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From the author of Borne and Annihilation comes the one-volume hardcover reissue of his cult classic Ambergris Trilogy. Before Area X, there was Ambergris. Jeff VanderMeer conceived what would become his first cult classic series of speculative works: the Ambergris Trilogy. Now, for the first time ever, the story of the sprawling metropolis of Ambergris is collected into a From the author of Borne and Annihilation comes the one-volume hardcover reissue of his cult classic Ambergris Trilogy. Before Area X, there was Ambergris. Jeff VanderMeer conceived what would become his first cult classic series of speculative works: the Ambergris Trilogy. Now, for the first time ever, the story of the sprawling metropolis of Ambergris is collected into a single volume, including City of Saints and Madmen, Shriek: An Afterword, and Finch.


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From the author of Borne and Annihilation comes the one-volume hardcover reissue of his cult classic Ambergris Trilogy. Before Area X, there was Ambergris. Jeff VanderMeer conceived what would become his first cult classic series of speculative works: the Ambergris Trilogy. Now, for the first time ever, the story of the sprawling metropolis of Ambergris is collected into a From the author of Borne and Annihilation comes the one-volume hardcover reissue of his cult classic Ambergris Trilogy. Before Area X, there was Ambergris. Jeff VanderMeer conceived what would become his first cult classic series of speculative works: the Ambergris Trilogy. Now, for the first time ever, the story of the sprawling metropolis of Ambergris is collected into a single volume, including City of Saints and Madmen, Shriek: An Afterword, and Finch.

30 review for Ambergris

  1. 5 out of 5

    Aleksandra

    Ambergris feels like a test run of all the fantastical ideas and themes later explored in the Southern Reach trilogy. The claustrophobic power of nature, man's uncanny ability to be inhuman to that which it doesn't understand, it's all here as a testament to Vandermeer's imagination. The stories are mysterious at times, delightfully horrifying at others, though I think I prefer the cohesion of a single novel. Ambergris feels like a test run of all the fantastical ideas and themes later explored in the Southern Reach trilogy. The claustrophobic power of nature, man's uncanny ability to be inhuman to that which it doesn't understand, it's all here as a testament to Vandermeer's imagination. The stories are mysterious at times, delightfully horrifying at others, though I think I prefer the cohesion of a single novel.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Clay Brown

    Jeff Vandermeer’s Ambergris is actually 3 books that Mr. Vandermeer wrote long before the Southern Reach Trilogy. I assumed that Mr. Vandermeer was about 42-45, and was shocked to see that he is actually 53! Gazooks! 3 years younger than myself. Surprising indeed to me. I’d seen these volumes of the 3 books of Ambergris during Jeff Vandermeer’s scathing rise but realized that they were mostly in paperback. Old paperbacks. City Of Saints And Madmen, Shriek: An Afterword, Finch, now all in one tre Jeff Vandermeer’s Ambergris is actually 3 books that Mr. Vandermeer wrote long before the Southern Reach Trilogy. I assumed that Mr. Vandermeer was about 42-45, and was shocked to see that he is actually 53! Gazooks! 3 years younger than myself. Surprising indeed to me. I’d seen these volumes of the 3 books of Ambergris during Jeff Vandermeer’s scathing rise but realized that they were mostly in paperback. Old paperbacks. City Of Saints And Madmen, Shriek: An Afterword, Finch, now all in one tremendous 800 plus EBook volume. All pertaining to Ambergris an unusual city to be sure. Ambergris is ‘taken from’ by force (Think America’s Natives) from a small dwarfish people known as the Mushroom People or Grey Caps. And you might want to take a look at DoroHeDoro (2020 Netflix) to get the feel of possibilities to Ambergris’ Mushroom angst and obsessions. These weird and short, Mushroom People live underground and are dangerous. One night all of the residents of Ambergris (25,000) are taken by the Mushroom People and never seen again. The first book of Ambergris is City Of Saints and Madmen and is 5 short stories that happen to be rather good. One could imagine a young cocky Vandermeer spreading his imaginative mind to some healthy use. The characterizations within the first book are clear and telling. One about a frightened junk dealer on the rise with a blind wife who has a ‘thing’ about a spooky bird cage. Another about an so-so artist who must ‘let go’ of his inhibitions, who does so violently one night. And the first story about a man, a traveller of sorts who falls into a mad infatuation with a non-existent manakin. A book Jeff-O-Philes would surely want to read. The second book of Ambergris is Shriek: An Afterword. Reading this book is nothing like the first book. Janice Shriek is an artist that ‘didn’t make it’ meaning that she wasn’t lauded by the ‘ding-dongs’ of the art world and didn’t make any money. Period. She decides to be a seller of art instead. And in this 2nd book she is the author of a biography pertaining to her brother Duncan Shriek. Duncan is a herstorian/scholar and a man who decides to know the Mushroom People (Grey Caps) up close and personal underground. Shriek uses the materials garnered through many of the characters mentioned in the first book of Ambergris. I was rather underwhelmed by Vandermeer’s penchant of placing parentheses of Duncan Shriek himself, answering his Biographer, his sister Janice, as she writes it! A terrible idea of Jeff’s, that I soon decided to skip altogether! I’ve never known a Biography where the subject gets to comment line by line of what he ‘thinks’ of his Biographers very word. Fact is because of this, Duncan loses all mystery and character! I hated this guy. Vandermeer surely needed an actual Editor, to tell Jeff: “Don’t Do It Boy!” But fat chance of that with an Ego of a writer of Jeff’s stance and circumstance. Jeff should have erased every single one of Duncan’s comments! Thematically Jeff’s ‘trick’ here is a ‘boneheaded’ mistake and very well nearly ruins the whole novel. I continued regardless of the Duncan parenthesis, I skipped them all, and when I accidentally read a line or two of them, Duncan’s nasal voice and mean attitude was beside the point. I was thinking in the end that Vandermeer could easily rewrite Shriek and that would be a great idea. He could add new material (after erasing Duncan) as well. I’m thinking Jeff might want to when he turns 80 years old. Such would be a sort of ‘twilight’ project for such a writer as Jeff! Shriek does have a good voice in Janice Shriek however, her life is tough by any standard and Vandermeer doesn’t need Duncan at all in the book. I didn’t see any need for Janice to make such a big deal about another woman. What for? Her reactions to Duncan’s girlfriend are petty jealously. Beneath such a literary woman. As I continued with Mr. Vandermeer’s 2nd book Shriek I soon realized that I cannot recommend the book. The final 50 pages of the book does not make up for the deficiencies of the plot. Duncan Shriek doesn’t feel real. We don’t live any moments with him on his hunt for the ‘Grey Caps’ underground and his sister who is writing all this Janice, is a torn woman, who lives a diminished existence, as things go badly for her as the book proceeds. One or the other, Janice alone would have been better to the plot, with both brother and sister, in the book one doesn’t get any sense of place or circumstances. Their father’s death and their mother are only waxed upon never actually known. Now onto the 3rd and final book of Ambergris, Finch. Finch is the main character he is a Detective working the Ambergris Law and Order building in downtown Ambergris, the strange and unusual city that is the center of the 3 books of Vandermeer’s Ambergris. The neat thing about Finch is that it is set way after the first two books. Everyone from those tales is either dead of somewhere else. In this book, Finch investigates 2 dead bodies that are found in an apartment. This is an Ambergris that is ruled by the subterranean ‘gray caps’ those mean little unusuals that litter every book of Ambergris. Now they have taken back their city and are building two massively huge skyscrapers in Ambergris. Finch and his ‘human’ detectives, about 6 or so are from the day crew and their boss is a gray cap, he clicks and clacks when he talks, and is called Scarry, I think his name was. Finch recounts his life mostly about his father who was a 2 timer in the war between the two merchant enterprises in the books. Finch’s father is long dead but still beloved by Finch. The murders are unique because a grey cap is one of them, cut neat in half. Most of the book is Finch getting down to what caused the death of the two. They simply appeared in the apartment this way, dead. And it comes out that the dead ‘human’ one is someone from the 2nd book! I don’t want to give it away! There are many new things to Finch and it is atmospheric. Supernatural in fact. A worthwhile read on its own the final book sums up Ambergris well. The 2nd book Shriek is the clincher here. Like an Oreo Cookie with lard in the middle instead of the tasty creamy substance, Shriek as I’ve written up above needs a complete rewrite. Remember Ambergris is from ‘young’ Jeff, who has now given us his Area X, the brilliant trilogy of horror. Shriek doesn’t sink the book, not at all, it simply is not ‘good’ enough to sandwich the books that begins and ends it. I must recommend Ambergris, however, as the whole is larger than the some. It’s a long read but a worthy endeavor, I must say.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Houle

    Jeff VanderMeer is a genius. I can only make this pronouncement having now read the author’s Ambergris trilogy. Sure, I’ve read other works by the author, but nothing has been quite as mind-blowing as reading about the city of Ambergris and its sometimes mad, but mostly brilliant, inhabitants. What makes this work even more startling is that it came early in VanderMeer’s career. The Ambergris trilogy, which has been now collected in an omnibus edition containing all three works, came before the Jeff VanderMeer is a genius. I can only make this pronouncement having now read the author’s Ambergris trilogy. Sure, I’ve read other works by the author, but nothing has been quite as mind-blowing as reading about the city of Ambergris and its sometimes mad, but mostly brilliant, inhabitants. What makes this work even more startling is that it came early in VanderMeer’s career. The Ambergris trilogy, which has been now collected in an omnibus edition containing all three works, came before the Borne duology and even the Southern Reach Trilogy. All in all, the novella collection City of Saints and Madmen (2001), and the novels Shriek: An Afterword (2006) and Finch (2009), are prime examples of world-building: making worlds seem complete and historical, and fully fleshed out. That world-building is what makes VanderMeer a genius. The books, which can be read individually, feel complete when brought together, like puzzle pieces that expose a larger whole. City of Saints and Madmen, in its lead-off position, is perhaps the most brilliant of the three books collected here. However, it does bear pointing out that this is not a complete version of the novella collection. While it collects the novellas that were included in its original printing, plus one more (“The Cage”) that appeared only in subsequent editions, it does not collect all of the stories in the expanded editions of the book published after 2001. Still, City of Saints and Madmen is still potent, and the reason why is because it serves as an introduction to the city of Ambergris, both its human inhabitants and its mysterious “grey caps” — mushroom-shaped humanoids who live underneath the city, but who always seem to be on the periphery of the action. Some of this gets a bit meta at times — one novella, a written early history of the city, is so self-referential that it includes (groan!) footnotes — but VanderMeer manages to fire on all cylinders when he sits down to pen a rousing good tale. My favourite, “Dradin, In Love,” has a completely devastating ending that you won’t see coming. Read the rest of the review here: https://zachary-houle.medium.com/a-re...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    4.7 tbf

  5. 5 out of 5

    Max Helfman

    I follow Jeff Vandermeer on Twitter. I know he reads these reviews sometimes. This is a message to Jeff and ONLY Jeff, but I cannot help anybody reading this, so read all you want. All I ask is that you pick up a copy of City of Saints and Madmen which is only $20 someplaces, or you might as well save the money and buy the trilogy all in one for $30 dubbed simply "Ambergris". But I digress, Ambergris, ambergris, ambergris, what are you? A city? Any city on this Earth? Fits quite well how I bought I follow Jeff Vandermeer on Twitter. I know he reads these reviews sometimes. This is a message to Jeff and ONLY Jeff, but I cannot help anybody reading this, so read all you want. All I ask is that you pick up a copy of City of Saints and Madmen which is only $20 someplaces, or you might as well save the money and buy the trilogy all in one for $30 dubbed simply "Ambergris". But I digress, Ambergris, ambergris, ambergris, what are you? A city? Any city on this Earth? Fits quite well how I bought my first copy of City of Saints and Madman IN Amsterdam, filing my fingers through its pages for the first time, getting the feel, seeing how the book felt in my hands, all while on a semester abroad in The Netherlands. So it was all of these cities in one and even though I never picked up that book until a year after my semester, the word Ambergris was tucked neatly in the back of my mind. Because I HAD to eventually read the first books by Mr. Vandermeer, of course. Because how else would I get the entire picture of this man's mind if I didn't read the thing that started it all. Because an artist's first dive into their medium (or however a "first" project is really defined) is always, like clockwork, premonitory of their future work, and I use that word with the utmost respect. Most artist's fail, they try once and give up, the only artist's who have been successful are the one's who don't give up. Look at where you're at now Jeff, who knew. See, I was 16 when I read Annihilation for the first time. Thought it was too smart for me at first, thought it was brilliant by the end. Made my buddy Anish read it, and he loved it too. It was simply, poignant, had a message, and was truly giving me images I had never thought of before in my mind. It was infectious originality. I saw how science fiction could be so beautiful, so subtle and grand, because that's what Science Fiction should be right? Grand. Now move the needle backwards, this is not a piece about Jeff's science fiction work. This is about Ambergris. The City of Saints and Madmen. The City of Mushrooms and Warlocks. The City of us and all. For Ambergris could truly be in any city I've lived in my life. For now I am twenty years old, no longer that 16 year old, and have read the entirety of this trilogy in a month, I took my comfortable time when I wanted, yet have never read such a large book (three of them) so fast before in my life. Like I was watching a movie while reading a book. The perfect book makes you feel like that. Let me explain to you without spoiling anything the game Vandermeer plays with you, like a film director who knows how their script ends and does everything in their power to keep you guessing until the very last second. Not on plot, but as to the whole thing, where you get to the end of a very very long story and realize that there are still things you are wondering about, questioning, reminiscing (now that's it done). This is a good book. This is a very good story. let me explain,,, We begin with City of Saints and Madmen, because are we not all a saint or mad? Could we not so easily be placed into these two distinctive circles. A "short" story collection of different tales having taken place in Ambergris. Five tales, the first being Dradin, in Love. The first piece in the domino trail about to be toppled. A man looking up at a window to see the silhouette of a woman typing, whom he falls in love, the first image we get of this city. A man on a quest to find his love, do right by his love, for Dradin is indeed, in love. The second, being a pamphlet written by an Ambergrisian Historian, The Hoegbotton Guide To The Early History of Ambergris, by Duncan Shriek. Duncan is quite fond of footnotes, is written from the perspective of an old historian drunkenly retelling you the history of the place you're standing in. Introduces you to the character of Duncan Shriek and gives a historical outline of how the city of Ambergris came to be. Third, The Cage, a story about Henry Hoegbotton (of Hoegbotton and Sons) who is looking for antiques for his shop. Antiques from homes that have been demolished and attacked by the underground mushroom dwellers. He decides to take an empty Cage home. Fourth, The Transformation of Martin Lake details how Martin Lake went from one the lousiest uninspired artists in Ambergris to one of the most respected. This story, to whoever is still reading this, is exquisite. The ending making the hairs on my head stick up from not thinking of it first. And finally, fifth, The Strange Case of X, in which I will say nothing about, for I thought having this story at the end was incredibly important to the nature of the entire reading experience. For the sequencing of these stories are no different than editing a film. Five dominoes lined up with the exact emotional punches that you would expect to come in an original fantasy world. But that was just the first book of three. For then comes the Shriek's. Book two, Shriek: An Afterword. Truly titled "An Afterword to The Early History of Ambergris" written by Janice Shriek. The historian's brother. Janice is a character you would be familiar with at this point having already read city of Saints and Madmen. You will know she was a very successful art critic/ historian. What you won't know is that what Vandermeer has right here, and I don't know if this would make him smile or spit out whatever is in his mouth, is his "Seymour: An Introduction" except Seymour didn't kill himself and he writes in the margins of Buddy's manuscript his opinions on Buddy's opinions. Almost like a second narrator. This is Shriek: An Afterword, Vandermeer is not Salinger, but between you and I he gets damn near fucking close. For this is a novel about a sister dealing with the turmoil of her life and what her brother brings her. Yet keep close, this is also a novel about a brother failing to succeed in a city full of madness, where he may know more than he really thinks. This book was unlike any fantasy/ sci-fi/ genre novel I've ever read simply because of the medium and nature of the story being told. I won't say anymore, but this may be one of the greatest "Seconds" in book trilogy history. Remember, although chronology is important, sequencing is key. For many more dominoes are now placed in front of the original ones. Now you know the history and the smell and what the light looks like in Ambergris, if you don't, you haven't been paying attention. Now enter: Finch. Detective Finch. Tasked with finding the murderer of a man and a grey cap left in an apartment with no apparent sign of struggle. This story moves. And it moves fast. It is indeed the finale of the series, and one always wants the ending to come quicker. Finch is the bow on top of the cake. Finch is the last bit of effort one places into their fingertips while tying a knot. Finch is the last domino to be placed at the end of the line and somehow has arms long enough to reach around and push the first one over. Because Finch is a combination of all the Ambergrisian writing that predates it, it is the true amalgamation. And I don't want to say anything else about it. Never has a moment in a "third book" in a trilogy ever hit me as hard as a certain moment in here. The real beauty of Ambergris comes from the story of Finch, and so delicately blurs the lines of reality and fiction, of where this story could truly apply to my, or rather anyone's, life or not. And then it ends. Just like history, no one can ever tell where it ends or begins, and no one has ever gotten close to predicting, and I'd die a happy man knowing no one will ever know. But, I would have died having read Ambergris. No longer that 16 year old, yet it made me feel like I was a child with a book too big for my hands. For that, Vandermeer, Vandermeeeeeeeeer, Squid + Fungi = fiction. True Jeff, but anything + anything = fiction. Maximillian

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    An AMBERGRIS anthology??????!!!!! Be still my heart 😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jama Rooney

    I won Ambergris by Jeff VanderMeer on Goodreads giveaway. After opening the mailing package I looked at the cover. I saw a large letter "A" with multicolored mushrooms and fungus growing up the right leg of the letter. Imagine my surprise when I saw the book was 880 pages long! I checked the contents page to find this book is a trilogy, all volumes included. City of Saints and Madmen is a collection of short stories telling the history of the city of Ambergris, through the eyes of various charac I won Ambergris by Jeff VanderMeer on Goodreads giveaway. After opening the mailing package I looked at the cover. I saw a large letter "A" with multicolored mushrooms and fungus growing up the right leg of the letter. Imagine my surprise when I saw the book was 880 pages long! I checked the contents page to find this book is a trilogy, all volumes included. City of Saints and Madmen is a collection of short stories telling the history of the city of Ambergris, through the eyes of various characters. In the stories there was the fear of a deadly carnivorous fungus. Shriek: An Afterword is a narrative of two adult siblings telling the story of the gray cap conflict (mushroom population). Gray caps are an old, short and indigenous race, also called the mushroom dwellers. Finch is a human not-infected detective trying to solve a murder This concludes the gray cap conflict and why Ambergris is the way it is. Although the story doesn't quite end there. I found this trilogy to be very dense in character development and story building. What genre would this book fit into? Maybe Fantasy and Sci-Fi. This book is definitely Horror, which is out of my comfort zone. If you enjoy infections from mold and fungus and then dealing with the infected, this book is for you. If you will excuse me, I am going to get my bottle of disinfectant and do some cleaning.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Adam Gutschenritter

    I first was introduced to Jeff VanderMeer when I read Annihilation for my book club. I was absorbed by the strangeness of the world, the use of nature and the environment as almost a full fledged character in itself. This book was bizarrely compelling, it was consuming. The trilogy starts with a collection of short stories telling the history of Ambergris through the eyes of various characters who pop up in various forms (such as a history book written by one) throughout. The second book tells t I first was introduced to Jeff VanderMeer when I read Annihilation for my book club. I was absorbed by the strangeness of the world, the use of nature and the environment as almost a full fledged character in itself. This book was bizarrely compelling, it was consuming. The trilogy starts with a collection of short stories telling the history of Ambergris through the eyes of various characters who pop up in various forms (such as a history book written by one) throughout. The second book tells the story of Janice and Duncan Shriek and his rise and fall delving into the "truth" of the grey caps. The third book finishing the history of Ambergris as the grey cap conflict is finally completed. I am hooked, and will read everything he writes.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kaila

    This is without a doubt the beefiest ARC I have ever seen. If the actual book is as pretty as this ARC, we'll be in good hands. I have only read one of the three novels presented here: City of Saints and Madmen. It was my introduction to Jeff Vandermeer and I was so interested in "Weird" at the time. I read the Area X trilogy and hated it, though, so I am curious about what going back in time with his writing will do to me. Will I like it more or less this time around? A copy of this book was prov This is without a doubt the beefiest ARC I have ever seen. If the actual book is as pretty as this ARC, we'll be in good hands. I have only read one of the three novels presented here: City of Saints and Madmen. It was my introduction to Jeff Vandermeer and I was so interested in "Weird" at the time. I read the Area X trilogy and hated it, though, so I am curious about what going back in time with his writing will do to me. Will I like it more or less this time around? A copy of this book was provided to me by Goodreads Giveaways. Thanks, Goodreads!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Galen Strickland

    I read City of Saints & Madmen in a combination of the ARC provided by Edelweiss and the paperback I've had for a few years. Never had copies of the other two, so those were exclusively the ARC. Dense and verbose at times, definitely confusing, but also worth the effort to parse everything that's going on. It will take several re-readings to be sure about a few things, and I wouldn't be surprised if I discover there could be multiple interpretations about several events and concepts. Highly reco I read City of Saints & Madmen in a combination of the ARC provided by Edelweiss and the paperback I've had for a few years. Never had copies of the other two, so those were exclusively the ARC. Dense and verbose at times, definitely confusing, but also worth the effort to parse everything that's going on. It will take several re-readings to be sure about a few things, and I wouldn't be surprised if I discover there could be multiple interpretations about several events and concepts. Highly recommended.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Steven Witt

    Excellent collection of Jeff VanderMeer's first three books, mostly out of print, and an interesting introduction to his world of Amergris. A great place to start if you've never read Jeff VanderMeer, along with his Southern Reach trilogy. His writing is unique and highly creative in the worlds he creates. Jeff has a great Facebook too! Excellent collection of Jeff VanderMeer's first three books, mostly out of print, and an interesting introduction to his world of Amergris. A great place to start if you've never read Jeff VanderMeer, along with his Southern Reach trilogy. His writing is unique and highly creative in the worlds he creates. Jeff has a great Facebook too!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leif

    Over fifteen years ago the experience of reading City of Saints and Madmen overturned my world - politely, but surely, with the fungal noise of a mushroom-door opening. It is so, so gratifying to see these books together in such a gorgeous volume, and to see the arc of Jeff VanderMeer's widening popularity. As the saying goes, I am here for it. Over fifteen years ago the experience of reading City of Saints and Madmen overturned my world - politely, but surely, with the fungal noise of a mushroom-door opening. It is so, so gratifying to see these books together in such a gorgeous volume, and to see the arc of Jeff VanderMeer's widening popularity. As the saying goes, I am here for it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marcus Smaiz

    Couldn't get into this one. Couldn't get into this one.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    Interesting to read these earlier works and track how VanderMeer's interests and obsessions track through his work over time. Interesting to read these earlier works and track how VanderMeer's interests and obsessions track through his work over time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Loestrella

    I dare say that I am blown away by how great this is. This plot is truly awesome.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Guerra

  17. 5 out of 5

    Georgia Watson

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jake

  19. 5 out of 5

    James Lobosco

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Lucas

  21. 4 out of 5

    solipsistful

  22. 4 out of 5

    Taktikou Eleni

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anh D Dao

  24. 5 out of 5

    Russell

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gocrax

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jack Young

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tristan Cossio

  28. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vaveli12

  30. 4 out of 5

    E

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