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

The Life and Times of Napoleon

Less than a month ago, my family said goodbye to one of our dogs. He was 16 years old and had been losing the battle with a brain tumor since November last year. We knew it was finally time to say goodbye because he would get up and eat breakfast each day and after that just sit down and stare at a wall. He had zero enthusiasm for anything. He was also struggling to walk and use the bathroom. His quality of life was gone.

Napoleon, before things went sideways, 2020

Despite that, it was still hard to say goodbye. My husband and I only have one child, and our pets are like our babies. And I know 16 years is a nice life for a dog, but I must be selfish because I don’t care. I wanted him to live longer. It’s been a few weeks and I still have to stop myself from getting him a plate at meals times like I do for the other pets.

In addition to missing him like crazy, I’ve been thinking back on his life with us. He had a good life. I’m not saying that to sound superior. We take good care of our pets. They are important to us.

The absence of Napoleon has left a dachshund sized hole in my heart. I wish we could have had more time together, and I hope he knows how much he was loved.

Napoleon was the first dog we adopted. We actually adopted him after we went on a 9 day camping trip to Yellowstone. At the time in 2004, my husband and I were young and newly married. We went to Yellowstone and camped, really camped, in a tent, without showers, on the ground. While we were there we ran trails, (this was a long time ago when I still ran), and we swam in the lakes. We saw so many people camping with their dogs, and on that trip we decided we were going to get a dog so that next year when we went camping, we would have one too.

Shortly after that trip, we adopted Napoleon. I don’t know how we decided on a mini dachshund, but when I saw him, I knew he was ours. We brought him home and introduced him to our cat, Electra.

Napoleon on his first day with us and me circa 2004

The next spring, we decided to go camping again. We were excited because we would finally get to take Napoleon with us. We had been taking him running on trails throughout the fall and spring and he enjoyed that, so we figured he would enjoy camping.

The first night of our camping trip, he couldn’t sleep. He paced and paced the tent looking for a real bed. (At home he slept in bed between my husband and I). Not only would he not sleep because sleeping on the ground was not his style, he acted like being outside was too hot. He clearly wanted to know where the AC was. My husband and I thought he was hilarious. We figured he would adjust; we were planning on staying 5 days.

The second day of our trip, we went swimming in the lake, and of course we took Napoleon with us. It turns out he was an excellent swimmer. He looked like a river otter and he was pretty fast.

Napoleon, the indoor dog

My husband and I would take turns carrying him out into the lake, and the other would wait closer to the shore. Then, we would release Napoleon and he swam to other person. After about the sixth time of this, Napoleon figured out our game and instead of swimming to the waiting arms of my husband, he veered right and went for the shore. Once on shore, he took off running.

My husband jumped out of the lake and followed. I got out of the lake and waited for them to return, but after twenty minutes, they didn’t show up. I gathered our clothes, picnic things, and floats and waddled my way down the path back to the campground. On the way back, I passed a family heading to the lake. I asked them if they’d seen a tall man and a short dog running on the path. They laughed and pointed back towards camp informing me that they were all the way back at our campsite.

I found them both there. My husband was laughing. Napoleon was supposed to be our camping companion. He HATED camping. He wanted his bed and indoor air, but most of all, he didn’t want to swim.

We didn’t stay a full five days and cut that trip short to three days. After that, we didn’t take Napoleon camping anymore. He didn’t turn out to be outdoorsy, and that’s okay.

He was still the best dog ever.

Big Yawn for Napoleon, and yes, that’s his bed