I've been waiting for Jeff VanderMeer to write a novel set in Ambergris since City of Saints and Madmen.Thoughts from the halfway mark:
The first half of the book is Janice Shriek telling the story of her brother Duncan's multiple successes and disgraces, from being a successful historian, to a pariah, to a successful teacher, to his fall from grace for a torrid affair with a student, as well as her own rise to being a player in the art world until her own fall. All the while, she alludes to Duncan's travels underground and his study of the Gray Caps, the strange denizens that live beneath Ambergris. The account is frequently punctuated by Duncan's own interjections, clarifying or refuting things his sister has written. Everything is leading toward something called The Shift
. No idea what The Shift is at this point in time.
The first half of the book is good. It has an underlying weirdness that generally gives one the willies. Duncan has clearly seen things beneath the ground that continue to obsess him but struggles with living a relatively normal life above ground. The writing is good and doesn't have nearly as much of the "Look how clever I am" vibe I got from certain parts of City of Saints and Madmen.The End:
The second half of the book deals with Duncan's fall from grace,the war between two merchant houses that eventually involves The Kalif, the aftermath of the war, and Mary Sabon's career. More of the secrets of the Gray Caps are revealed. Duncan continues his transformation and Janice gets a glimpse of things to come.
The second half was as good as the first. The only complaint I had was that the Shift was never really explained. The ending was open to interpretation, which is appropriate for a book of this kind.
I'd recommend this any fan of the new weird. This is what I wanted City of Saints and Madmen to be.