City of Saints and Madmen - Jeff VanderMeer, Michael Moorcock A compilation of four novellas and an appendices of short stories written over several years by Vandermeer centered on his city of Ambergris. At times, experimental and engaging; other times, tedious. Though all the stories orbit Ambergris, my interest in each ranged widely.

The four main novella’s are all entertaining and well written. The second novella, The Hoegbotton Guide to the Early History of Ambergris successfully plays with form by incorporating the narrating historian’s crusty voice into humorous and excessive footnotes accompanying the history.

There is less success with the Appendix, which doubles the length of the book to a hefty 700 pages. The Cage and The Exchange stood out as exceptional entries. The first a well-crafted suspense and the second an ingenious double panel short story pamphlet captioned by a narrative detailing the rivalry between the fictional author and illustrator. Overall, however, the appendices consist of disjointed writings that give the reader a general sense of the author’s evolution of Ambergris. Some entries, such as the 36 page bibliography for King Squid and the 71 page Ambergris Glossary seem to exist solely to encourage annoying esoteric alcohol-fueled trivia contests between obsessive fans.

I have great respect for Vandermeer’s demiurgic prowess over his world, but the overload of fictional factual minutiae in the Appendix weigh down the exceptional streamlined novellas.