Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer – A Book Review

This book touts itself as “The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction,” and that’s an accurate statement.  In fact, the illustrations were really what set this book apart.  Vandermeer offers great advice concerning fiction writing, but to be honest, it’s fairly standard if you read many books concerning the topic.  The illustrations, however, were weird, unique, and beautiful.  Additionally, though they came from many different sources, they each served to reinforce what ever point Vandermeer made.  By the way, just so you know, he uses examples from his own fiction quite a bit.

Furthermore, Vandermeer collected vignettes from various sources focusing upon authors and their advice or thoughts concerning the craft.  These were a delight to read, especially Neil Gaiman’s.  Other notable authors include George R.R. Martin, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Peter Straub.

All in all, if you’re looking for an unconventional book to help you hone your fiction writing, Wonderbook fits the bill.  Even if you don’t find Vandermeer’s insights stimulating, the illustrations should serve to inspire you.


Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan – A Book Review

Comprised of fifteen short stories, this beautifully illustrated, ninety-six page book is aimed at an audience of twelve and older.

Young people will love the magical realism of Tan’s charming stories, as well as the diverse and mesmerizing artwork.

Older teenagers and adults will appreciate the above aspects also, but they will also treasure the absolute expertise of Tan’s craft, noticing how no detail is left unattended.  For instance, the book’s table of contents is made to look like used stamps and the dedication a processed envelope.  His acknowledgements at the end of the book appear as a used library card.  The entire book showcases such excellent execution of Tan’s imagination, it boggles the mind that someone can employ so many different techniques within the same collection and still create a successfully unified, consistent work.

But Tan is more than simply a skilled artist.  His amusing stories are, at first-glance, seemingly irrelevant and only concerned with engaging young people’s interest, but I think some astute readers will pick up on certain social commentary in the subtext if they look hard enough.  My delight rose to a whole new level when reading it in this light.

Tales From Outer Suburbia is a fulfilling read with charming stories and splendid illustrations that will enchant children and adults alike.