The Third Bear

Reviewer: Katherine Ray

Author: Jeff VanderMeer

Published: 2010

Reviewed: 2012-01-29

Publisher: Tachyon Publications

This is a book of 14 well written, disturbing short stories. Someone
ends up dead or mutilated or both in the vast majority of them, but
they are also strangely fascinating.

The back cover's (somewhat inaccurate) blurb of "The Situation" was
what convinced me to give the book a try. The main character is a
designer of bugs and fish in a post-apocalyptic world where bugs,
fish, leeches, etc. can be used as communication, teaching, and
blackout drugs. The world building is quite fun, though the story is
rather dark.

"The Third Bear" and "Predecessor" stand out the most for me, possibly
because they were the most gory of the lot. "The Third Bear" is about
a 'bear' that terrorizes a village like the Greek Furies.
"Predecessor" has two people walking through "the great man's home,"
which is full of the great man's really disgusting experiments.

The other stories are tales of people driven to the edge, people
searching for places they can never get to and people grieving for
lost lovers. One character falls in love with someone he never meets.
One story stars the author himself living in a hotel with freshwater
seals and a penguin on the shore of Lake Baikal. One is based on
Fijian myth, and reads a bit like a just-so story with swearing.
There are fables about taking responsibility for the use of
technology, and an interesting alternate reality George W. Bush tale.

The stories are uniformly well crafted with new details about the
world and the characters unfolding one piece at a time until the whole
story sits in front of you. It's a mesmerizing collection.