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The City of Dreaming Books Walter Moers

Surprised Smiles Imagine you read something. Something so brilliantly, soul-blazingly amazing that you’re dazed for a few hours. Something so fantastic that if you ever wrote anything you’re now embarrassed by it and feel like you can’t write anything again because what’s the point? You’ll never be that good.
Sad Sharky Not so hard to imagine if you’ve read anything you REALLY liked.
Default Smiles But imagine you were warned this would happen, and advised not to give up hope and travel a little. You take that as an excuse to start looking for the mysterious author of the story. The trail takes you to Bookholm; the, drumroll please, City of Dreaming Books.
Happy Sharky And it’s fantastic. And I don’t just mean great, but I mean it in a couple of very literal senses too. It’s definitely fantastical, right out of the imagination. And it’s also pure bookworm fantasy. It starts off with the main character’s home, which is a castle community of people who write and are mentored about writing and who lie out in the sun and read for hours and nobody says a thing because they’re too busy having poetry recitation circles.
Happy Smiles Bookholm has all that, but taken to a larger and deeper extreme. Every cafe has book or author themed food names, and hosts readings and recitals every night. And every place that isn’t a house, hotel or eatery is a bookshop. Hundreds and hundreds. Big shops, small specialty shops, insanely expensive ones and ones that you can just cart armloads of books out of. There are miles of catacombs containing MORE BOOKS, because previous generations of book obsessives used to live underground and many of them buried or booby trapped their valuable collections down there. Some of the safer parts of the underground tunnels are open to the public in select bookshops.
Default Sharky Of course there’s also the darker side of the book obsessed city. There’s the Graveyard of Forgotten Writers, which is full of pits with authors nobody reads anymore sitting in them to be gawked at by tourists, scribbling whatever little requests are yelled down at them. It’s… grim. But more amusingly there’s Poison Alley where mercenary critics live. Pay them enough and they’ll drag down any author. And roaming bands of publishers on the lookout for innocent young writers to trap into unfair contracts.
Sassy Smiles Also grim but in a very black comedy way.
Happy Sharky2 There’s also the Bookhunters, another group of mercenaries who travel deep into the catacombs fighting off monsters and each other for valuable books they can sell above ground to these crazy people. No confirmation on whether they also mug those crazy people when it's profitable.

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Surprised Smiles A story about them would be really interesting but would mostly be people trying to kill each other all the time.
Surprised Sharky 2 Well no. There’s also that guy.
Happy Smiles That guy! Yes yes, there’s a Bookhunter who doesn’t just go around brute forcing his way into and through everything. He has an amazing sense of smell, a terrific memory, and does ridiculous amounts of research to create elaborate plans for finding valuable books without having to get in the way of any axes or spiked boots. I’d love to read a book about that guy. There is a book written about that guy, in the universe of the story. The main character reads it and everything. It might be a case of hearing about it second hand is more interesting than really knowing the story but still.
Happy Sharky And the illustrations are striking pen sketches that really complement the bizarre feel of everything. Good stuff.

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Happy Smiles Great stuff. In some books illustrations are just pictures. Nice decoration. These are nice decoration but they also mesh so well with the story that I can’t imagine enjoying it so much without them. There’s quite a few books like that. Imagine a Roald Dahl book without those iconic illustrations.
Sad Sharky I don’t want to.
Sad Smiles 2 Yeah neither do I.
Angry Sharky 3 That’s not to say everything is sunshine and roses, though. I have to make some objections. Everything we’ve been talking about is really just the first third of the book. The second third takes place in the catacombs, and it’s interesting enough. There’s a different level of book obsession down there that’s more strange than the charming and over-the-top ridiculous world of Bookholm, but it’s still pretty charming as a whole. But then the last third is… I’m not sure what’s happening there, but the story gets increasingly darker and stranger and the ending is… something for sure and I start slipping into my usual rant of how is this for kids? It feels like someone stapled on that last third from a different book, that’s all I’m saying.
Default Smiles I usually say that’s just Sharky’s opinion but I kind of agree this time around. Still, we don’t have a monopoly on opinions and you’re all allowed some of your own.
Confused Sharky Since when?
Sassy Smiles Since your opinion wasn’t the only correct one in the whole wide universe.
Quiet Sharky Tch.

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