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The City of Dreaming Books
Walter Moers
Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia, unabridged
Blackstone Audiobooks, 19 hours

The City of Dreaming Books
Walter Moers
Walter Moers was born in 1957. A celebrated illustrator, cartoonist and novelist, he lives in Hamburg. Some of his works include Hey (1986), Huhu (1989), a series of works set around a character named "Asshole" (Arschloch), and two recent German bestsellers, Die 13½ Leben des Käptn Blaubär (1999) and his latest book set in the world of Zamonia Ensel und Krete: Ein Märchen aus Zamonien von Hildegunst von Mythenmetz (2000).

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Julie Moncton

Imagine a world where books are valued -- not like we appreciate books in our society, but really valued. A place where authors are celebrities, first editions are coveted, people memorize and recite famous excerpts, and even crimes are committed over rare books. This is the world of Zamonia, a mythical lost continent, created by German author Walter Moers. The story features an unlikely hero, Optimus Yarnspinner, a naïve dinosaur-like creature from Lindworm Castle, a self-proclaimed author who has yet to be published.

The tale begins with the death of Dancelot Wordwright, Yarnspinner's authorial godfather. He leaves Yarnspinner his most prized possession, a manuscript that is so well written that it can evoke both tears and laughter from the most stoic critic. It is the most brilliant piece of writing -- the absolute best of Zamonian literature with one major flaw... the author is unknown. Yarnspinner goes on a quest to Bookholm, the legendary City of Dreaming Books to find this author and hopefully get inspiration to launch his own masterpiece. In Bookholm, innocent and blundering Yarnspinner is no match for the fast pace and smooth talkers of this city and he quickly falls victim to the cruel and slimy villain Pfistomel Smyke. He is poisoned with a hazardous book and left to an unfortunate fate in the catacombs that lie beneath Bookholm. But in the catacombs, Yarnspinner meets some colorful characters, from dastardly book mercenaries to adorable Booklings, that both help and hinder his journey back to the world of the surface.

If you love to read, then this is the book for you. Moers has created an imaginative, vibrant fantasy world that both pays homage and makes fun of books and the literary world. The story is filled with subtle references to all things literary, from creating characters whose names are anagrams of famous authors (Asdrel Chickens is Charles Dickens, for example) to making irreverent fun of our book industry. One of my favorite descriptions is how Yarnspinner walks by the infamous Poison Alley where the lowest scum of society, people who review books for... shudder... money can be found hissing, "want someone panned?" (As a reviewer who hopes someone other than family reads my reviews, I found this especially humorous).

It was fun to try and decipher all of his jokes and obscure literary allusions. But in addition to the book being witty and clever, he has created a strong plot line with a wide variety of villains and heroes. Although the pace of the book is pretty calm, from the middle to the climax, there is plenty of action and surprise to satisfy adventure lovers also. The City of Dreaming Books is the third book in the Zamonia series that has been translated into English. I have not read the other two, The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear and Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures (although I'm eager to find out more about this world), but still found this book to be enjoyable on its own.

The audio book narration was excellent. Paul Michael Garcia presented the perfect voice for the bumbling, yet heroic Yarnspinner. He adeptly changed his tone and accent for the more sinister villains and offered a wide variety of voices. One thing unusual in this audio book was the use of a few minor sound effects like echoes, which added to my enjoyment of this book. Overall, the story was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, a visit to a world that all of us bibliophiles would love to inhabit and will want to immerse ourselves in again and again.

Copyright © 2011 Julie Moncton

Julie Moncton is one of the owners of an audio book store in San Jose, California -- a good thing since it keeps her well stocked in books to both read and listen to. You can see what books are on her shelf (or iPod) on her goodreads page.

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