Adventures in Reading


The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers translated from the German by John Brownjohn
March 11, 2008, 5:22 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction
“People usually start life by being born. Not me, though.”

Regardless of the fact that I am surrounded by books at work, nearly every day I still bring a book in with me. (Ideally this cuts back on my desire to purchase more items, but this ploy often fails.) Because I am bringing a product into a space filled with similar products, my store’s rule specifies that a personal item such as this has to have a sticker. However, rather than pestering people daily for a sticker I have taken to leaving a somewhat thicker book to peruse on my lunch breaks. A few months ago I read Walter Moers’ The City of Dreaming Books and immediately purchased another novel in his Zamonian series: The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear.

This 700+ page novel explores the exploits of Bluebear (a species having 27 lives) from his foundling state in a walnut shell by the Minipirates to becoming a renowned Liar in the city of Atlantis. The reader is allowed the unique experience of witnessing a character learn to speak, cry, feel fear, and so forth all for the first time. Like The City of Dreaming Books (and even The Neverending Story), The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear is an epic journey, which moves the reader through a wave like plot structure without a specific ambition besides enjoyment. Rather, The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear is an extraordinary journey through the marvelous environs of Zamonia that equates us with the most wonderful Bluebear.

Moers employs a feature in this novel that I had not yet seen in a fantasy series: a mental encyclopedia. Upon graduation from Bluebear’s courses with Professor Nightingale, Bluebear finds himself the owner of Nightingale’s own encyclopedia on Zamonia lodged inside of his brain. As the story is told in retrospect, the encyclopedia is available throughout the entire length of the story. The novelty of this is where some fantasy novels become unwieldy or bulky in the attempts to explain the fantastical nature of the story, The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear unfolds naturally to matter-of-fact display entries from the Encyclopedia of Marvels, Life Form and Other Phenomena of Zamonia and its Environs that pop into Bluebear’s head.

I have a growing fondness for Moers Zamonia collection and while I possess another book in the series — Rumo — I am resisting it until I hear word on any other forthcoming books. At work something I am trying to alter in regards to Moers is his placement in the store. For the most part, my store is informed what sections books should go in and unfortunately the person at my store in charge of changing this, well, rarely goes out of her way to do so. Recently though I have been working on changing Moers location. Currently residing in our fiction section, I think fantasy but especially young adult fantasy would be a better area to introduce him to readers.

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