Posted on July 6, 2011 by Monica Valentinelli
Available at Amazon.com
The Third Bear is a collection of fourteen stories penned by Jeff Vandermeer. The tales ranging from folklore to absurdist; each story offers a different, sometimes surreal, take on a genre. In short, the collection was penned by a “master writer.”
It’s hard not to be a little envious of Vandermeer’s writing, for each story has the kind of quality most writers dream about. These stories belong in a school curriculum to be pored over, obsessed about, and analyzed. By far, my favorite was the signature story — The Third Bear. When I read it, I imagined I was sitting in a pub somewhere with a tall pint of ale, listening to an old, grizzled guy tell this folktale as a warning to curious travelers.
That style of writing is what I feel will draw even the most casual reader into this book. Often, you’ll find that there isn’t just one, but two stories written in each and every tale. While some stories, like the unusual scribbling by a character named Jeff VanderMeer in The Errata, may catch you off-guard — they don’t make you feel uncomfortable. The way these are written, it’s almost as if Jeff is saying: “Here, have a seat. Let me tell you a story.”
For that reason, and that reason alone, I feel that this collection is superb. Technically, meta-storytelling is probably one of the most challenging forms of writing to pull off well. VanderMeer manages to do that not once, not twice, but fourteen times with fourteen, different storytellers.
Other stories I enjoyed include Shark God versus Octopus God, which was based on a Fijian myth and The Surgeon’s Tale which was penned with Cat Rambo.
If you’re the type of reader who enjoys a good story that is full of vivid imagery and characterization, I feel you’ll really like the stories you’ll uncover in The Third Bear. None of these stories are overtly one genre or the other; I feel they encompass a broad range of storytelling styles and are more of a mosaic than anything else. The language is accessible, colorful and poetic, and the stories are so unusual you’ll find yourself wanting more.
Review by Monica Valentinelli