"Secret Life, an utter dazzlement, demonstrates one of this literary era's defining truths, that in the hands of a brilliant writer like Jeff VanderMeer, writing fantasy can be a means of serious artistic expression. In VanderMeer's hands, it is also playful, poignant, and utterly, wildly, imaginative."
— Peter Straub, author of the award-winning novel Koko, and, with Stephen King, The Talisman
"[Secret Life's] appearance may well be a landmark."
— Nick Gevers, Locus, June 2004
"Anyone familiar with the maddening art of making fiction can only look on in jealous wonder, as [VanderMeer] gets it right again."
— Faren Miller, Locus, June 2004
"Secret Life is another revelatory exercise from an author who is beginning to take his place among the other masters of the fantastic."
— Paula Guran, Cemetary Dance #50
In 2002, when Jeff VanderMeer's first book-length short fiction collection, City of Saints and Madmen, made nearly every "year's best" sf/fantasy list, including those of Publishers Weekly and amazon.com, this merely confirmed what fans and critics alike had already known — that the future master of fantastical fiction had arrived. City of Saints and Madmen introduced readers to Ambergris — a brilliantly realized city of treachery, ritual, and decay, whose denizens include the mysterious "mushroom dwellers," where the juxtaposition of humor and horror forms a complex fantastical tapestry of the imagination.
Now, with Secret Life, VanderMeer's second short fiction collection, readers can return to the world of Ambergris, where the author has set five of these stories, including "Corpse Mouth and Spore Nose," a new story written exclusively for this volume. But Jeff VanderMeer is a man of many worlds, as reflected in his travels and in his fiction: "Balzac's War," set in the same milieu as the author's first novel, Veniss Underground, is a harrowing, powerful far-future novella that pits brother against brother in a landscape ravaged by war with Earth's newly sentient human-made species. In thirteenth-century Cambodia, a lone artist is torn between his love of his craft and his unspoken love for a woman in "The Bone Carver's Tale." It's seventeenth-century Peru, and in "The Emperor's Reply" and "The Compass of His Bones," the last Incan Emperor, having brutally fallen at the hands of the Conquistadores, seeks his revenge. And this summer you can join us at "The Festival of the Freshwater Squid," in Sebring, Florida, to observe the annual mating rituals of the mayfly squid.
Jeff VanderMeer, winner of the 2000 World Fantasy Award, has handpicked these twenty-three stories (three written exclusively for this collection), which reflect a diversity of approaches to key questions about the human condition: questions about mortality, love, obsession, and creativity. Secret Life represents the author's continuing effort to stretch the narrative boundaries of fiction while still entertaining the reader. Yet all of these stories are related thematically: transformation and what it means to be human — and the reader too will be transformed, into one of the faithful, a confirmed believer in the short fiction of Jeff VanderMeer.
With personal notes by the author detailing each story's genesis, and an Introduction by Jeffrey Ford, New York Times Notable Author and winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel for The Physiognomy.
Cover art by Scott Eagle.
"Beautifully written, virtually hallucinatory work . . . connoisseurs of the finest in postmodern fantasy will find it enormously rewarding."
— Publishers Weekly starred review of City of Saints and Madmen
"Make the most of the tapestry of tales and visions before you. It is a rare treasure, to be tasted with both relish and respect. It is the work of an original. It's what you've been looking for."
— Michael Moorcock, recipient of the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award, from the Introduction to City of Saints and Madmen
Cloth, ISBN: 1-930846-27-4
$24.95 postpaid for U.S. orders only
For non-USA orders, please read shipping fees information.
Read the Jeff VanderMeer interview on SF Site
Read Rick Kleffel's review in The Agony Column
Read the Spotlight Featured Review in Barnes and Noble's Explorations
Read the Booklist review
Read the bookmunch review
Read Matthew Cheney's review in his blog "The Mumpsimus"
Read the FantasyBookSpot.com review
Read Paula Guran's review in Cemetary Dance
Read Nick Gevers's review in Locus Magazine
Read yet another Locus Magazine review by Faren Miller
Read Cheryl Morgan's review in Emerald City
(Scroll down to the "Life at a Tangent" header)
Read the Denver Post review
Read the Interzone review
Read the Publishers Weekly review
Read the SciFi Dimensions review
Read the mini review on SF Site
Read the SF Site review
Read the Jeff VanderMeer interview on SciFi Dimensions
Read the review and author interview in the Tallahassee Democrat
Read the review in SFRA Review
Read an in-depth review of the title story "Secret Life"
Read "The Mimic," an excerpt from the title story "Secret Life"
Read the complete text of short story "A Heart for Lucretia"
Read the complete text of short story "Mahout"
View the wraparound dust jacket art by Scott Eagle