Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer

  Kaitlin R. Branch    Oct 25, 2017
Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer

Level: Beginner and up.  Wonderbook is written for a beginner audience, but because of the breadth of subjects, contributions by noted authors, and beautiful layout, most anyone can pick this book up and be pleased with the content.

Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer is a beautiful, full color book of writing advice on techniques such as plotting, structure, characterization, world building, dialogue, exposition, and point of view.  This resource also goes into the creative life, revision, and writing exercises. If that sounds like a lot, it is.  Wonderbook is a large, long book coming in at 325 pages of a book which is the size of a trade hardback. 

The first thing a reader will notice on picking up and flipping through Wonderbook is that it is in full color, and there are many beautiful and informative illustrations.  These are used to great effect in the “guides” which Vandermeer places throughout the text, small avatars which indicate authorial asides such as Mister Odd, which appears as an intrusion in the text to give an anecdote or a complex example of what the text is speaking about.  There are also Little Aliens, which break down complex ideas into practical points.  Wonderbook also has an online aspect, and another avatar indicates times that additional information is available online. 

The information which Wonderbook covers is wide in scope and only half-way in depth. Other resources will go deeper on any given topic, however Wonderbook has a flair and style which is unparalleled.  Colorful images show the reader what different plot structures look like, the life cycle of a story, and famous beginning and ending lines of books.  The avatars mentioned in the previous paragraph break up text which would otherwise be long.  Essays by published authors are situated within the text.  Stunning images of lovely, detailed landscapes are peppered through-out. 

 As touched on before, topics covered in Wonderbook are broad.  Each topic is covered in a way which defines the idea, then broadens the uses of the idea and gives other ways to think of the topic, and sometimes gives examples.  Often, there is an illustration in each chapter to give yet another perspective.  In the end, this many ways of thinking of the same thing is the greatest strength of Wonderbook.  Every topic is covered in a many faceted way, which is why this book is good for beginners and up.  If one explanation has not worked for a reader before, Wonderbook will probably have an alternative idea.

Should You Buy?

Pros

  • It’s difficult to overstate the beauty of this book.  Even an advanced writer will appreciate the illustrations and layout.
  • The breadth of topics addressed means that it is likely that Wonderbook will hit on something even advanced writers have not considered.

Cons

  • While there are many topics and definitions, some readers may find that the depth is not enough.
  •  The book can feel as if it’s jumping all over the place, with many authorial asides and the avatar’s input.

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