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The Third Bear

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  830 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
The award-winning short fictions in this collection highlight the voice of an inventive contemporary fantasist who has been compared by critics to Borges, Nabokov, and Kafka. In addition to highlights such as The Situation, in which a beleaguered office worker creates a child-swallowing manta ray to be used for educational purposes and Errata, which follows an oddly famili ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published July 1st 2010 by Tachyon Publications (first published January 1st 2010)
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Jeff VanderMeer's The Third Bear has been on my TBR pile for quite a while now. I've never read anything by the author, though his highly acclaimed novel Finch has garnered a load of attention. Likewise, his collection of bizarre short stories contained in The Third Bear has collected lauds and nods from nearly every review I've read. The book has a strange type of magic that charms the reader and takes him on a journey like never before.

So I made preparations to read this book, curiosity pique
The Third Bear is an excellent collection of Jeff Vandermeer’s category-defying short fiction, filled with stories that are unique, mostly excellent, and often incredibly hard to describe. Asking someone who has read this book (say, a reviewer) what one of the stories is about could well get you a blank stare as a response, or a few mumbled words, or simply “you’ll have to read it for yourself”. Pinning these stories down in a few words is very hard, not to mention a bit unfair to both the stori ...more
Sometimes, the best ways to understand the complexities of the world we live in is to look at it in a new way. Jeff Vandermeer does precisely this using short story format in, “The Third Bear”.

“The Third Bear” is a compilation of 14 short stories by award-winning author Jeff Vandermeer. These stories strike off from the norm combining features of folk tales, fantasy, surrealism, and even mysticism mixed in with realism attributes making Vandermeer’s writing quite special. Even those readers who
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I felt really luke-warm about this series of stories in the beginning (and really did not like the title tale) but it got much better as it went along, and became great. "The Situation" was my favorite, but I loved many of the stories toward the end as well. Wonderful ideas live in this book, just not at the beginning of it?
I haven't read VanderMeer's short fiction in a while (though I remember the excellent "The Quickening" from an early creative writing class in college), and it was a treat to see him playing with themes and concepts that would later form the backbone of his recent novels.
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jeff VanderMeer.

Your imagination knows no bounds.

This is a collection of the strangest, most wonderful, weirdest, loveliest, most imaginative stories I have ever read.

In the middle of a sentence, of a story, I've literally stopped breathing just to bask in the creative genius of it all.

Surreal. You know what these stories are? They're stories that show you a brief glimpse of other dimensions, other worlds, a brief, haunting glimpse of magic that leaves you changed, leaves you knowing more an
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I set out to give this collection four stars. I was arguing to myself that because it didn't make me clasp it to my chest and sigh romantically, it didn't deserve it, but I couldn't get some of the stories out of my head. For a short story to stick with me, for me to remember it past when I start the next one, it has to be really something. And several of these had that kind of niggling memory.

I still feel disturbed that The Situation reminds me of my work place, although we don't have genetica
Alex DiDonato
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really excellent collection of weird stories. It felt a bit like VanderMeer's Twilight Zone at times. If you've read the Southern Reach Trilogy, most of these stories are much weirder. Having finished, I do think it would have helped to have been provided a little context for some of the stories. Specifically, "Appogiatura" was a writing exercise for a magazine where authors were prompted to write a story based on choosing a word from a list of final words given in spelling bee contests. Vande ...more
This was weird and wonderful. Some of the stories in the first half were hard going, but the book builds this momentum and you start noticing strange connections between the stories and it's ultimately super satisfying.
Dawn Paris
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strange but interesting.
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mieville Fans
This is exactly what would happen if China Mieville were asked to right his own book of short stories in the spirit of Cathedral, by Carver. With that same feel of kind of walking in on the lives of these people for a bit and then walking back out.

To say VanerMeer writes like Mieville isn't accurate - Mieville likes to bask in the weird and see where it takes his writing, while my take on Vandermeer is his stories have a simmering unease that is often a story that is at odds with a vein of the b
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The variety of stories shows the author's diverse range of styles. Among them, the Calvino-esque "Appoggiatura," the weird and borderline-PKD-esque "The Situation," a postmodern series of letters journalizing writing a story in Siberia (with a satisfying end), another PKD-esque series of notes from a president stuck in a fragmented reality-timeline, and the fantasy-fiction-esque tall tale that is the namesake of the collection, the stories cover a range styles and topic.

"A Surgeon's Tale" was b
Eileen Nichols
I really liked Vandermeer's first Southern Reach book but the next 2 seemed to really go out into left field and admittedly confused me. The majority of stories in this were the same. I didn't even finish the last one. Some were REALLY out there.
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An eclectic collection of stories ranging from totally bonkers to unsettling, but overall impressive.
Maya L
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of similarities to the Southern Reach Trilogy. I loved most of the stories in this anthology, although there were a couple I was meh about.
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every story in The Third Bear is beautiful.
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book of stories knocked me to the ground and hit me in all the right places. My convalescence was both sweet and sour, like lemons. I think I should summarize every story so you get an idea of the variety of bodies of water that Jeff Vandermeer included. It's good cause I understand this book pretty well. Spoiler alert: milk spoils if you leave it out for too long.

The Third Bear: I pictured it having a few streams. Maybe a brook. The bear was not a bear.

The Quickening: Streams are pretty q
In "The Third Bear," Vandermeer presents a collection of short stories that challenge traditional boundaries and tropes of sci-fi and fantasy. The titular story, for example, is actually one of the more conventional in broad strokes--a monstrous bear terrorizes a small village, and the village mayor must make a decision on how to respond--but it's the details that matter: the claustrophobic nature of the village in winter, trapped by the bear; the alien nature of the bear. (That the story bears ...more
I found this collection to be pretty uneven...I enjoyed it at the beginning, and then halfway through I started to lose the thread. Too weird maybe? I'm reminded of China Miéville and Paolo Bacigalupi, but it also seems wrong to compare them because Vandermeer is so so different.

The title story was perfectly creepy for me, with definite ideas of the Southern Reach trilogy in there. Actually, I saw Area X subtly in a few of the stories in this collection. I'm pretty sure the Third Bear comes from
Dec 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories, 2015
3.5 overall. I met Jeff VanderMeer at the Shared Worlds camp here in Spartanburg and to be honest, I was a little starstruck, which is ridiculous, because if anyone is surprised by the Southern Reach trilogy's success, it's VanderMeer himself. The camp is for high school students who invent new worlds - the campers themselves happily call it "nerd camp." I would have fit right in 15 years ago.

But this book! Maybe it's because I met the guy and he's a total dude (in the best way), maybe it's bec
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is a pretty solid collection. my main criticism is that some of this felt a bit heavy handed - i feel like sometimes after i had gotten a point it would continue to become less abstract as if it feared i wouldn't get it otherwise? maybe? but still, vandermeer is solid. some notes on favorites:

'the quickening' - stood out because i feared it would go in a different direction than it did and was glad it didn't

'the situation' - probably my favorite and one that was the most vibrant in my mind
Matthew Peck
3 1/2 stars. Highly eclectic, highly uneven story collection from acclaimed fantasist VanderMeer.

VanderMeer seems to actively fight against producing any story that could be described as "typical", but he returns to pet themes: elegies for past worlds or civilizations, grotesque biological experiments, a knack for mordant workplace satire.

My favorites include:
-"The Situation", which is like an episode of the office written by Ben Marcus & William Burroughs & guest-directed by David Cro
Apr 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jeff VanderMeer is truly a master of the Weird Fantasy genre. This collection of short stories runs the gamut, from mildly weird (Finding Sonoria, the Quickening), to weird story approaches (Errata and Appoggiatura), to stories way out on the weird fringe (The Situation and Predecessor). Every story here is a distinctive and very different experience; most of which take the reader to distinctively unique worlds. Some are just next door, and some are across unimaginable gulfs of the strange.
Nicholas Armstrong
I tried. This was my second attempt at Vandermeer, and I just can't do it. Nothing about him inspires me. His stories read like fables or parables; nothing has a point, none of the characters have any depth. It is reminiscent to studying early short stories. He tells stories with a purpose, and the purpose drives the story, not anything else.

In "Third Bear", I was pretty sure I knew the end at the beginning, and I was right, but that isn't necessarily bad, what is bad is that there was no point.
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with most short story collections, there were things I liked about this, and things that I didn't. But for never having read VanderMeer before, this collection has made me want to track down his other work. It always surprises me when I find out that someone I thought was a relatively new author is one that is not only established but is also at the forefront of their genre. I can see why VanderMeer is considered one of the best, as his writing is wonderful and lyrical, and his stories tend t ...more
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These stories are without a doubt some of the most surreal I've ever encountered... and for me at least, they seemed to get more so the further into the collection I progressed. The opening (and titular) story was delightful for me, a bit of a meditation about a horrendously vicious and destructive bear that... might not be a bear (no one is really certain because no one has ever returned from a fight with it.) The next, The Quickening may have been my favorite... an extra creepy tale featuring ...more
This is an odd collection of short stories. I admit this is not my usual genre. (what is it? Science fiction?) Most of the time i did not know what was going on, but i had enough of a grasp to enjoy the flow. I did not UNDERSTAND this book very much, but that is not the type of book it is. I was only able to finish half the book before having to return it to the library (renewed it twice) which shows you it wasn't easy to "get through", and I didn't read it every single night before bed which i ...more
Luke Van Lant
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I had read the synopsis on this website before buying the book, I may very well never have. So do yourself a favor – if that turns you off, ignore it. Buy the book. Read it. Let it twist you around, lead you down roads that have only a few streetlights still standing. Then reread it, and relish the little connections between stories, of which "Appogiatura" is the most obvious example. Hint: there's one really cool one between "The Situation" and "The Third Bear." I relish this collection. I t ...more
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finishing The Third Bear was like waking from a dream; I am somewhat at a loss to coherently describe it. This collection blends horror, sci-fi/fantasy, mystery, and humor quite splendidly, while avoiding and often subverting the clichés and tropes common to those genres. Occasionally touching, always thoughtful, these tales are oddly relatable, in that the endings are regularly inconclusive and even unsatisfying in a way more akin to real life, which is something I always tend to appreciate.

I w
Laura Eilers
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Third Bear is a somewhat unsettling collection of short stories by Jeff VanderMeer. I’ve been trying to find a way to classify this book, and it’s defying me. The stories within range from bizarre to creepy to unnerving, and they took my mind to pictures and ideas that I wouldn’t normally have found on my own. That in itself makes it a worthwhile book, because being introduced to new concepts and landscapes is the whole point of reading, at least for me. This review won’t do the collection a ...more
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Jeff VanderMeer's new novel is Borne, set for publication in late April of 2017. His most recent fiction is the NYT-bestselling Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance), all released in 2014. The series won the Shirley Jackson Award and the Nebula Award, was shortlisted for several others, and has been acquired by publishers in 32 other countries. Paramount Pictures/Scott R ...more
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“My Manager forced me to put my beetle in my own ear, a clear waste and an act that gave me nightmares: of a burning city through which giant carnivorous lizards prowled, eating survivors off of balconies. In one particularly vivid moment, I stood on a ledge as the jaws closed in, heat-swept, and tinged with the smell of rotting flesh. Beetles intended for the tough, tight minds of children should not be used by adults. We still remember a kinder, gentler world.” 7 likes
“If making a doppelganger using the priests’ emerald powder, the dulcimer should be played during the mixing; otherwise, your monster may coalesce with a vestigial tale or tail. It is also known that playing the dulcimer after dinner increases the chance of pleasant conversation, if accompanied by wine and a nice dessert.” 2 likes
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