Secret Life

Overview

This collection of 23 stories reflects a diversity of approaches to key questions about the human condition, including questions about mortality, love, obsession, and creativity. “Balzac’s War” is a harrowing, powerful far-future novella that pits brother against brother in a landscape ravaged by war with Earth’s newly sentient human-made species. In 13th-century Cambodia, a lone artist is torn between his love of his craft and his unspoken love for a woman in “The Bone Carver’s Tale.” In “The Emperor’s Reply” ...

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Overview

This collection of 23 stories reflects a diversity of approaches to key questions about the human condition, including questions about mortality, love, obsession, and creativity. “Balzac’s War” is a harrowing, powerful far-future novella that pits brother against brother in a landscape ravaged by war with Earth’s newly sentient human-made species. In 13th-century Cambodia, a lone artist is torn between his love of his craft and his unspoken love for a woman in “The Bone Carver’s Tale.” In “The Emperor’s Reply” and “The Compass of His Bones,” set in 17th-century Peru, the last Incan Emperor, having brutally fallen at the hands of the Conquistadores, seeks his revenge.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
If two-time World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer's first short story collection, City of Saints and Madmen, failed to convince every single one of its readers of his singular speculative genius, his second collection, Secret Life, will surely convert the rest. As stylish as it is surreal, this collection is -- as indicated by the mind-blowing jacket painting by Scott Eagle -- a work of art to be savored again and again.

The sheer diversity of this collection is remarkable. With settings ranging from 13th-century Cambodia to a microcosmic office building and from Spanish-ruled Peru to a postapocalyptic Earth, these stpores are anything but predictable. Noteworthy entries include "The General Who Is Dead," an eerie narrative about a Korean War soldier stationed in an abandoned city surrounded by the corpses of 40,000 Chinese soldiers frozen in death. The last true descendant of the Inca emperors lies on his deathbed in "Ghost Dancing with Manco Tupac," as he recalls leading a conquistador into the mountains decades earlier in search of the lost treasure of the Incas. The gold-obsessed Spaniard finds riches beyond his wildest dreams -- and an unexpected gift. "Corpse Mouth and Spore Nose," a new Ambergris tale set in VanderMeer's signature realm, pits a detective searching for a missing girl against a fungal foe of "sporrific" proportions.

Speculative fiction neophytes who have yet to experience the imagination of Jeff VanderMeer owe it to themselves to do so as soon as possible. Secret Life, a collection of 23 wildly palatable literary appetizers, is the perfect starting place. Paul Goat Allen

Publishers Weekly
This collection of mostly older stories from the talented VanderMeer features a variety of tales that walk the border between literary surrealism and genre dark fantasy, many of them taking place in the author's two favorite locales, the haunted city of Ambergris, setting for the much-praised City of Saints and Madmen (2001), and the even darker metropolis featured in the novel Veniss Underground (2003). Perhaps the finest of the Ambergris stories is "Learning to Leave the Flesh," the tale of a writer who makes his living crafting individual perfect sentences whose life is transformed when he's assigned to write an epitaph for a dwarf who has committed suicide. Among the Veniss stories are "Balzac's War" and "Detectives and Cadavers," with their monstrous, sentient flesh dogs, and strangely mutated human beings. The title story may be the best of all, a surreal fable about the intrigues and battles among the employees who work in an office building, a struggle cut short when one woman's trumpet vine infiltrates the crawl spaces and ventilation shafts of the structure, pulling it down on the heads of everyone within. Not everything in the book is outstanding-a number of interesting but unexceptional apprentice pieces are included-but this is a solid collection overall and clearly points the way to the author's more recent, major work. Agent, Howard Morhaim. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781930846272
  • Publisher: Golden Gryphon Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2004
  • Pages: 295
  • Sales rank: 1,250,227
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Vandermeer

Jeff VanderMeer has been involved in the publishing industry for more than twenty-five years and in many capacities. His award-winning novels have been published in fifteen languages and his nonfiction has appeared in the Washington Post, the Barnes & Noble Review, and the Huffington Post. He is a regular contributor to Amazon’s book blog Omnivorous and his short fiction has appeared in Wired. He is an editor of anthologies for Bantam, Pan Macmillan, and Tachyon (The New Weird, Steampunk). He has conducted master-classes and given workshops all over the world including at the Brisbane Arts Center in Australia and the University of California at San Diego. VanderMeer is also a frequent guest at such multi-media venues as Utopiales in France, the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.

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