Saturday, December 26, 2009

Book Review - The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear

Title: The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear
Author: Walter Moers
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 minipirates

Did you know that bluebears have 27 lives? Do you happen to know what a bluebear is? Why not learn about one of the most famous bluebears in Walter Moers' The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear. In it, Captain Bluebear recounts tales from his hectic life in a continent known as Zamonia. From his sea voyages with the Minipirates to his travels to the 2364th Dimension, the good Captain has seen it all.

Walter Moers was an unknown author to me when I stumbled upon this brightly colored biography of the big blue bear. A wise philosopher once advised against judging a book by its cover, but in this case, the cover really grabbed my eye. A quick scan through the contents, and I picked the book up without knowing much about it at all. Happily, I was not disappointed. This novel, written in first person, outlines the life of the last bluebear in existence. The title, however, is perhaps a misnomer - Captain Bluebear only has one life, but he spends it doing thirteen and one half very different things. Each life takes place in its own chapter.

The story itself is beautifully told, and makes the reader feel as though they are sitting in a bar with Bluebear, listening to his tall tales. The narrative is quite comprehensive in its own right - Bluebear experiences love, loss, fierce battles, and faithful friends. The world in which Bluebear lives is richly detailed, and Moers goes to great lengths to include heaps of information about his surroundings. To this end, he includes encyclopedia articles detailing a particular element of the world whenever something new is discovered. These are often humerous, and very informational. A quick flip through the book will also reveal many illustrations which help render the colorful world of Zamonia in the mind of the reader.

The most amazing thing about Captain Bluebear is the incredibly vast variety of adventures that Bluebear embarks upon. One chapter may find him fleeing from a giant evil witch spider (who knew spiders could be witches?) while in the next, he may find himself in the ear canal of a gigantic beast. Throughout the story, humor and jokes abound. Moers always keeps the narrative upbeat, and you never feel as though he is dragging his feet.

The one criticism that I have of the story has to do with the way in which it is layed out. Do not expect a coherent flowing throughout the various chapters in Captain Bluebear. At times, Moers uses the craziest plot developments to move Bluebear from one life to the next, and it does not alway mesh as cleanly as it could. Also, with only a few execptions, there is little crossover of characters from one life to the next (other than the Captain, of course). While this may prove annoying to the reader at first, it is best to think of Captain Bluebear as a compilation of stories from his life, rather than a complete narrative. Towards the middle of the book, I simply gave up my notions of how stories usually flowed, and and just went along for the ride. This is when I began enjoying the book the most.

Moers is an excellent story teller, and if you enjoy fantasy and fairy tales, you will fall in love with Bluebear and his wacky (yes, wacky) adventures.

4 out of 5 minipirates!

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