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Where to begin with this book? As a long time fan of VanderMeer, I'm one to pick up anything new he publishes, but had no idea what to expect from this first YA outing. Well to be clear from the start, it's YA in style and presentation only - there's humour, and absurdity, and a fantasy setting with talking animals, but it's all wrapped around emotionally deep characters and an incredibly complex narrative that continues the same themes of authoritarian power structures and the environment that drive the majority of VanderMeer's fiction.
This is a brilliant story, reminiscent of the fantasy worlds of Walter Moer's, but with more deapth and breadth and utter insanity to keep your turning the page for the entire 650 - page wild ride.
This review is for the audio version. From the book's description, and the enthusiastic reviews of other readers, I felt this book would be right in my wheelhouse. Among my favorites are: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the Magicians series, Harry Potter, and the Monster Blood Tattoo series. I like both adult and YA/middle grade fantasies, as long as they're not too derivative. I figured this author would definitely write something original.
Unfortunately, I've just given up on Chapter 28 (out of 80). This book is just OVERLOADED with whimsy. Every paragraph introduces a new, (admittedly clever) magical concept, creature or artifact. I reached my limit when the lead character's pocket knife jumped out of his jacket and climbed up to his shoulder. There are semi-living magical machines that are powered by ground-up animals, a botanical spy who uses dandelion fluff as agents, multi-worlds that are traversed through a series of magical doors, talking animals (and vegetables), no less than TWO all-powerful magical objects (one a Golden Sphere, the other a Black Bauble), an "elephant gun" that shoots out not bullets but actual elephants ...and it just goes on and on.
This is a good choice for someone who likes books with a lot of whimsy; perhaps fans of the Xanth novels? It's not for me. It might make a good animated movie or television series. It reads a bit like a trippy piece of animation rendered in prose.
Reviewed in the United States on September 18, 2020
I had high expectations of this book. I gave it 11 chapters before throwing in the towel. Fantasy is fine but in here there is just too much weird, wild, whimsy, random details/objects/characters. It’s too crowded. There are so many leads and hints and possible paths for possible developments that my mind stopped trying to follow. And caring to follow. If I took drugs, I think I might really enjoy this book while in a second state. But stone cold sober, I can find no rules or structure to the tale, and things are too strange and random for my brain to enjoy the trip. Too bad.
Reviewed in the United States on December 17, 2020
Fans of Jeff VanderMeer won’t think twice about falling into his latest world, a 650-page YA novel titled, A Peculiar Peril. When protagonist Jonathan Lambshead arrives at the mansion he inherited from his grandfather, a wild adventure begins featuring a gateway to place called Aurora, a different version of Earth. On the adventure, we find talking animals, and versions of Napoleon, Charlemagne and Kafka. Jonathan comes to appreciate his role to keep Aurora and Earth separated. The strange characters are delightful, especially the talking marmots, the fantasy enjoyable, and the writing weird and lighthearted.
This book was like nothing else I’ve ever read, and that is definitely a complement. Everything I’ve read by Jeff VanderMeer has been unique and beautifully complex, so I bought this when it came out without actually knowing anything about it. As someone who usually reads weird fiction and horror, I’m usually hesitant to read YA (with the exception of Nnedi Okorafor). A Peculiar Peril seems like it should have its own category- absurdist/surrealist fantasy. Seems like it’s really only considered YA because there are teenage protagonists, talking animals, and no gore (heads get chopped off, but they’re fine and go on to more adventures).
Above all else, this book is fun! I’ve had enough inexplicable dystopian horror from the news, so it was great to spend the week listening to this book and grinning like an idiot the whole time. I particularly love the sections from the POV of Ruth Less, one of the monsters.
There’s a lot going on, and it’s VERY strange. I understand how this book isn’t for everybody. But I loved it! Had to order the paper copy as well after seeing some of the illustrations online.
I have to start by saying that I am a huge VanderMeer fan. The worlds he creates are weird, dark, and fantastical, and I love it. I am normally immersed in the world of VanderMeer’s stories, but this one is written in such a bland style that I did not care about any of the characters or their quests. It’s unfortunate because the premise is so interesting - I couldn’t wait to know what happens in a VanderMeer telling of when a boy inherits his eccentric grandfather’s estate. However, I quickly lost interest. My critique feels strange because even though there are a lot of interesting ideas in the story, the characters have no depth and there is absolutely no world-building. The main character is hurled into a secret world and asked to go on an adventure, which he and his companions do without question. I didn’t buy any of their motivations and the lack of depth makes it feel chaotic and boring. I struggled to get through about 200 pages and gave up. Sorry, VanderMeer. I will look forward to your next work!
This book makes darkness light and horrific monsters endearing. The human cast is diverse but not token, the non-human cast manages to capture alien perspectives and understandings without feeling cliche or reductive. Vandermeer trusts his readers to understand nuance and doesn't spoon-feed exposition or explanation. An excellent book to read while our own world feels as if it's ending.
I have never laughed out loud so many times in one book. This book is NUTS in the best way possible. Honestly it felt like reading it someone truly "got" my humor and love of weirdness and now I want to be besties with Jeff...in a regular non eating him type way😂😂 (inside joooooke.)
After spending five hours listening to the audiobook, I am giving up. This feel like reading a script written by a writer that wanted to leave nothing to a readers imagination. It is sinking in too much trivial information.