Book: The 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear

Doing a month’s worth of thinking and writing about books hasn’t stopped me from reading in the meantime, but I’ve reserved the reviews for when the meme was over. But now it’s time to introduce a little known but absolutely brilliant writer and his books!

Walter Moers is a German writer, who also creates comic characters. Apparently the novels that have been translated into English are more popular in Europe than in American, and it’s really good fortune on my part that I managed to find his books at a library in Singapore. It all started with the book “The city of dreaming books”. A book about books and with one of most intriguing covers I’ve seen, I picked it up and thus began my journey. I found out that it was part of series, although each book could be read on their own. They were simply set in the same world, and didn’t really have any relation to each other. Although some characters do make an appearance in the different books. So I went in search for the first book set in the fictional land of Zamonia – the 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear.

This book is pure fantasy. Walter Moers is one of the most imaginative writers I have had the pleasure of reading. The different creatures he has created in this novel really pushes the limits of your imagination. The story in this book describes the many lives that a bluebear has lived. Each life is interesting and could be a story of its own. They are filled with new creatures, adventures and an unlimited supply of excitement. It’s like reading a children’s book, full of strange new things, different regions to explore, different dangers encountered and the endless excitement. I really felt like I was on an adventure, conquering new lands, learning about new creatures and that feeling of amazement and wonder never left me throughout the book. Words cannot describe this novel’s brilliance.

I will admit that it’s not my favourite novel of his and that it does take time to get used to the world he has created. From minipirates (which are exactly as the name suggests) to the Troglotroll who only tells lies. Every living thing in the world is so interesting that a story can be spun just using that character. No doubt they come hard and fast and it does take time to absorb it all. But no time is given, instead we are shown an encyclopedic entry describing the creature and places and phenomenon. And of course the highlight of the novel is the longest chapter (or life) where Bluebear becomes a Congladiator fighting for the title of King of lies. I love how the techniques described in the book are all so fantastical yet believable.

This novel and his other novels set in Zamonia are truly beyond words. You have to give it a try to understand the scope of imagination that Walter Moers has. I’m sure a good deal has been lost in translation, the title is actually a pun in German, which sadly doesn’t come across in English. Yet, the novel is an amazing read and has really expanded the world that exists in my head. It might not be a book for everybody, but I say give it a try first, it might make you smile and laugh like a child lost in a world of unlimited imagination. Every life of Bluebear surprises and each is truly more fantastical than the next.


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