A Peculiar Peril: Book Review

I’m going to do something that I don’t do very often… review a book. I personally am not a fan of book reviews. They are either rave reviews or really hateful. You rarely find anything in between. So, as a reader and writer, I kind of ignore them. Additionally, I pretty much like something about every book I read. I rarely read something and want to give it less than three stars.

However, I’m going to review a book I recently finished. If you plan on reading A Peculiar Peril by Jeff VanderMeer, don’t read any further; there will be spoilers.

The reason I want to review this book is because I’m hoping someone can help me find some clarity after reading it. I honestly don’t know (even though I read all 600+ pages of it) whether or not I like it or not. I find it odd that after reading that many pages I can’t decide. Parts of the book confuse me.

Because I’m not sure about my feelings for this particular tome, I’m going to ask a series of questions about the book and then proceed to immediately answer them.

Question 1: Why is this book in the YA lit section?

I read a fair amount of YA lit and I just don’t think this belongs there. I think that perhaps the publishers felt that because the main characters are teens, it should be YA lit. I can also see that it has an Alice in Wonderland meets Chronicles of Narnia on speed vibe, but that’s not enough for it to be in the YA lit section. I really believe that most YA readers would start this book and then not finish it because of the style (more about that later).

I say that it has vibes from other stories, and by that I mean that it is a story about parallel worlds and in those worlds animals talk. There is also a series of magical doors involved. That, however, is where the comparison ends.

If I were asked to categorize this book, I would put it with “Weird Tales.” I love weird tales btw. It’s one of my favorite type of stories to read.

Someone asked me what is a weird tale? My answer: you know it when you read it.

That’s how I felt when I read this book. It belongs with adult lit, and with the weird tales, wherever they are.

Question 2: Was he drinking?

I’m being completely serious. The reason I ask this is because almost all of the conversations between characters in this book are impossible to follow. It reminds me of being in a room with drunk people and you’re the only one sober. There are 10 conversations going on and no one is having the same one, but they are all talking to each other anyway.

At first I thought maybe the author was trying to be silly, but it continues throughout the whole book (did I mention it’s 600+ pages)?

The stilted conversations are not the only style choice that I struggled with. There were what felt like an unnecessary amount of puns and play on words. I’m not sure what the point of most of them were. All the double meanings and trick word play and weird conversations made whole sections of the novel very hard to follow.

I think most of what I find odd about this style is simply a choice the author made. Perhaps it makes more sense if you drink while you read it? (Again, should not be in the YA lit section if it requires alcohol to understand).

Question 3: Why are there so many characters?

This is not the first author to include an astronomical number of characters (anyone heard of Charles Dickens), but some of the characters didn’t even appear until page 500 or so. Additionally, because the author likes puns, some of the characters have nick names given to them by other characters.

And then what felt like randomly a character we hadn’t heard from in 100+ pages would show up again. IDK but sometimes I felt like I was falling into a rabbit hole. And other times I started to wonder if maybe there were pages from a different book accidentally printed with mine…

Conclusion

Further investigation is needed. I have added another VanderMeer book to my TBR list because I am curious if this is his style or if this was something new for him. I am going to figure this out.

Plus, despite the length of this book, the story isn’t finished and if the next part is published, I will be reading it. I have to know where all this nonsense was going.

Ultimately, I did find the plot engaging. It’s about parallel worlds, and big baddies versus inept teenagers. There are also lots of spies and wars going on. Distilled down to it’s essential plot, it’s a great story, and I really do want to know where it’s going.

Anyway, that’s enough from me….

Happy reading and writing today!

Cover of A Peculiar Peril