Biblionauts of the world, unite—German fabulist Moers (City of Dreaming Books, 2007, etc.) is back with another goofy epic from the land of living books.
Apart from the occasional Minotaur, who doesn’t like a labyrinth—especially one that leads through stacks on stacks of endless rare books? That’s the setup of Moers’ latest exercise in bibliofantasia, where the narrator turns out to have a certain distaste for the endless maze: “Even looking down the Bookholm Shafts makes me feel sick. I shall never again set foot in the Labyrinth—never!” Said narrator, whom Moers’ constant readers will recognize, enjoys a position as “Zamonia’s greatest writer,” honored by statues everywhere and streets named after him in every city—and he’s got an ego bigger than Mailer’s as a result. Comeuppance comes in the form of a mystery involving a forged document and, yes, books on books on books. Moers clearly loves them, and while one imagines that his private library rivals Umberto Eco’s, his vision of the perfect library is enough to upstage Borges’, a fabulous underworld of petrified books, stalagmitic books, books overflowing from shelves, even a book that “was the size of a coffin,” an eerie place of teetering bookcases, hastily built staircases, and of course, “beetles the size of cats and venomous albino rats” for good measure. The storyline is an afterthought in Moers’ visionary adventure; Tolkien it’s not. What matters are his engaging descriptions, zany scenarios and the weird critters that inhabit Zamonia, some of whom bear an uncanny resemblance to Barney the dinosaur.
A beguiling, bookish entertainment that ends on a cliffhanger promising—well, the prospect of many sequels to come.