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Secret Life [Hardcover]

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Item description for Secret Life by Jeff Vandermeer, Jeffrey Ford, Henri Loyrette, Molly Andrews, Barbara Harrison, Carolyn J. Downey & Jon Buller...

This collection of 23 stories reflects a diversity of approaches to key questions about the human condition, including questions about mortality, love, obsession, and creativity. "Balzac's War" 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 13th-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." In "The Emperor's Reply" and "The Compass of His Bones," set in 17th-century Peru, the last Incan Emperor, having brutally fallen at the hands of the Conquistadores, seeks his revenge.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   295
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 5.75" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   1.2 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2004
Publisher   Golden Gryphon Press
ISBN  1930846274  
ISBN13  9781930846272  

Availability  0 units.

More About Jeff Vandermeer, Jeffrey Ford, Henri Loyrette, Molly Andrews, Barbara Harrison, Carolyn J. Downey & Jon Buller

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning author and coeditor of a bestselling anthology of Steampunk literature.

S. J. Chambers is an independent Poe scholar focusing on his importance to genre literature like Steampunk.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Short Stories > General
2Books > Subjects > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Anthologies
3Books > Subjects > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > General
4Books > Subjects > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Anthologies

Reviews - What do customers think about Secret Life?

Each story a horror and delight  Apr 9, 2008
SF/F is often thrown off to the side when it comes to talking about "real" literature since it requires readers to swallow a greater chunk of BS with their fiction. But in this collection of short stories Jeff VanderMeer shows the power a small pinch of the fantastic can bring to otherwise mundane existence. Several of these stories lay a mythological sheen over corporate office life; the title story explains, in a clinical, haphazard fashion, how a ravenous vine slowly destroys an eerie office building. "Learning To Leave the Flesh," a more dream-like story, tells the story of young man's office job and his strange transformation. As in "City of Saints and Madmen," his earlier collection of Ambergris tales, VanderMeer finds both delight and horror by transforming everyday life into something strange yet still familiar. Each of these stories is a joy -- one never knows where the story is headed, but the destination is guaranteed to be all at once horrible, inventive, and full of wonder.
I'm using 4 stars so as to preserve the average.

This is the quickest way to let readers know that the new, paperback version of Secret Life is subtitled the Select Fire Remix. It contains two new short-short stories, several illustrations, more extensive story notes (including drafts of two incomplete Veniss stories), and a meta-story on what are traditionally blank pages in a book. It also plays around with the idea of author blurbs, other books list, back cover text, etc. Five stories have been deleted because I felt they really didn't work after all (although I've included the ghosts of those stories).

Anyway, this is a revamped version of the book.

Jeff VanderMeer
Think about this when you go to the office tomorrow...  Nov 7, 2005
'Secret Life' is a great collection if you want a background on Jeff VanderMeer's writing career, and the few stories that are really good in it really shine bright. It is because of these few stories that my rating squishes between three and four stars, in the end being four and giving VanderMeer the benefit of the doubt.

Too many of the tales included in 'Secret Life' are obviously college efforts, mediocre at best, boring at worst. But the good stories are very, very good. Perhaps a slimmer volume would have been more appropriate, dividing the college work away from the meaty stories.

Shining out like diamonds in coal are the shorts 'Secret Life', the book's namesake. You will never look at your office building, or your co-workers, quite the same again. 'Secret Life' gives new meaning to corporate competitiveness.

'Flight Is For Those Who Have Not Yet Crossed Over' is a beautifully done piece about a prison guard in Mexico, and a political prisoner who touches his life. 'The Bone Carver's Tale' has to be one of my favorites, a poignant tale of talent and love and misconceptions. 'Balzac's War' and 'A Heart For Lucretia' are ethereal tales of strangeness and undying love. 'The Mansions Of The Moon' is great, showing VanderMeer's amazing ability to create strange worlds that live and breathe with odd life.

Overall, 'Secret Life' seems to me to be best left to fans of VanderMeer, anyone starting out with him should first read 'Cities Of Saints And Madmen' and 'Veniss Underground', which display his writing talent at its very best. Enjoy!

A wonderful collection with uniquely splendid Notes  Oct 28, 2004
Secret Life is the most engaging collection of short stories by a living author that I have read in years. VanderMeer did himself a disservice, in one way, by his Notes after each story, in which he tells the story behind what we've just read. They give away something that I am sure if he hadn't told, would not be known to anyone who doesn't peruse the copyright details--and that is that some of these stories were written when he was just a sprout, not that he is a greybeard now. The Publishers Weekly reviewer was possibly influenced by this, giving the impression that some are really stories on training wheels. Perish the thought! While the range is vast here, in tone and subject, the collection is wholly absorbing. Even a comparative toddler's work, 'The Sea, Mendeho, and Moonlight' reads more beautifully and meaningfully than many a famous one's whole oeuvre, including a preciously pointless piece by an international name that I read in a Harpers the night before opening 'Secret Life'. Older stories here, anyway, have been revised for this collection, so though their earlier form might have been lacking, they do not drag down the whole at all now--a collection that stimulates the mind and heart. The Notes alone--part-autobiography/part lit-crit, self-deprecating, critically objective, funny and touching--are worth the price of the book. If this guy doesn't get too famous and jaded, his autobiography in 30 years will be a ripper of a classic.

Sometimes his self-criticism made me want to say, 'Hey, avert your hindsight and better judgement. I liked that story, and still do! And its faults were its strengths!' But back to the collection as a whole. Here is a singularly fresh writer who doesn't sound like he's gone through the writing-school mill, doesn't fit easily into any genre, who creates stories and worlds that are morally, emotionally, and plot-wise, complex. There is a love of language and a mastery of it that is unsurpassed today, and that many a riffing writer would do well to examine, as here there is no sloppy diarrhoea of weird-wordiness, no self-indulgence, but some simply soaring prose, always in the service of the story. But most enjoyable for this reader was to see the development of a wonderful, gentle sense of humour, evident throughout the Notes and in full flower with the masterpiece of faux reporting, 'The Festival of the Freshwater Squid'.

Stories I particularly liked were mixed in age and subject, but the title story still captivates me, and 'Mahout' still chokes me deep in my chest, just thinking of it. Then there are the 'worlds' stories, and he is a master there. 'The Mansions of the Moon' is VanderMeerian to the nth. Other favourites: 'The General', the surreal postscript to 'Learning to Leave the Flesh', 'Greensleeves' (another charming story enhanced enormously by the Notes). So for anyone who loves what good reads have always been -- something to get lost in, both the stories in Secret Life, and the opened life of the author himself in his Notes, make a wholly rewarding experience. I needed tissues in a few places in the book, laughed aloud at many others, and often found myself re-reading a passage for the sheer sensual pleasure of it.
Vandermeer is a literary master  Oct 26, 2004
Only one with less gray matter than the score given (1 star) would call Vandermeer's writing boring, more likely the reader failed miserably in his attempt to comprehend the literature contained within.

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