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Veniss Underground

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,292 ratings  ·  199 reviews
In his debut novel, literary alchemist Jeff VanderMeer takes us on an unforgettable journey, a triumph of the imagination that reveals the magical and mysterious city of Veniss through three intertwined voices. First, Nicholas, a would-be Living Artist, seeks to escape his demons in the shadowy underground–but in doing so makes a deal with the devil himself. In her fevered ...more
Paperback, 278 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Spectra (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  2,292 ratings  ·  199 reviews

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Dan Schwent
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, new-weird
Artist Nicholas goes to the sinister Quin to buy a meerkat and winds up missing. His twin sister Nicola combs the city of Veniss looking for him and also disappears and it's up to Shadrach, Nicholas' friend and Nicola's former lover, to find them. Can Shadrach find them before Quin finds him?

Veniss Underground is the first of Jeff Vandermeer's new weird works. While it's not as pants-shittingly awesome as some of his later works, it's still really good.

Veniss takes place in a dystopian future. A
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Plane of Existence

This futuristic, metaphysical tale reminded me a lot of Angela Carter's novels.

It's told in three sections, each of which offers a different, but cumulative, perspective. Together, they work like a multi-faceted jewel.

The first is narrated by holographic artist Nicholas in the first person.

The second, about his twin sister, Nicola, is told in the second person.

The third, which focusses on Nicola’s former lover, Shadrach, is in the third person.

It’s set in the dystopian city of
4.0 to 4.5 stars. Jeff Vandermeer has an amazing imagination and the writing chops to put it down on paper in a way that draws the reader inside his very unusual world where they can truly look around and feel a part of it (which can be a bit unnerving given that he writes about some very dark places). While the entire book is very good, I thought the last section was the best. It details one of the character's decent into the title locale (i.e., Veniss Underground) which is about the most unsua ...more
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vandermeer has published many more short stories than novels, and his preference for the short format shows – Veniss is a very short novel (in my edition bundled with an unrelated (?) ‘novella’ (I’d still call it a short story) to fill out the book.
Its length is my biggest complaint with the work. Vandermeer shows the reader an immensely complex, vivid setting – but in around 200 pages, there isn’t time to explore it in the depth one might like to – and the plot itself is very slight.
Veniss is
Dec 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: I don't know who would like this prose
I picked up this book on a recommendation as a book that features it's urban setting as an integral character in the story. When I looked at the synopsis, I was glad to see it's a Far Dark Future-y cyberpunky sort of story. It's not like all the other cyberpunk books I've read; the prose is some weird amalgam of stream-of-conscious meets futurewords-without-enough-context. It read like some Important Modern Literature I've seen (and subsequently loathed). I believe our main character, or at leas ...more
Jeff Vandermeer’s first novel takes us to the city of Veniss, a sprawling dystopian metropolis, where strange creatures, created from biological and mechanical parts roam the city. In the background looms a mysterious character named Quin, who seems responsible for all the strange automatons and creatures walking the city. The novel follows a failed artist, his sister and her former lovers’ journey into the bowels of the city and the sheer madness that has been built in the name of Quin.

This is
Keith Deininger
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
A fast-moving, grotesque parade. Jeff VanderMeer has an excellent imagination, and that is something I always appreciate. Veniss Underground has some structural issues, pieced together sections with disparate viewpoints (including some jarring 2nd person), and some common issues among first novels, but ones I was able to overlook. It's broken into three sections, the first that I believe was originally published as a stand-alone story, and it gets better as it progresses. Worth a read.
Jul 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
A short, dense novel, Veniss Underground is perhaps the defining work of the New Weird. Urban and decaying, dark and grotesque, it is heavy with mythic and literary echoes. The plot pushes characters into hopeless situations and surrounds them with terrifying strangeness, and the plot's turns and denouement subvert typical narrative expectations. In Veniss Underground, Weird is not the exception, but the rule: it surrounds, encroaches, violates, and blossoms.

The city of Veniss rots under the wei
Missy (myweereads)
“The scrawled letters form words, the words form lines, the lines form a poem. Your eyes scanning across the page give the poem life.”

Veniss Underground by Jeff Vandermeer is a story about a trio living in a dystopian world called Veniss. There are many levels to this metropolis and the further down you go the more decrepit it becomes. Nicholas is in desperate need to escape his demons and in doing so makes a deal with the devil, intent on finding him, his twin Nicola embarks on a search which
Apr 30, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Done! I think I liked it. It was like swimming in a fantasy world, some sort of futuristic Brave New World dream, and most of the time I was sort of lost. Haven‘t read much science fiction but this was beautiful, a story about love between twins and other characters which kept it all together. Would probably need to re-read in order to tell you what this was all about. But that‘s the thing with art sometimes, you sense that it‘s great even though you may not truly be getting it in the moment.
May 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
I have the greatest respect for Jeff Vandemeer and his work, generally speaking. Veniss Underground is his first novel and can be described as nightmarish, experimental and deeply unpleasant.

This is one of my Dad's favourites. He admires it's originality, it's vast imagination and it's signature blend of horror.

Personally, I found it just too gruesome. Reading it, I felt like I did as a child when I first encountered the paintings of Bosch. Horrified and nauseated. My appreciation of art is for
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that you can't put down once you start it. You get sucked in immediately and as things unfold throughout the book, you can't stop reading. I would recommend it for readers who like sci-fi & don't mind some graphic (ick) scenes. And I also recommend it for anyone looking for a new reading experience.

Brief (and I mean brief) plot summary

Set very much in the future, the story is set in the city of Veniss, which used to be known as Dayton Central, until the government col
neko cam
Having read (and loved) 'City of Saints and Madmen', I had a fair idea what flavor of weirdness I was getting myself into with 'Veniss Underground'. For instance, the three portions of the book are delivered in the first, second, and third person perspectives respectively. An interesting idea, but unfortunately not interesting enough to make up for how annoying it is to read anything written in the second person perspective.

If there's one thing Vandermeer knows, it's creating locales that are st
Jul 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Veniss Underground tries very hard to be an atmospheric weird sci-fi thriller, and about two thirds of the way through it starts to succeed quite magnificently. The novel has a very clever (maybe too clever) structure: part 1 is a first person narrative of a guy who goes missing (though short it contains some of the best writing of the book); part 2 is a second person narrative of his sister who discovers he is missing and goes looking for him; and part 3 is a third person narrative account of a ...more
May 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-the-best
You can almost see the emotion this book was written with permeating from it. VanderMeer is quickly, and surprisingly, becoming one of my favorite authors- now risen to the same level as Mieville imo. This book is going straight to my 'best of the best' shelf.
Christy Stewart
This is now one of my favorite books and because of that I can't review it well enough.

If you've ever trusted my judgment of books you should at least read the description.
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Smells like "Do androids dream of electric sheep?" in the beginning.
Chris Browning
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nicola Mansfield
Hauntingly horrific! Wow, just fantastic. This is VanderMeer's first novel and is set in a dystopian future where government has collapsed and bioengineering is the norm. With Quin being the dangerous man in charge of it all. It's also a story of love: between twins, lovers and the unrequited kind. Now that I've read most of VanderMeer's novels I can say that I know what to expect. He draws you in with superb writing of dysfunctional societies/worlds then he will spring upon you the horrific. Hi ...more
Jonathan Lee B.
Veniss Underground is chewing a gumball that is too big and too chewy.
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 - 3 stars. Surprisingly I didn't really love this. It's dark and I thought the plot was retread. I liked the novella Balzac' War (included in ebook) a lot more. Read Annihilation instead
Just very very wierd, didn't make much sense and not my type of story. Still it hooked me enought that I wanted to know how it all would nend. Rich imagination of Jeff to create this wierd world
Coming straight out of Blood Meridian, I maybe should have gone with a lighter read. Mind you, I didn't really realize how heavy Veniss Underground would ultimately end up being. The section of the novel following Shadrach (still wondering how the biblical connotation of this name figures into the theme of the book) was so dark and grueling. The stand out imagery for me was his visit to the donation clinic when he finds Nicola buried in a pile of legs. Thankfully those moments were offset by the ...more
Jun 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Veniss is VanderMeer's first novel. It reminded me a bit of Annihilation, but was less structured, and not in this world. It also had some of the otherworldly detail which fills Mieville's work. There are 3 protagonists, each of who narrate one of 3 consecutive parts: Nicholas, twin sister Nicola, friend/lover Shadrach. The entire book is populated with unreal creatures and locations, many gruesome or repulsive. Nicholas' part had a poetic feel- he is a Living Artist (creates art from living cre ...more
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 out of 5. The wobbliness of the beginning of the novel is forgiven by the end, especially once it’s revealed that the wobbliness was purposeful – and there were moments where I could see the authorial voice that I now know so strongly in a still-nacent form, rough around the edges – but all in all, Veniss shows that Jeff was as talented and inventive at the beginning of his career as a novelist as he is now. We’re lucky to have a mind so fertile creating such worlds for us – and any & all of ...more
"Okay," not great - more aesthetic concept than narrative.

Dystopian novel about a guy who genetically modifies people and animals into entirely new organic creations, and a few characters connected to him. It comes across as more of a writer's exercise in worldbuilding than a novel in the classic sense, as there wasn't a lot of plot or depth of character to it, but it was interesting all the same to watch the unfolding of VanderMeer's crafted universe. It feels very much like the building block
Oct 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Veniss Underground is full of the weirdness, sense of wonder, world building, and just general quality that I have come to expect from a Vandermeer book. Comparable to the stories of Cordwainer Smith and Jack Vance, this far future novel about a Living Artist and the quest for his missing twin sister is an adventure that only Jeff Vandermeer could conceive.
Jan 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
There is one absolutely amazing scene near the beginning of this book where the narrator can sense these THINGS moving in behind him right before he is kidnapped for good. That section, which is both beautiful and suffused with a kind of haunting dread, anticipates Vandermeer's far-superior work in Ambergris.

The rest of the book didn't make much of an impression on me, though.
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is VanderMeer's first novel. That is amazing. The imagination displayed in this book is beyond anything I've read anywhere else...except maybe the other VanderMeer novels. And the style is incredible too. If you like weird stories set in weird locations that challenge your mind to comprehend, this is an absolutely great book. If you're stuck in the real world, you will hate this.
Eric Orchard
Dec 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Without a doubt one of the very best science fiction novels I have ever read.Dark and disturbing yet always beautiful and compelling, this is like a genre retelling of Dante, especially. I recommend this book to anyone, genre reader or not.
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NYT bestselling writer Jeff VanderMeer has been called “the weird Thoreau” by the New Yorker for his engagement with ecological issues. His most recent novel, the national bestseller Borne, received wide-spread critical acclaim and his prior novels include the Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance). Annihilation won the Nebula and Shirley Jackson Awards, has been translat ...more

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“He stumbled, almost fell, and decided to sit down, with his back against the tunnel wall, his feet resting against the opposite wall. Roaring out of the morass of pity, terror, happiness, joy, sadness, elation that he had inherited - shooting forth from this void, the single sharp thought: She does not love me. It was almost more than he could take. But he was not the kind of person to fold, to crack, to be broken, and so instead, in those moments after the realization, he bent - and bent, and kept on bending beneath the pressure of this new and terrible knowledge. Soon he would bend into a totally new shape altogether. He welcomed that. He wanted that. Maybe the new thing he would become would no longer hurt, would no longer fear, would no longer look back down into the void and wonder what was left of him.

She did not love him. It made him laugh as he sat there -- great belly laughs that doubled him over in the dust, where he lay for a long moment, recovering. It was funny beyond bearing. He had fought through a dozen terrors all for love of her. And she did not love him. He felt like a character in a holovid - the jester, the clown, the fool.”
“Let me tell you what happens when you burn a person's body, pull out all of his teeth, glue his head to a plate, and shove a bomb in his ear. You become that person's object of undying hatred.” 4 likes
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