Shriek: An Afterword
Shriek: An Afterword is a 2006 novel by Jeff VanderMeer. Shriek is set in the fictional city of Ambergris, a recurring setting in VanderMeer's work. The novel was written over a period of eight years, owing in part to "[some scenes that are] very personal."
Ambergris, named for "the most secret and valued part of the whale," is a fantastical urban milieu, explicitly modern and apparently pre-industrial (despite the presence of guns, bombs, and motor vehicles). Ambergris is characterized by grocery stores, post offices, cafés, and vendors (The "Borges Bookstore" bears note). The city was built over the land (and quiet protests) of the fungally-adept "graycaps," humanoids of uncertain disposition. The inhabitants of Ambergris enjoy a fascination with squid, and celebrate an anarchic annual Festival of the Freshwater Squid.
Shriek: An Afterword deals principally with two siblings of the same name, Janice and Duncan Shriek. Janice, an ex-society figure and art critic, narrates with great and sometimes dark flamboyance. Duncan, a historian of note, entertains twin obsessions: rival historian Mary Sabon and the mysterious graycaps. The Shrieks figure rather prominently in VanderMeer's collection of Ambergris novellas and short stories City of Saints and Madmen: Duncan narrates the novella "The Early History of Ambergris", while Janice's art criticism figures into the World Fantasy Award-winning novella "The Transformation of Martin Lake".