Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction => Fantasy Book & Author Discussion => Topic started by: xiagan on October 14, 2012, 07:00:45 PM

Title: Walter Moers: The City of Dreaming Books
Post by: xiagan on October 14, 2012, 07:00:45 PM
You probably haven't heard about this book, because it's a German author and you have enough great ones of your own, but you have to read it. Seriously.


From the blurb of the City of Dreaming Books ( (
Optimus Yanspinner inherits from his godfather an unpublished manuscript by an unknown writer and sets off to track down the mysterious author, who disappeared into Bookholm--the so-called City of Dreaming Books. Yarnspinner falls under the spell of this book-obsessed metropolis, where an avid-reader and budding author can find any number of charming attractions--priceless signed first editions, salivating literary agents, and for-hire critics. But as Yarnspinner pursues the trail of the missing author, the darker side of Bookholm begins to unveil itself--cold-blooded book hunters, fearsome cyclopean booklings, sharp-toothed animotomes, and of course, the Shadow King, whose howls rise from deep beneath the city at night. Will Yarnspinner survive his quest into this world where reading is a genuine adventure?

And from (
Optimus Yarnspinner, a young Zamonian writer, inherits very little from his beloved godfather apart from an unpublished short story by an unknown author. This manuscript proves to be such a superb piece of writing that he can't resist the temptation to investigate the mystery surrounding the author's identity. The trail takes him to the City of Dreaming Books.
After falling under the spell of this book-obsessed metropolis; Yarnspinner also falls into the clutches of its evil genius, Pfistomel Smyke, who treacherously maroons him in the city's labyrinthine catacombs. He finds himself in a subterranean world where reading books can be genuinely dangerous, where ruthless Bookhunters fight to the death for literary gems and the mysterious Shadow King rules a murky realm populated by Booklings, one-eyed beings whose vast library includes live books equipped with teeth and claws.
Walter Moers transports us to a magical world where reading is still a genuine adventure, where books can not only entertain people and make them laugh but drive them insane or even kill them. Only those intrepid souls who are prepared to join Optimus Yarnspinner on his perilous journey should read this book. We wish the rest of you a long, safe, unutterably dull and boring life!


It is one of the best fantasy books concerning atmosphere, world building, invention of cool sounding new words/names and funny characters. His other books are exceptionally great too, but this one is about books, which makes it even more good. :)

I have no idea how good a job the translator did (must even be harder to translate than Pratchett) but the blurb sounds promising.

So, give it a go - you'll love it!

Title: Re: Walter Moers: The City of Dreaming Books
Post by: Jian on October 14, 2012, 07:04:41 PM
Oh, I am definitely interesting. I'm curious, Xiagan. Have you read the Dwarves by the German author Markus Heitz yet? It's quite entertaining. Well, so far, at least. It's easy to find German-to-English translated books here in Austria, so I might be able to find that one. ;D
Title: Re: Walter Moers: The City of Dreaming Books
Post by: Idlewilder on October 14, 2012, 08:34:29 PM
On the subject of German fantasy, maybe you could help me, Xiagan - I have had this book for years now, and it is a translation into English from the original German. Never read it, but it looks interesting. It's called The Stone and the Flute and it's by a guy called Hans Bemmann. Looks like very classical fantasy:


Have you ever read it? Apparently it was big in Germany/Austria.
Title: Re: Walter Moers: The City of Dreaming Books
Post by: Nestat on October 14, 2012, 09:08:23 PM
I've heard of Walter Moers! In the words of Alan Partridge: "first impression... don't drop it on my foot!"

Is that the only one you've read, Xi? Been meaning to get round to them and I'd like to suggest some more "literary" SFF to the masses. Which is not to say, literary per se... but the kind of undeniably SFF titles which get labelled under general fiction. Like Princess Bride, Lanark and the like.
Title: Re: Walter Moers: The City of Dreaming Books
Post by: xiagan on October 14, 2012, 09:12:39 PM
Jian - haven't read them. There is/was this trend in Germany, releasing series called "The Dwarves", "The Elves", "The Orcs", ... They're good to get non-fantasy readers to read fantasy and to get young people to start but I always considered them "second class". I never read one, so this may not at all be justified, but still. ;)

Windy - I have the hardcover and I read it about 10? 15? years ago. It's indeed very classical - you could call it fairy tale fantasy. The tropes and the working of the world are party like they are in fairy tales and the descriptions rather poetic (in a good sense).
It was/is critically acclaimed and first and foremost considered a classical and only secondly fantasy (like Michael Ende's Neverending story). I think a lot of people who don't read fantasy read it.
You should give it a go - it's not your typical fantasy book.

Nestat - I read all of them. The first one, "The 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear", is brilliant too. Even more funny and fresh and inspiring ideas in abundance. The second one, "Rumo", is more dark but equally good. Those three are the ones you absolutely have to read (and then you probably want to read his others too).

And now all of you get the City of Dreaming books! ;)

Title: Re: Walter Moers: The City of Dreaming Books
Post by: Idlewilder on November 30, 2012, 11:03:18 PM
Well thanks to Nestat's generosity I'm reading this now. Absolutely absorbed by this - it's amazing. It's bizarre, cartoonish, creative and clever. Not to mention the writing (and its a translation! You'd never know!) and the brilliant illustrations.

I've only read 50 pages and its already crammed with more creativity than most 500 page novels. I'm not saying that other novels aren't creative, but read this for yourselves and you'll see what I mean!
Title: Re: Walter Moers: The City of Dreaming Books
Post by: xiagan on December 01, 2012, 11:07:31 AM
I'm glad I made you read this book. :)
The translator must've had a hell of a job but if he got it right, he must be a genius and a wordsmith...
Title: Re: Walter Moers: The City of Dreaming Books
Post by: Yora on September 23, 2014, 02:44:47 PM
Old thread, but so what...?

I absolutely love this book. I think it's probably even the best book I've ever read. I am usually not a fast reader as I often get distracted by other things and only get to pick up a book after a couple of days to continue. I got the book as a Christmas present while visiting my parents and started reading on the 25th and completed it on the 8 hour train ride home on the 26th.
It's just that amazing. The world is just bizarre (much more so than I expected having grown up with his children TV puppet/cartoon show Captain Bluebear). The pacing doesn't seem to follow any order. And the story is as "meta" as it can possibly get. A central element of the story is the Orm, a mystical combination of brilliance, inspiration, and muse, which makes a writers writing amazing even though the story and content can be completely banal or irrelevant. The protagonists mentor wrote only a single book in his entire lifetime, which is considered an outstanding literary masterpiece, even though it's an instruction guide on gardening. And when it comes to Walter Moers, the Orm is strong with this one.

There is a second book that continues the story, which also has been translated as the Labyrinth of Dreaming Books.
It's really sad that Ensel und Krete has still not been translated. That one is also amazing. Just as weird and while maybe not as deep on the mystries of literature, in some ways even funnier.