Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The City of Dreaming Books

by Walter Moers, translated by John Brownjohn
New York: Overlood Press, 2007.

Optimus Yarnspinner is an aspiring author and a dinosaur living in Zamonia. As an inhabitant of Lindworm castle, he has had the best training under the tutelage of his authorial godfather, Dancelot Wordwright. On his deathbed, Dancelot bequeaths a manuscript to Optimus, a brilliant short story by an unknown author, and commissions his godson to go to Bookholm to discover the writer.

This is an endlessly inventive tale that mixes the ridiculous (literary dinosaurs) with smart bookish humor (author names that Optimus lists are anagrams of famous authors in our world). The odd mixture puts me in mind of the Thursday Next series, though in many ways the stories themselves are completely different. But if you have a good imagination, enjoy discovering literary references in unexpected places, and didn't mind the footnoterphone or the Cheshire Cat as librarian in The Well of Lost Plots, then I would recommend Moers' creative yarn. Though the fourth in a series, The City of Dreaming Books was the first that I read and I had no trouble reading it as a standalone. It runs a little long towards the end, but it was such a fun ride that I want to check out the rest of the series.

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