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Shriek: An Afterword

(Ambergris #2)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,461 ratings  ·  122 reviews
An epic yet personal look at several decades of life, love, and death in the imaginary city of Ambergris--previously chronicled in Jeff VanderMeer's acclaimed City of Saints & Madmen--Shriek: An Afterword relates the scandalous, heartbreaking, and horrifying secret history of two squabbling siblings and their confidantes, protectors, and enemies.

Narrated with flamboya
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 8th 2006 by Tor Books (first published 2006)
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4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,461 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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Updated review after a re-read in November 2018.


Jeff VanderMeer has imagination in spades, that’s obvious the minute you crack any of his books open. Every story set in the city of Ambergris has a wonderfully dark, dirty, gritty, almost oppressively gothic atmosphere – something that I absolutely love. He clearly has this city, every alley, mansard and pavement, deeply etched in his brain, and he shows just enough to make me shake the book and yell: “More! Tell me more!” It would only be a mi
We book lovers can’t help speaking of authors as “the next ....” We’re always keeping our eyes open for the next Jane Austen or the next Ernest Hemingway or the next Salman Rushdie or the next Ursula K. LeGuin, and we gleefully trumpet their arrival in our reviews. Of course, what we really ought to be looking for is the first China Miéville, the first Lisa Moore, the first Neal Stephenson, the first Iain Banks, the first whomever. When we find those authors who are truly themselves, we’ve reall ...more
Dan Schwent
May 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: new-weird
I've been waiting for Jeff VanderMeer to write a novel set in Ambergris since City of Saints and Madmen.

Thoughts from the halfway mark: The first half of the book is Janice Shriek telling the story of her brother Duncan's multiple successes and disgraces, from being a successful historian, to a pariah, to a successful teacher, to his fall from grace for a torrid affair with a student, as well as her own rise to being a player in the art world until her own fall. All the while, she alludes to Dun
Chris Van Dyke
Aug 13, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: weird-fiction
A review on the back of this book name-checks Nick Cave and "Hitchhikers Guide" -- please ignore the back of the book. I can't imagine anything less like Douglas Adams than this book.

If I had to write a review of this book based primarily on name-checks, my list would include: Mervyn Peake, Edward Gorey, H.P. Lovecraft, China Mievelle, and Tom Waits. VanderMeer's Ambergris setting has echoes of Gormanghast's crumbling antiquity, but with more of Amphigories twisted, Gothic humor thrown in (thin
Amy (Other Amy)
He said: "A machine. A glass. A mirror. A broken machine. A cracked glass. A shattered mirror." I remember now the way he used the phrases at his disposal. Clean, fine cuts. Great, slashing cuts. Fractures in the word and the world.

"Some things should not be articulated. Some words should never be used in exact combination with other words." My father said that once, while reading a scathing negative review of one of his essays. He said it with a tired little sigh, a joke at his expense. His who
May 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009, fantasy
I find myself thinking about Shriek in the same way I thought about its predecessor, City of Saints and Madmen. In other words, I'm not sure quite what to think about it. It has all the things that made City good: lots of atmosphere, a city so well constructed and populated that it feels like I was immersed in it, the feeling that this place existed before VanderMeer put his pen to paper. However, like City, Shriek doesn't really work well as a whole. Despite the richness of the setting, which i ...more
Michael Harrel
Feb 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently went through a harvest of Listmania lists on Amazon, from those I found on the page for China Meiville's "Perdido Street Station". It seemed like a promising way to break into reading the current "New Weird" fantasy sub-genre movement, uh, thing. (New Weird. It's a fairly ambiguous term, but generally, think Fantasy (often dark fantasy) with a more "modern" viewpoint and usually an urban (modern or pseudo-steampunk) setting, that sidesteps Tolkien's legacy when tracing its lineage (wh ...more
Jan 04, 2011 rated it really liked it

During my misspent youth and a fair bit of my adulthood, I steeped myself in more fantastic fiction that I care to admit. As one book rolled into another and another, a pattern began to emerge: When authors crafted their imaginary worlds, they tended to take one of two tacks. The first (exhibited to great effect by C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces and his Narnia series) borrowed tropes from ancient mythologies. The second involved expanding some extant reality until it be
Aug 16, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: not you, certainly
Shelves: unfinished
I don't know, clever, but it just didn't do it. I think VanderMeer might be too fundamentally sane to accomplish the decadent style that he aspires to here. Get more insane, do more drugs, or be more French, Jeff. Otherwise you're S.O.L. Don't get me wrong, I think he can write, but I think he's not writing what he's suited for.
fo jammi
Apr 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the jaded, the obsequious, the wise
Tarted up in a fin de siecle gaudiness and moldering crepe, Jeff VanDerMeer's latest tale of the decadent and unusual goings-on in the fantastical city of Ambergris promises raised eyebrows and wry humour. A few chapters into the book, it seemed as though the affair might collapse in upon itself due to the towering preciousness of it's central conceit: that it is in actuality a hideously distended afterword penned by the failed art gallery owner Janice Shriek, to be appended to a travel guide wr ...more
After having read the Southern trilogy, I am on a quest to read all of Jeff VanderMeer's novels. I had read a short story based in Ambergris before but had not cared that much for it, and the more I read his novels, the more clear it seems to me why I love them but I'm not (for now) going to read his short stories.
VanderMeer's novels are set in such weird worlds that they require an immense suspension of disbelief on the readers side, BUT his characters are so good, that you'll find yourself bel
Jan 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2011, e-books
3.5 stars. I felt the writing style and format were 5 stars, truly fabulous. Vandermeer writes with originality, flair, and is not afraid to be unique. This was a tough read for me, I found it difficult to make it through many parts of it. It is a true testament to how great Vandermeer can make things so exceptional that I was ablebto push through the slow, stagnate parts that left me wanting. Being that this is an Afterword, much of the book rambles on and stops the story line from moving forwa ...more
Saurabh Bhattacharya
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. The Ambergris hinted at in Vandermeer’s City of Saints and Madmen was so beguilingly strange that I had to go deeper in its fungivarious depths. Shriek, unfortunately, remains a stolid second act. The thing with books that rely on a dominant character’s voice is that they work only if the reader feels emotionally invested in the character. Janice Shriek is so bland and uninspired as a character that I was left cold. If only this was a work composed in the voice ...more
May 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book while on a road trip, over a week ago. At this point I don't know that I can really set down everything I have to say about it accurately--this review would have been more detailed had it been written when the book was still fresh in my mind. That noted, I did like this book a lot. It used some of the layered, metafictional techniques that VanderMeer used in "City Of Saints And Madmen", and acted as a sort of sequel to that book. "Shriek: An Afterword" is a biography of Dunc ...more
Oct 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
Jeff VanderMeer's wildly inventive new novel is the afterword to the nonexistent history of a fictional city. After completing the classic The Hoegbotton Guide to the Early History of Ambergris, controversial historian Duncan Shriek disappeared, leaving his sister Janice Shriek to supply the much-needed afterword.

Janice Shriek's piece evolves into a memoir of the siblings: their family, their loves, and, most importantly, their failures. Banned by the Court of Kalif – this reality's Catholic Chu
Rafal Jasinski
Jun 15, 2011 rated it really liked it

Cholernie obawiałem się tej książki, bowiem przyzwyczaiłem się, do tego, że Jeff VanderMeer, podobnie, jak M. John Harrison, lubuje się w "dręczeniu" czytelnika na wiele rozlicznych sposobów: od prowadzenia fabuły niezwykle splątanymi ścieżkami - którymi podążając, nie wolno w żadnym wypadku pozwolić sobie na rozproszenie uwagi, należy zachować pełną koncentrację i czujność - poprzez kreację bohaterów, których motywacje są niejasne, losy zagmatwane a czyny irracjonalne, aż do doprowadzanie do k
Bernie Mojzes
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I finished this some time ago, and have been trying to formulate what to say about it. I think there are many ways to approach discussing Shriek, each with its own merits, its own sets of what-it-can-say and what-it-must-remain-silent-about. I'm pretty sure that whichever I choose, I won't do justice to it.

This is perhaps the best example of telling a story slant-wise, of the oblique entry, that I have read. There is a grand narrative of the fungal invasion of the city of Ambergris, of mysteriou
Jul 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
My first novel by Jeff VanderMeer, I wasn't sure what to expect, nor am I quite sure what I got.

Well let's see; it's a fictional afterword written by a fictional character (Janice Shriek) to her brother's (Duncan Shriek) book which is a historical account of a fictional city (Ambergris) in a fictional world. But it's actually more of an account of her and her brother's lives since the death of their father that chronicles the ups and downs of their personal and professional fortunes. This accoun
Dec 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is possibly the best book I have ever read. I loved the way the story is constructed. Janice Shriek, older sister of historian Duncan Shriek, tells the story of his life after he has disappeared into the underground of the city of Ambergris. Duncan has spent his life studying the gray caps, a mysterious race of mushroom people who were the initial inhabitants of the area. Duncan believes the gray caps are working on something sinister. "A machine. A glass. A mirror. A broken machine. A crac ...more
Jul 28, 2007 rated it it was ok
The one where the life of historian Duncan Shriek is told by his sister, Janice, with annotations by Duncan after Janice dies. Abandoned at page 150.

I think there's probably a story in here somewhere. Things happen that would sound really exciting if I told you about them. But this is one of those books where you're given several unreliable sources and left to puzzle out what really happened between the lines of what they choose to tell you about, which means that there are layers and layers of
Lee Battersby
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A stunning achievement: two highly unreliable narrators comment upon each other, one via the afterword to a biography of the other (the book we are reading), the other via annotations to the book itself, with an extra layer of meta-text waiting to be revealed as the book progresses... all wrapped up in the singularly odd "Real World Plus One" milieu of the city of Ambergris. Highly intelligent, beautifully literate, constantly treading a fine line between gothic tragedy, horror, and faded, crumb ...more
Andy Tischaefer
Aug 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Well written if strange. Is it ok for me to say I like my weird fiction a little more straightforward?

It was successful in that it made me want to read more of VanderMeer and specifically about the city of Ambergris, but the story itself just didn't move me as much as I had hoped it would be. I expected more payoff, for whatever reason. When it hit, though, it hit hard - the war scenes in particular were pretty great and imaginative.

Overall I liked it and if the description intrigues you, it may
Nov 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Shriek: An Afterword is the second book in Jeff Vandermeer's Ambergris series. It is told from the point of view of Janice Shriek, and focuses on her brother Duncan, who is obsesses with the gray caps (a strange, mushroom-like people who live underground).

It's interesting to read more about Ambergris (one of my favourite cities in SFF), but I found the story a bit slow and meandering; there were some good parts but often it became a bit tedious too - on the whole above average, but not one of hi
Dec 03, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: pretentious "religion"-haters and tortured writers who enjoy pseudo-literary fantastical history
This book was an agonizing read -- unlikeable, underdeveloped characters; pathetic use of "literary" devices, including repetition, multiple narrators, and the use of braces; an unintelligible commentary on history, perspective, faith, politics; a fantasy world revolving around fungus... And the fact that character "Duncan Shriek" connotes (hopefully unintentionally) bland singer-songwriter Duncan Shiek.
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Много времени ушло на чтение этой книги, потому что она реально длинная. Вандермеер её 7 лет все-таки писал. Тот же Амбергрис, только новая история с точки зрения брата и сестры Шрайк.
Атмосферная, интересная, больше наверное эдакий роман-эпопея нежели фантастика.
Первая книга понравилась больше из-за необычного формата, но эта в своём роде тоже хороша.
Simone Webb
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really loved the setting and the concept of this novel - it felt like the browser computer game Fallen London in novel format, and also reminded me of China Mieville a lot. Something didn't quite work for me in its execution, but I still very much enjoyed it and am keen to read the other Ambergris books by Vandermeer.
Dec 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
OUTSTANDING! will review soon- i'm so behind on reviews, hopefully catching up soon cause it's driving me nuts.
Sanem Guvenc
Dec 22, 2018 is currently reading it
Halfway through....

One probably should not read the afterword without first sinking her teeth into "Cities of Saints and Madmen", as I did. Oh well, life. This second volume is growing more and more difficult to finish. Frustration abounds on multiple layers: first it is Janice S. starting over and over again, and although you sympathize with her at first, it starts sounding a bit too self-indulgent (especially in parts she narrates her own self-indulgent life). And the warnings in the beginnin
Steven Burnap
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A woman writes a long, discursive "afterword" to a reprint of her brother's book of history. The brother inserts notes in the margin. This all set in Ambergris, a familiar yet strange city with a odd history. The world is at once familiar (cars, telephones and mansions straight out of the American South) and yet bizarre, with book publishers fighting literal wars and where fungal spores underlay and overlay everything. What makes VanderMeer such a great read is that while on the one hand you hav ...more
Bessie McAdams
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
My biggest complaint about this book is that there is no plot to speak of. It makes the barest of gestures towards an arc or a a narrative structure, but they are more feints than actual movements towards structure. It is an interesting world. And the characters are complex and strange and worth getting to know. That being said, the novel seems to have no idea that the brother runs ram-shod over two women's autonomy. It recognizes that he has done something wrong to the ingenue he (as a teacher) ...more
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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

Other books in the series

Ambergris (3 books)
  • City of Saints and Madmen (Ambergris, #1)
  • Finch (Ambergris, #3)
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