The City of Dreaming Books
by Walter Moers (2004)
Walter Moers is a German comicbook artist and writer who also writes fantasy fiction (mostly set in Zamonia, his version of the Atlantean continent) which are in turn populated by illustrations by himself. I've been wanting to try some of his stuff out but its a bit hard to come by and not super-cheap on the used market either - so I was excited when I acquired a slightly water-damaged copy of The City of Dreaming Books while out treasure-hunting one day.
This is the story of Optimus Yarnspinner, a dinosaur-type creature who leaves his home of Lindworm Castle (renowned for thier authorial prowess) to go to Bookholm, ancient seat of the Zamonian publishing industry. Like much of the recent fantasy I've found myself drawn to of late, there is a story and some characters, but the real star is the city of Bookholm (and its bookshops and literate populace) and the expansive and near-infinite catacombs beneath the city (with its massive and ancient storage halls, troves, and tombs of... books!). Yarnspinner goes from one to the other and back again, encoutering book-hunters, poisonous books, creatures which subsist off the act of reading, living books, and a man transformed into a book.
The prose is fairly light and easy but ackward in a way I can't describe which I have to chalk up to reading the book in translation from the German. Also, lets be honest, this is a fantasy-adventure about books - for it to be as lively as it is represents a fundamental victory by Moers.
And what do books dream of? To be found, and to be read, of course!