382 PAGES · £10.99
As Shriek: An Afterword begins, Jonathan Shriek, a minor historian, is running towards his family clutching a letter that promises him fame, access to valuable documents and an all-expenses paid research trip. However, overjoyed and overexcited, he trips and dies at his family’s feet.
Maybe it’s because Jeff VanderMeer looks so normal when you see him at cons or talking on panels that his fiction comes as such a huge shock. Is this fetid hothouse world really the subconscious of that smartly-dressed American writer?
Just where did the famed city of Ambergris come from, and what is it with the Grey Caps, those underworld-dwelling exiles with their fungal technology and outward similarity to something you’d expect to find diced in a mushroom omelette?
As its name suggests, this book is an afterword. But this being Jeff VanderMeer, it’s an afterword to a book that doesn’t actually exist, and covers the disappearance and death of Jonathan Shriek’s son Duncan, who is also an obsessed historian. Only Duncan isn’t actually dead, so his sister Janice’s manuscript is riddled with comments from the man himself, contradicting things that Janice insists did happen.
Throw in a war between two publishers (where can he possibly have got that idea?), enough social climbing and bickering to make up an undiscovered Victorian novel, and the sinister presence of the Grey Caps, and you have a typical VanderMeer novel – clever, intense and multilayered.
Jon Courtenay Grimwood