ending! Perhaps I would even have understood wtf was going on with the ending besides [authorial cruelty].
So, not a complete success, Labyrinth, but it’s not a fling-against-the-wall kind of book, either. I just needed to have read the earlier books first and THEN read this one. I’ll know better next time!
I liked it, though I think I’d have liked it MORE if I had read the earlier book(s) first.
Be sure to check out the other wonderful posts from the tour!
Thursday, Nov 1 – Introduction to the Blog Tour – BookSexy Review
Friday, Nov 2 – Overview/Presentation of Moers’ Books – Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews
Saturday, Nov 3 – The City of Dreaming Books review – TNBBC
Sunday, Nov 4 – Travel/Tour Guide to Bookholm – BookSexy Review
Monday, Nov 5 – Fan letter to Optimus Yarnspinner – Book Snobbery
Tuesday, Nov 6 – The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books review – Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog (you’re here!)
Wednesday, Nov 7 – Interview with John Brownjohn – Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review
Thursday, Nov 8 – Giveaway – Overlook Press’ blog
A note on the translation: This is probably the BEST German-to-English translation I’ve read yet. Normally there’s some weird stuff going on, where the senteces get stilted and people have conversations like they’re in badly dubbed kung fu movies, but here it’s PERFECT. If I didn’t know it’d been translated there know way I could have figured it out from the text; BIG KUDOS to John Brownjohn, the translator, for the awesome job he did!
The author’s photo comes from Goodreads. It’s not mine! Book cover comes from Amazon. It’s not mine, either.