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Under the watchful eye of The Company, three characters — Grayson, Morse and Chen — shapeshifters, amorphous, part human, part extensions of the landscape, make their way through forces that would consume them. A blue fox, a giant fish and language stretched to the limit. A messianic blue fox who slips through warrens of time and space on a mysterious mission. A homeless Under the watchful eye of The Company, three characters — Grayson, Morse and Chen — shapeshifters, amorphous, part human, part extensions of the landscape, make their way through forces that would consume them. A blue fox, a giant fish and language stretched to the limit. A messianic blue fox who slips through warrens of time and space on a mysterious mission. A homeless woman haunted by a demon who finds the key to all things in a strange journal. A giant leviathan of a fish, centuries old, who hides a secret, remembering a past that may not be its own. Three ragtag rebels waging an endless war for the fate of the world against an all-powerful corporation. A raving madman who wanders the desert lost in the past, haunted by his own creation: an invisible monster whose name he has forgotten and whose purpose remains hidden. Jeff VanderMeer's Dead Astronauts presents a City with no name of its own where, in the shadow of the all-powerful Company, lives human and otherwise converge in terrifying and miraculous ways. At stake: the fate of the future, the fate of Earth – all the Earths.


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Under the watchful eye of The Company, three characters — Grayson, Morse and Chen — shapeshifters, amorphous, part human, part extensions of the landscape, make their way through forces that would consume them. A blue fox, a giant fish and language stretched to the limit. A messianic blue fox who slips through warrens of time and space on a mysterious mission. A homeless Under the watchful eye of The Company, three characters — Grayson, Morse and Chen — shapeshifters, amorphous, part human, part extensions of the landscape, make their way through forces that would consume them. A blue fox, a giant fish and language stretched to the limit. A messianic blue fox who slips through warrens of time and space on a mysterious mission. A homeless woman haunted by a demon who finds the key to all things in a strange journal. A giant leviathan of a fish, centuries old, who hides a secret, remembering a past that may not be its own. Three ragtag rebels waging an endless war for the fate of the world against an all-powerful corporation. A raving madman who wanders the desert lost in the past, haunted by his own creation: an invisible monster whose name he has forgotten and whose purpose remains hidden. Jeff VanderMeer's Dead Astronauts presents a City with no name of its own where, in the shadow of the all-powerful Company, lives human and otherwise converge in terrifying and miraculous ways. At stake: the fate of the future, the fate of Earth – all the Earths.

30 review for Dead Astronauts

  1. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Set in the postapocalyptic universe of Borne, "Dead Astronauts" tells the story of three characters caught up in an epic battle against the Company, a biotech enterprise that has produced bio-engineered creatures and organisms which subsequently changed the face of the earth forever: Not only has the environment been destroyed, time and space have lost their meaning, and the three "astronauts" travel through various versions of the world /the City while arriving at various stages of the Set in the postapocalyptic universe of Borne, "Dead Astronauts" tells the story of three characters caught up in an epic battle against the Company, a biotech enterprise that has produced bio-engineered creatures and organisms which subsequently changed the face of the earth forever: Not only has the environment been destroyed, time and space have lost their meaning, and the three "astronauts" travel through various versions of the world /the City while arriving at various stages of the Company's power. Yes, these are Schrödinger's astronauts, both dead and alive, and the terrain they explore is like a möbius strip - if you look for a breezy read, look elsewhere, but if you look for something unusual and original, you came to the right place, my friend. Although with around 250 pages, this is a rather short-ish novel, it took me quite some time to finish it, as the entrancing, sprawling sentences require close attention: There are so many worlds within the individual paragraphs, so many singular images, so many colors, sounds, and smells. When I started out reading, I was frequently confused, but then I realized that the book presents a story and then ventures into the perspectives of different characters, thus explaining what the story we just heard was all about. We hear the backstories of the three astronauts (one of them "a tall black woman of indeterminate age" named Grayson; one of them a shapeshifter named Moss who consists of...oh yes, you guessed it; and one of them "a heavyset man" named Chen with a guilty conscience), we learn about the motivations of the enigmatic traumatized villain Charlie X and of the bio-engineered creatures our protagonists encounter, like the duck with the broken wing, the behemoth, the salamanders, and, my favorite, the blue fox. In order to make sense of this daring book, it is instructive to search for clues in all narrative strands. In fact, VanderMeer turns his readers into dead astronauts as well and sends them on a mission: While on the one hand, this is your classic po-mo extravagaza where we are expected to re-establish narrative cohesion by connecting the dots of the different storylines/angles, it soon becomes apparent that this rabbit hole of a text also forces us to travel to the sources of the apocalypse, the human impulses that lead to the state of the world we are experiencing in the book. The perspective offered by the blue fox, an animal formerly tortured by scientists working for the Company, is particularly harrowing to read, and this chapter exudes a relentless vibe that shares a strange kinship with Darren Aronofsky's disturbing movie "Mother!". This book will certainly divide opinion, as it operates with a disparate structure (that reflects the shattered state of the world depicted), makes the reader work pretty hard and - although there are multiple worlds, astronauts et al. - radiates a grim, claustrophobic feel that goes hand in hand with its message about the Faustian will to play God and humanity's penchant for cruelty. IMHO, it pays off to take this dangerous trip and look into VanderMeer's narrative abyss: Yes, the abyss will look back into you, but sometimes, you need to muster your courage and prepare for some punches in order to experience something new, smart, and fascinating.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I have a very self deprecating sense of humor. But trust me when I say: it's no joke that I am neither intelligent enough or creative enough or abstract-thinking enough to appreciate this book. I don't want to trash it completely- because I can appreciate this for the literary experiment that it is. I just don't know that it's a literary experiment that works. VanderMeer can string words together on a page better than most, but hot damn, this was a total slog for me. It took me longer than I care I have a very self deprecating sense of humor.  But trust me when I say: it's no joke that I am neither intelligent enough or creative enough or abstract-thinking enough to appreciate this book.  I don't want to trash it completely- because I can appreciate this for the literary experiment that it is.  I just don't know that it's a literary experiment that works. 
VanderMeer can string words together on a page better than most, but hot damn, this was a total slog for me.  It took me longer than I care to admit, to realize this is a non-linear story, and on top of it's non-linearness it's also very repetitive in parts.  We explore many different realities and alternative timelines in separate parts, never coming together to add up to anything. 
I think this is supposed to be the story of Charlie X, the rise and fall of the Company introduced in Borne.  But if I'm being honest, I don't remember Charlie X all that well from Borne, and I didn't think anything about the Company that was revealed really contributed any additional understanding.  I guess the questions I cared about, like what happened to humanity and what was the purpose of the Company, weren't explored enough in any detail to make me care. 
We also don't get to spend enough time with any of the many characters to grow to care about them.  Astronaut dies.  Astronaut dies.  Astronaut dies again.  Blue fox sneaks in and says some clever foxy stuff.  I just don't know what the point was.  Maybe for some there doesn't need to be a point.  For me- there needs to be a point. 
If, like me, you were hoping for more of Borne, if you were hoping for an origin story to the villain (villain being the company or the sorceress), I think this is safe to skip.  If you're looking for something to bend your brain and make you work for it, by all means, pick this up.  The writing is beautiful.  Unfortunately that's the only thing to leave an impression on me.
 Dead Astronauts releases on December 3, 2019. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley who sent me an eARC in exchange for a review.


  3. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    Good news, VanderMeer fans! Just look at that cover and imagine, if you will, a book just like a massive acid trip filled with disjointed alternate realities, or reality versions, where men and hybrids, monsters, demons (or daemons), foxes, Shrodinger's ducks, and spawning pools populate your colorful biotech apocalypse. And then know that the real trip lies within these pages, not on the cover. I say good news for other reasons, however. It's not merely a nightmare of continuity issues, melding Good news, VanderMeer fans! Just look at that cover and imagine, if you will, a book just like a massive acid trip filled with disjointed alternate realities, or reality versions, where men and hybrids, monsters, demons (or daemons), foxes, Shrodinger's ducks, and spawning pools populate your colorful biotech apocalypse. And then know that the real trip lies within these pages, not on the cover. I say good news for other reasons, however. It's not merely a nightmare of continuity issues, melding and morphing bodies, strained, molded, and transformed identities made from beasties, cold scientists, and long-lived leviathans who have forgotten their own stories. The core of the text DOES have a major theme, if not anything more than a remotely identifiable plot. Of course, you might find one if you are a massive wall-charter, handy with yarn, have access to revisionary transparent overlays, and you maintain a hearty respect for novels that triples as a prequel to Borne, a contemporary, and a sequel. I happen to love the theme. By the end of the novel, I'm rocking hard to it. It's tragic, obvious, and it truly condemns the three reality-hopping astronauts from the beginning of the tale. (The same dead three we see from Borne.) Or, of course, any prospective reader would do just as well to sit back and relax into the brilliant, wild, and totally freaky imagery. Just trip balls. Open your mind, man. I would love to see someone do a scholarly analysis of this s**t.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    Like a dream, the pieces of Dead Astronauts fit together only loosely and often with a logic of their own making. Yet those pieces are exquisitely crafted, making it a joy to cobble together, although it is frequently an exhausting effort. A sequel or continuation to the magnificent Borne this is not, yet it goes deep into that world. While Borne was a story with some trippy elements, this feels like a hallucinogenic trip with some elements of story. Told from the perspective of many narrators Like a dream, the pieces of Dead Astronauts fit together only loosely and often with a logic of their own making. Yet those pieces are exquisitely crafted, making it a joy to cobble together, although it is frequently an exhausting effort. A sequel or continuation to the magnificent Borne this is not, yet it goes deep into that world. While Borne was a story with some trippy elements, this feels like a hallucinogenic trip with some elements of story. Told from the perspective of many narrators and timelines, and alternate realities, the identities and ordering of which often feel like a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, to quote Winston Churchill. It is fragmented, disjointed, ethereal and often confusing, with a style best described as experimental, often crossing into stream of consciousness. More questions seem to arise than answers. A saving grace is that VanderMeer kept it short. Despite all the challenges, I find this post-apocalyptic world of shattered alternate realities and runaway corporate biotech deeply compelling and evocative. *I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

  5. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    It's always the same with a VanderMeer: I hear about it, I go "meh" and when I read it, I end up entranced and thoroughly enjoying the experience despite or exactly because of its weirdness. This book is labeled as Borne #2 but you don't have to have read Borne in order to understand Dead Astronauts. Yes, the suits of the three astronauts do make a really quick appearance in the first book and we are once again in a world full of the bio-engineered creatures the Company first made and then It's always the same with a VanderMeer: I hear about it, I go "meh" and when I read it, I end up entranced and thoroughly enjoying the experience despite or exactly because of its weirdness. This book is labeled as Borne #2 but you don't have to have read Borne in order to understand Dead Astronauts. Yes, the suits of the three astronauts do make a really quick appearance in the first book and we are once again in a world full of the bio-engineered creatures the Company first made and then unleashed on the planet, but those are the only connections. Moreover, it's not just the POVs of the three astronauts we're getting but that of the Company's creatures as well and those were even more enjoyable to me. Here's the thing: VanderMeer has the almost unique ability to thoroughly describe a world yet being vague in a way that lets every reader make it their own. Thus, I, personally, think that (view spoiler)[the astronauts indeed came from three different timelines and were scouring yet other timelines for a version in which humanity wasn't dying or even dead already (hide spoiler)] . I also think that (view spoiler)[the three somehow got taken from their timelines and put together like rats in a labyrinth and only if they stayed together could they access the next level/timeline. Otherwise they'd be stuck (hide spoiler)] . And I believe that (view spoiler)[humans as such no longer exist. Or almost at least. We're either already gone or as good as (hide spoiler)] . Moreover, the creatures (view spoiler)[weren't set loose by the Company but by Charlie X, himself a bio-engineered "boy" - either just another creature in the arsenal with a slightly elevated status or indeed the son of a scientist who kept remaking him to keep him under control - who broke free eventually. It is possible that the creatures started the end of the world as we humans know it, but I highly doubt it after the blue fox's POV (hide spoiler)] . Yes, it definitely is enough to give you a headache. It is also a very clever way of saying what you mean while making it possible for each and every reader to interpret it in an entirely different way. As such, it is one hell of a statement on our planet's current state as well as its possible future! The theme VanderMeer seems to like working with the most is clear: the natural world. But in such a warped state that it's as if you were on a very bad trip. *lol* Nevertheless, the tale is once again rich with imagery and metaphors, layers of intricate worldbuilding and weird characters (both humanoid and animalistic) and even if I hadn't enjoyed what I believe to be the author's story and message, I would love this for how much it makes me think and puzzle over it and talk it through with other bookworms about how they perceived it and for it being so different from most other books (though I still don't love this as much as Area X).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    Jeff returns to the world of BORNE and goes full-weird, with a narrative that splinters across every level: the molecular, the sentence, the pagination, all of it. The density of this book is going to fuck up some people who have only read ANNIHILATION and BORNE, but I hope they fight through it. There is no clean narrative here, except for the one that Jeff has always delivered: that nature has more in it than we dream of in our philosophy, and that we must do more to be in harmony with the Jeff returns to the world of BORNE and goes full-weird, with a narrative that splinters across every level: the molecular, the sentence, the pagination, all of it. The density of this book is going to fuck up some people who have only read ANNIHILATION and BORNE, but I hope they fight through it. There is no clean narrative here, except for the one that Jeff has always delivered: that nature has more in it than we dream of in our philosophy, and that we must do more to be in harmony with the world. This is a hopeless novel that happens to be full of hope -- not unlike the time at which it was written. Basically, I'll read any and everything Jeff ever writes. Is this destined to be my favorite VanderNovel? No, but I loved it all the same.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    Once upon a time, I spoke to three dead astronauts. Past, present, future? All so proud, so determined. All so doomed. I was sent an ARC of Jeff VanderMeer's Dead Astronauts, and despite not having read the related novel Borne, and despite having failed, utterly, to connect with VanderMeer's Annihilation, I decided to give this book a whirl – and am glad I did. This book is weird – surreal and poetic – and even if I rarely had a complete picture of what was going on, I was happy to sit back Once upon a time, I spoke to three dead astronauts. Past, present, future? All so proud, so determined. All so doomed. I was sent an ARC of Jeff VanderMeer's Dead Astronauts, and despite not having read the related novel Borne, and despite having failed, utterly, to connect with VanderMeer's Annihilation, I decided to give this book a whirl – and am glad I did. This book is weird – surreal and poetic – and even if I rarely had a complete picture of what was going on, I was happy to sit back and let the words wash over my brain. This was an experience beyond passive reading – VanderMeer demands that you meet his thoughts half way with your own, and the results were worth the effort to me (others' experience may vary). Note: I read an ARC and passages quoted may not be in their final forms. And as this book opens upon a completely mysterious scene, I reckon any commentary ahead could be seen as spoilers. Somewhere out in the City, the rest of the foxes were playing. Learning. The duck still stood sentinel. The leviathan lumbered between holding ponds. She spun out into the desert. Blind. Unaware. Reckless. Stripped of sense. Unable in that moment to recover herself. The three dead astronauts behind her. As Dead Astronauts opens, three people are making their way towards “the City”, bent on a mission of destruction. We eventually learn that only one of these people is human: Grayson is, indeed, an astronaut; a black woman and the lone survivor of a space mission who returned to a ruined Earth. Chen (who looks like "a heavyset man, from a country that was just a word now") was formerly an employee of “the Company” in the City, and is now the physical expression of a series of mathematical equations? And a cohesive organism made up of thousands of discreet salamanders? Go with it. And Moss is, well, a moss-like organism in human form, and probably the most essential member of the group: We learn that the three are in a multiverse or an alternate timeline of some sort, but since Moss' memory persists across all of time and space, she is the brief and the map for the mission. We learn that many times before, Grayson has found Moss when she returns to Earth (and many more times, Grayson didn't survive her space mission), and that this is the seventh time that the two of them have been able to turn Chen against the Company and join them in their quest to destroy it. What Grayson and Chen don't know, and what Moss does, is that they don't have unlimited attempts at this mission: as the three have learned and adapted their strategies in every do-over, so too have the City's defenders – a black duck, a blue fox, a tidal pool-lurking behemoth, doppelgängers, and a madman in the desert – been adapting, and Moss (who is involved in a romantic relationship with Grayson in every iteration) is desperate to change the script. The how and why of this world is never really fully explained, but the following describes the mystery: Chen said: Any theory at this point made as much sense, since no theory made sense. That the fox could be inhabited by an alien intelligence. Or it could be a particularly devious AI wormholing back under the power of a self-made destiny. If the paths were open, porous, then other sorts of doors could open as well. Even though Grayson, the only astronaut among them, said aliens had never been encountered by humankind out in the universe. That human beings never mastered AI. And making the world's origin inexplicable (beyond it being the byproduct of some terrible bio-experiments performed by the Company, spun out of control) is really okay: this world exists and there's a mission underway to destroy this world, in order to save this world. Included in the narrative are the perspectives and origin stories of the duck and fox and Behemoth and old Charlie X in the desert, as well as a story from the POV of a homeless woman living in our own near future, and the point seems to be that you don't need to imagine the end effects of unconstrained Capitalism into the distant future in order to recognise its dangers, we're already living in a dystopia of our own making (with commentary included on animal experimentation, climate change, child labour, etc., my only complaint would be that I didn't need this all to be spelled out to me.) Some favourite quotes that seem to describe this world (and I think I particularly like the questions VanderMeer poses because they urge a mental response): Dark bird. Dark secret. They knew not what it hid, what was artifice and what was content. Peel away that layer, find a deeper monster still. A creator who no longer remembered the creation: Wasn't that one definition of a god? Moss couldn't extend the field. But, at a price, she could become a door – they walked through her and she followed, and wasn't that the definition of sacrifice? What was a person but someone who turned monstrous, anyway? What was a person, in Moss' experience, but a kind of monster. A soul is just a delusion that lives in the body. No delusion survives death. Death is more honest than that. And a taste of the more poetic: Behemoth could no longer. Had no. Become Leviathan. Ravenous a sacrifice to Nocturnalia. Hunger an empty stomach that felt full. Tried to remember and forget: Nocturnalia. The house on the hill. Nocturnalia: The tidal pools that must be holding ponds. Cool nothing of mud against the hot itch of scales enflamed by rheum and cracks, comfort against battle scars under the stars, the night surcease, too, a different kind. In kind. Overall, I was surprised at how much I liked Dead Astronauts; surprised enough to round this up to four stars.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paperclippe

    Once upon a time, I spoke to three dead astronauts. If there is such a thing as environmental horror, this is it. But no, that's not quite right, because this isn't really horror. It's more like... despair. Is despair a genre? But no, that's not it either, because sprinkled in these pages of a ruined, poisoned world, is hope. Just a bit, but enough. I've been a fan of Jeff VanderMeer for a long time, ever since Annihilation made its way onto the scene. Since then I've made it my mission to absorb Once upon a time, I spoke to three dead astronauts. If there is such a thing as environmental horror, this is it. But no, that's not quite right, because this isn't really horror. It's more like... despair. Is despair a genre? But no, that's not it either, because sprinkled in these pages of a ruined, poisoned world, is hope. Just a bit, but enough. I've been a fan of Jeff VanderMeer for a long time, ever since Annihilation made its way onto the scene. Since then I've made it my mission to absorb every single thing with the VanderMeer stamp on it, either Jeff's or Ann's, either written or edited, and I have yet to be disappointed. Dead Astronauts is no exception. Merging the strange climate horror of Area X with the disjointed narratives of Veniss Underground with the world building of Ambergris and you get something like Dead Astronauts. There are no heroes, here, and there are no villains. Everyone is good and everyone is evil and there is no such thing as either of those ideas. There only are people. And... okay, weird animal hybrids. And weird machine animal hybrids. Okay there are a lot of weird things. But none of them can be boiled down to archetypes even as they are literally boiled down. Dead Astronauts is a sequel to Borne only in the very loosest sense; the set and setting are roughly the same, but in a story that ostensibly spans the multiverse, the idea of set and setting are too simple at best. What it really is is an amalgamation of the way places and events can crystallize within one's mind, and the way that they can stick there like a bone in your throat. What is really is is the story of the end of the world, and how even the end is a different kind of beginning. What it really is is hard to say. What it really is is painful, and beautiful, and the proof that those two things are very often the same, and that they for any two creatures, they are profoundly different. Dead Astronauts is hard to read and important. Gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. Incoherent in a way that makes you hang on every word until suddenly it all makes sense. It's a message. It's a warning. It's a fever dream of possibilities and the shape of the world to come. But, in the end, joy cannot fend off evil. Joy can only remind you why you fight.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kamilla

    I am a huge Jeff Vandermeer fan and have been for a long time. He is definitely one of my favourite authors and though some of his books left a little to be desired (see the last two Annhiliation books in the series) this was just....... alienatingly frustrating I haven't read a book in a long time that has elicited audible groans or frustration for me. This felt like an abstract art piece that I just... wasn't here for. The writing style was the first thing that bothered me. I didn't get it. I I am a huge Jeff Vandermeer fan and have been for a long time. He is definitely one of my favourite authors and though some of his books left a little to be desired (see the last two Annhiliation books in the series) this was just....... alienatingly frustrating I haven't read a book in a long time that has elicited audible groans or frustration for me. This felt like an abstract art piece that I just... wasn't here for. The writing style was the first thing that bothered me. I didn't get it. I didn't feel like getting it. Every page became increasingly more hard work for me to read, but without the pay-off. There was absolutely nothing or no one I felt connected to in this novel. The fact is, after finishing the book, I had no fucking idea what I just read, what were the consequences, what happened, why anything happened. I finally read the blurb.... and honestly the blurb of the book gave me more information about the books contents than the entire novel itself. I get what the author was trying to do. Highlighting different words, repeating pages of text, circular dialogue - these techniques are meant to confuse, disgust, intrigue the reader..... but these techniques rely on the fact that the reader actually knows what's going on in the first place. At first I tried to understand why the author would choose these moments in the novel, but after a while I started to become more and more elated to see the repeated text because it meant I could quickly skip those pages and get closer to the end of the book. I just....... I'm sorry Jeff. I loved your books so much and that was the only reason I finished this one. I have abandoned other novels mid-way for less. I don't appreciate feeling like a fish-faced idiot when I read a novel. And this novel was so conceptual I feel only the author or someone that really wants to be an artiste would glean meaning from this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    We are back in Borne-world, but unlike Borne and The Strange Bird: A Borne Story (both five stars for me) you need to leave your notions of time and space at the door and follow Schrodinger's cat into other states of being - animal, vegetable, mineral, or some uncanny combo of the three, dead or alive. Vandermeer starts the reader off gently with 100+ pages of a relatively straightforward story of three unusual warriors who travel through time to destroy The Company. Their love for each other is We are back in Borne-world, but unlike Borne and The Strange Bird: A Borne Story (both five stars for me) you need to leave your notions of time and space at the door and follow Schrodinger's cat into other states of being - animal, vegetable, mineral, or some uncanny combo of the three, dead or alive. Vandermeer starts the reader off gently with 100+ pages of a relatively straightforward story of three unusual warriors who travel through time to destroy The Company. Their love for each other is truly a beautiful thing. And then the wheels come off - in a good way. For me, the best way to read after this point was to go fast, let the story wash over me, and not dwell at the sentence level. This book is a primal scream against the destruction of our planet, and by reading fast I could hear that scream throughout the whole book. If it weren't for my dogs lying at my feet, I might have been screaming myself. (Okay, helped along by the sounds of the Trump impeachment hearings coming from another room. AAAAAAKKKKK.)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tucker

    [9/21/2019] - this cover is... interesting fugly *********** it's been fixed someone f*cked up the dates on this one. like, the audio was published last year... that paperback comes out next year. WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lark Benobi

    I can't remember another time when I went from being "a wildly enthusiastic fan who can't wait to sing praises of an author's super-genius talent to everyone who'll listen" to being "a deeply disgruntled not-a-fan who wonders what the heck happened to my formerly favorite author" in so short a time, in my case here, between the publication of Acceptance and the publication of Borne. I went into this latest novel full of hope for a turnaround, but, alas. Be that as it may some people love it and I can't remember another time when I went from being "a wildly enthusiastic fan who can't wait to sing praises of an author's super-genius talent to everyone who'll listen" to being "a deeply disgruntled not-a-fan who wonders what the heck happened to my formerly favorite author" in so short a time, in my case here, between the publication of Acceptance and the publication of Borne. I went into this latest novel full of hope for a turnaround, but, alas. Be that as it may some people love it and you should trust them instead of me because you might be pleasantly surprised. Maybe VenderMeer's books are analogous to the Doctor Who doctors, where if you like Area X (which has a Chris Eccleston-y kind of appeal) then you won't much like the Borne books (definitely on the Matt Smith-y side).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Dead Astronauts is the second novel in Vandermeer's Borne World. For those of us who haven't previously stepped through the sticky portals into this treacherous world, it is an unnerving experience. And, our journey is not made any easier by the format which eschews traditional exposition and tangles with wondrous prose and sometimes devolves into things that there are few poetic licenses for. Don't expect all the answers or even a leveling off of your confusion. Just absorb the imagery and the Dead Astronauts is the second novel in Vandermeer's Borne World. For those of us who haven't previously stepped through the sticky portals into this treacherous world, it is an unnerving experience. And, our journey is not made any easier by the format which eschews traditional exposition and tangles with wondrous prose and sometimes devolves into things that there are few poetic licenses for. Don't expect all the answers or even a leveling off of your confusion. Just absorb the imagery and the rhythms and enjoy the ride. What is this world we have so boldly entered? It is a dystopian future where much of everything is wasteland but teeming with bioengineered life. Okay, teeming with odd biotech life like blue foxes, raining salamanders, gigantic behemoths, orbs, one-eyed astronauts named Grayson, a moss-like creature that oozes through all biology, Chem who sees the future in equations, a duck, a flying monster, a mad scientist, and a sinister all-powerful company. At first, it felt like a weird western with the three ( Grayson, Moss, and Chem) setting out across the wilderness to make war against the company and its creations. But, no western was ever this weird, different, odd. There are parts of it so splendid it's worth reading again, but others that are just incomprehensible.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Wagner

    There is a story about James Joyce that’s probably apocryphal, but it goes like this: A journalist asked Joyce why he made Finnegan’s Wake so freaking hard. Joyce answered that he just wanted to give critics something to do for the next 300 years. Which makes sense. If you think of critics as cats, then Finnegan’s Wake is basically a literary red laser pointer, keeping them and their pretentious, academic, gatekeeping ways occupied so they’ll leave normal people alone to read what they please. I There is a story about James Joyce that’s probably apocryphal, but it goes like this: A journalist asked Joyce why he made Finnegan’s Wake so freaking hard. Joyce answered that he just wanted to give critics something to do for the next 300 years. Which makes sense. If you think of critics as cats, then Finnegan’s Wake is basically a literary red laser pointer, keeping them and their pretentious, academic, gatekeeping ways occupied so they’ll leave normal people alone to read what they please. I don’t think any of that is true. But it does raise a question about so-called “difficult” books and whether or not they’re challenging literary norms in an artistically valid way, or just presenting unnecessary roadblocks to their readers, when their themes could presumably be more effectively communicated by not making everyone wonder if they’re just too stupid to get it. Consider me a staunch defender of difficult books. I won’t say each and every literary experiment is successful. But without stories that push against convention and make an effort to expand our understanding of what narrative fiction can be as an art form, a lot of us would get bored being in our safe zones all the time, much more quickly than you might think. Which brings us to Jeff VanderMeer, whose status as perhaps the most successful purveyor of New Weird fiction is taken to the next level with Dead Astronauts, a story unlike anything even he has tackled before. Sure, the Southern Reach trilogy achieved pure surrealism in its final volume, Acceptance. But Borne was the most stylistically accessible work of Weird you’re likely to find, a fable of an altered world told as a traditional three-act adventure, even overtly including epic fantasy tropes only superficially altered for context. Dead Astronauts is a new novel set in the Borne future, but one whose execution seeks to rewire your brain with nearly every page. It’s like dreaming wide awake. VanderMeer’s writing renders words sometimes as elegant brushstrokes, and other times, like Lego bricks haphazardly kludged together by a hyperactive yet brilliant child. There are times the book felt like I was reading scriptural texts translated from stone carvings discovered on some version of Earth from a parallel universe. There is prose that reads like poetry, and also actual poetry. One moment you may find yourself questioning VanderMeer’s sanity, or even your own, and then a rush of pure distilled emotion will simply steamroll right over you. I don’t think I’ve ever quite experienced a novel that simultaneously did everything it could to defy my expectations and even my comprehension in such a focused way, yet still cast a hallucinatory spell all its own. Probably the only other book I could remotely compare it to might be (continued...)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Jeff Vandermeer returns to his experimentally stylistic writing roots in this soft prequel to Borne. Quite a confident and ballsy move on his part, as it's sure to totally polarize readers and shock the hell out of his newer "Southern Reach" fanbase. Personally, I'm a fan of weird fiction. Bring on the bizarre, baby. Especially if it builds onto the world of the Company and the dead astronauts, and the strange manipulated creatures that haunt the tidal pools and holding ponds and desert lands. Jeff Vandermeer returns to his experimentally stylistic writing roots in this soft prequel to Borne. Quite a confident and ballsy move on his part, as it's sure to totally polarize readers and shock the hell out of his newer "Southern Reach" fanbase. Personally, I'm a fan of weird fiction. Bring on the bizarre, baby. Especially if it builds onto the world of the Company and the dead astronauts, and the strange manipulated creatures that haunt the tidal pools and holding ponds and desert lands. It also introduces the fun new layer of time traveling and parallel timelines in which our astronauts, both alive and dead, find themselves fighting back against the Company's evil regime and the ultimate annihilation of man. Plus for funsies, once the story's been told, we're thrust backwards and forward in time ourselves and given the backstory on many of its wonderous and fascinating characters. Mind. Blown. KaBOOM!!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Ames-Foley

    I don't know if this book and I were ever going to get along. I'm a huge Jeff VanderMeer fan, but didn't initially realize this was set in the Borne universe. Borne wasn't bad, but I just didn't end up loving it. From what I read, the connections seem pretty loose -- same universe, different characters. There is just so MUCH going on here that at 27% in I had no idea what I was reading. The prose was gorgeous, but I struggled to follow the plot. This book is going to make you work, and I I don't know if this book and I were ever going to get along. I'm a huge Jeff VanderMeer fan, but didn't initially realize this was set in the Borne universe. Borne wasn't bad, but I just didn't end up loving it. From what I read, the connections seem pretty loose -- same universe, different characters. There is just so MUCH going on here that at 27% in I had no idea what I was reading. The prose was gorgeous, but I struggled to follow the plot. This book is going to make you work, and I cautiously recommend it to those who are up for the challenge.

  17. 5 out of 5

    The Artisan Geek

    19/10/19 Just finished Borne and loved it! Soooo ready to dive in!! 3/10/19 A sincere thank you to MCDxFSG for sending me a copy of this book! I read Annihilation about two years ago and really enjoyed VanderMeer's writing so I'm really excited to read more of his work!! :D You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    Until now my experience with Jeff VanderMeer has been restricted to reading Borne. I liked Borne so much, loved it even. So when I saw a new book of his come up on Netgalley, I requested it right away without even reading the plot…or finding out that it is, in fact, a sequel of sorts to Borne. That should have just been the added bonus, but thing is my memory being what it is and my reading being as prolific as it is, I didn’t remember the minute details of Borne’s plot, such as dead astronauts Until now my experience with Jeff VanderMeer has been restricted to reading Borne. I liked Borne so much, loved it even. So when I saw a new book of his come up on Netgalley, I requested it right away without even reading the plot…or finding out that it is, in fact, a sequel of sorts to Borne. That should have just been the added bonus, but thing is my memory being what it is and my reading being as prolific as it is, I didn’t remember the minute details of Borne’s plot, such as dead astronauts mentioned in the book. I reread my review of Borne and it did jog the memory to the general idea of it, but nothing about dead astronauts. Well, apparently they got their own book. Although to be fair it shared a lot of page space with other side plots, some tangential, some featuring a prominent Borne universe character. And mind you, Borne universe is a place so wildly imaginative, so strikingly original in its mixture of biology and technology that it is well worth another visit. But this wasn’t the visit one might have planned. In fact, not quite sure what this was. Initially I remember having some trepidations about reading the New Weird VanderMeer is so famous for, but Borne made the genre so accessible and enjoyable with Borne, I figured it was safe to continue. But no, he was just saving up the real weirdness for this book. This is so very weird, so stylishly stylistically bizarre…that, frankly, it’s kinda offputting. And that’s weird in itself, because Vandermeer is such a terrific writer, his language is a thing of beauty, a genuine pleasure to read. But one cannot survive on language alone and plotting here is all over the place, it does technically maintain some semblance of linearity and rationality, but it’s so overdone and convoluted and needlessly longwinded, it’s difficult to get into or (conventionally, at least) enjoy. After a while you start realizing the narrative tricks VanderMeer utilizes and he doesn’t just use, he abuses them all. The repetitions, the juxtapositions (like something right out of the Tale of Two Cities), the repetitions…again. This thing…where he alternates a set of the same sentences for pages (seriously, pages) on end, sometimes with minute variations, sometimes without, only to highlight the punchline at the end. Such as…what the f*ck am I reading? what is this? Is it suppose to be like that? (this goes on for 3 pages) to be followed up with…Yes. Because Weird is the name of the game. Vandermeer literally uses the same trick 3 times within the same lengthy chapter of the book. So yeah, after a while, it just gets tiresome. And the entire reading experience almost never coheres into something engaging and the direct connect with Borne doesn’t even show up until the very end. It’s all these gorgeous linguistic trees that never add up to a forest. And outside of that, the main thing the book had going is how quickly it read, maybe 215 minutes or so. But the overall experience is…bewilderment, mainly, at the fact that this is how what follows the lovely Borne and this comes from the same author and this is probably totally gonna blow someone’s socks off. Different strokes and all that. But for me, it was a major disappointment and a waste of time, despite all the gorgeous imagery. Thanks Netgalley.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Hawpe

    I gave this five stars because I thought it was totally original, enthralling, daring, strangely mournful, and very thought provoking. But it is also very not-for-everyone. I think this is Vandermeer's most challenging book. He pushes his style of allusive, poetic, and elliptical writing further than ever before. The reader has to put a lot of pieces together to make sense of it. He combines disparate parts and influences (I was feeling animal fables, environmental disaster, multiverse/time I gave this five stars because I thought it was totally original, enthralling, daring, strangely mournful, and very thought provoking. But it is also very not-for-everyone. I think this is Vandermeer's most challenging book. He pushes his style of allusive, poetic, and elliptical writing further than ever before. The reader has to put a lot of pieces together to make sense of it. He combines disparate parts and influences (I was feeling animal fables, environmental disaster, multiverse/time travel, J.G. Ballard, M. John Harrison, Angela Carter, Kathe Koja) into a pretty incredible, beautiful whole that takes the reader on a fascinating trip to a funhouse mirror world that reflects real life ecological and biotech concerns, as well as themes of love and friendship, existential identity, bodily metamorphosis, power, survival, meaning. This is science fiction for poetry lovers, fantasy that is sad and dark and weird and real and bleak and gorgeous, a mind-bending puzzle that is exciting as hell to solve (if you like that kind of reading.)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Miranda

    I had to sit with my thoughts about this book before updating my review again. I have read multiple books by Jeff VanderMeer, and they are among some of my favorite novels. However, I was not sure what to expect from Dead Astronauts. All in all, it was a very unique experience. The novel is complex and confusing at times, but it is beautifully written and compelling. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around a few details, so this novel will definitely move to my pile of books to reread!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jason X

    I can't be honest and give this anything but 1 star. Its not a good book in my judgement and I did not like it. I can see there is an aesthetic that appears to be a psychedelic new mythology of apocalyptic eco-horror. I think. I can't say what this book was about other than being creepy and weird. There is no story, only moods, images, and impressionistic character appearances. The Southern Reach trilogy meandered into this territory, and made things interesting, but that was because at least I can't be honest and give this anything but 1 star. Its not a good book in my judgement and I did not like it. I can see there is an aesthetic that appears to be a psychedelic new mythology of apocalyptic eco-horror. I think. I can't say what this book was about other than being creepy and weird. There is no story, only moods, images, and impressionistic character appearances. The Southern Reach trilogy meandered into this territory, and made things interesting, but that was because at least those books had clear characters and a facade of a narrative. Dead Astronauts is Southern Reach on acid in another time and place. I can't be honest and give this anything but 1 star. Its not a good book in my judgement and I did not like it. I can see there is an aesthetic that appears to be a psychedelic new mythology of apocalyptic eco-horror. I think. I can't say what this book was about other than being creepy and weird. There is no story, only moods, images, and impressionistic character appearances. The Southern Reach trilogy meandered into this territory, and made things interesting, but that was because at least those books had clear characters and a facade of a narrative. Dead Astronauts is Southern Reach on acid in another time and place.I can't be honest and give this anything but 1 star. Its not a good book in my judgement and I did not like it. I can see there is an aesthetic that appears to be a psychedelic new mythology of apocalyptic eco-horror. I think. I can't say what this book was about other than being creepy and weird. There is no story, only moods, images, and impressionistic character appearances. The Southern Reach trilogy meandered into this territory, and made things interesting, but that was because at least those books had clear characters and a facade of a narrative. Dead Astronauts is Southern Reach on acid in another time and place.I can't be honest and give this anything but 1 star. Its not a good book in my judgement and I did not like it. I can see there is an aesthetic that appears to be a psychedelic new mythology of apocalyptic eco-horror. I think. I can't say what this book was about other than being creepy and weird. There is no story, only moods, images, and impressionistic character appearances. The Southern Reach trilogy meandered into this territory, and made things interesting, but that was because at least those books had clear characters and a facade of a narrative. Dead Astronauts is Southern Reach on acid in another time and place.I can't be honest and give this anything but 1 star. Its not a good book in my judgement and I did not like it. I can see there is an aesthetic that appears to be a psychedelic new mythology of apocalyptic eco-horror. I think. I can't say what this book was about other than being creepy and weird. There is no story, only moods, images, and impressionistic character appearances. The Southern Reach trilogy meandered into this territory, and made things interesting, but that was because at least those books had clear characters and a facade of a narrative. Dead Astronauts is Southern Reach on acid in another time and place.I can't be honest and give this anything but 1 star. Its not a good book in my judgement and I did not like it. I can see there is an aesthetic that appears to be a psychedelic new mythology of apocalyptic eco-horror. I think. I can't say what this book was about other than being creepy and weird. There is no story, only moods, images, and impressionistic character appearances. The Southern Reach trilogy meandered into this territory, and made things interesting, but that was because at least those books had clear characters and a facade of a narrative. Dead Astronauts is Southern Reach on acid in another time and place.I can't be honest and give this anything but 1 star. Its not a good book in my judgement and I did not like it. I can see there is an aesthetic that appears to be a psychedelic new mythology of apocalyptic eco-horror. I think. I can't say what this book was about other than being creepy and weird. There is no story, only moods, images, and impressionistic character appearances. The Southern Reach trilogy meandered into this territory, and made things interesting, but that was because at least those books had clear characters and a facade of a narrative. Dead Astronauts is Southern Reach on acid in another time and place.I can't be honest and give this anything but 1 star. Its not a good book in my judgement and I did not like it. I can see there is an aesthetic that appears to be a psychedelic new mythology of apocalyptic eco-horror. I think. I can't say what this book was about other than being creepy and weird. There is no story, only moods, images, and impressionistic character appearances. The Southern Reach trilogy meandered into this territory, and made things interesting, but that was because at least those books had clear characters and a facade of a narrative. Dead Astronauts is Southern Reach on acid in another time and place.I can't be honest and give this anything but 1 star. Its not a good book in my judgement and I did not like it. I can see there is an aesthetic that appears to be a psychedelic new mythology of apocalyptic eco-horror. I think. I can't say what this book was about other than being creepy and weird. There is no story, only moods, images, and impressionistic character appearances. The Southern Reach trilogy meandered into this territory, and made things interesting, but that was because at least those books had clear characters and a facade of a narrative. Dead Astronauts is Southern Reach on acid in another time and place. the end

  22. 5 out of 5

    Samantha (AK)

    Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a weird dream. And I mean a weird dream, the kind that makes perfect, horrific sense while it’s happening and haunts you into waking hours, until you try to explain it to a friend or sibling and just Can’t. Find. The Words. Dead Astronauts is like that dream. Causality is fluid, the narrators unreliable and yet speaking only truth, in the way that trickster spirits do. (It’s appropriate then, that the fox features so strongly.) There’s very little that’s solid Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a weird dream. And I mean a weird dream, the kind that makes perfect, horrific sense while it’s happening and haunts you into waking hours, until you try to explain it to a friend or sibling and just Can’t. Find. The Words. Dead Astronauts is like that dream. Causality is fluid, the narrators unreliable and yet speaking only truth, in the way that trickster spirits do. (It’s appropriate then, that the fox features so strongly.) There’s very little that’s solid enough to latch onto; only one of the many narrators is actually human. This is the biggest shift from Borne, because now the reader isn’t just confronting alien consciousness, but inhabiting it. Enjoying this book requires a willingness to let go and tumble along through the varying layers of time and space and reality until you eventually come to rest at the end. If you’ve read Borne, you’ll recognize many of the narrators and world-elements: The Dead Astronauts, the Duck with the Broken Wing, The Blue Fox, the Salamander Rain, The Leviathan. This doesn’t necessarily make them explicable, but it does make them less random. If you haven’t read Borne... good luck. This is a major bit of experimental fiction. There are a lot of fun things happening with language and the placement of language on the page. Also typographical variations (faded and bolded text). An audiobook would require some serious interpretation to get the same effect. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I enjoyed it. (And yes, I am prone to weird dreams.)

  23. 5 out of 5

    jeremy

    nothing. what a nothing you made out of the world you were given. jeff vandermeer's new novel, dead astronauts, is ethereal, atmospheric, nebulous, and transmogrifying. at once allusive and elusive, this curious, ambitious tale stretches boundaries of both storytelling and reality. vandermeer's prose is frequently enchanting, his images often vivid and striking, yet dead astronauts has perhaps too slack a tether.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Philipp

    2020 starts strong! This is certainly not an easy read - it's set in the same universe as Borne, which was about a Company in a City which keeps on releasing strange biotech projects into a post-apocalyptic world (potentially, the biotech caused the collapse). In Borne, humans have to scavenge, and Mord, a huge flying bear, oversees everything. Dead Astronauts is set in the same world but it's a much more challenging read. It's first about three humans, maybe humans, named Chen, Grayson, Moss, who 2020 starts strong! This is certainly not an easy read - it's set in the same universe as Borne, which was about a Company in a City which keeps on releasing strange biotech projects into a post-apocalyptic world (potentially, the biotech caused the collapse). In Borne, humans have to scavenge, and Mord, a huge flying bear, oversees everything. Dead Astronauts is set in the same world but it's a much more challenging read. It's first about three humans, maybe humans, named Chen, Grayson, Moss, who try to fight the Company - the biotech has given them somehow given the chance to fight the Company across different realities, choosing the timeline or reality where the fight is possible, meeting or not meeting their equivalents in those timelines, always finding Charlie X who may or may not have started it all. There's a extremely powerful duck who sometimes helps and sometimes fights them. There's a huge blue fox who appears only once and who may be the real reason the whole reality-switching thing works. The second half goes somewhere else, into the history of the Company, and then circles back to the astronauts. There's a huge fish-like thing called Behemoth (and many other names) who may have merged with Moss (or has a part of her within him), who interacts with an unnamed You, someone who found the diary of Charlie X, the one who worked for the Company and set off all the events that cause the City to be the way it is. To me, Dead Astronauts feels closer to Ransmayr's The Last World or Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress than to other weird fiction - it's not an easy book to read, it's not an easy book to follow, there are many wonderful tracks and hints as to the world itself - for example, the later protagonist says they're homeless. Homelessness implies the existence of home-owners. Home-owners imply the existence of private property, which has to be protected by some kind of law, by some kind of state. So was there even an apocalypse? Is the City more like a restricted zone, similar to VanderMeer's Annihilation, or like the Strugatsky's Stalker? At some point the You says that where they live, running into biotech creatures should be impossible - so the City must be a restricted area, not a global event. Anyway, if you're into strange novels with no 'classic' plot-structure but a whole lot of atmosphere then this is good for you.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Mind-blowing. Review to come after I wrap my head around it. My sense is that most poor ratings are from people who came to the book looking for a standard SF/fantasy page-turner, which it is not, so caveat emptor.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Aimee Dars

    Set in the universe introduced in Borne, Dead Astronauts begins with an army of three who are determined to save the world from the Company. Begins, however, may not be the right word because time, in this book, has little meaning. Not only do the “astronauts” exist outside of—or possibly within any—time or place, the book itself is told out of sequence. Jeff VanderMeer shifts perspective often, from a homeless woman who finds the journal of a mad scientist who works for the Company to the mad Set in the universe introduced in Borne, Dead Astronauts begins with an army of three who are determined to save the world from the Company. Begins, however, may not be the right word because time, in this book, has little meaning. Not only do the “astronauts” exist outside of—or possibly within any—time or place, the book itself is told out of sequence. Jeff VanderMeer shifts perspective often, from a homeless woman who finds the journal of a mad scientist who works for the Company to the mad scientist himself. The creatures of the Company’s seemingly purposeless experiments, too, get voices, from the Behemoth living in one of the Company’s holding ponds to the murderous duck with a broken wing and the wise Blue Fox. While I’m not quite sure I understand Dead Astronauts (in fact, I’m sure I don’t completely), I know that liked reading this postmodern novel. Some passages are so beautiful, I had tears in my eyes and some had me nodding my head in agreement—particularly when the Blue Fox discusses human’s hypocrisy when it comes to our attitudes versus actions in terms of the environment. I was (and am) ready to give up the earth to the Blue Fox, who I’m sure would be a better steward even though he might eat me for dinner. Obviously, though, this book is not going to be for everyone, but readers who enjoy challenging, experimental novels or climate fiction should without a doubt add this to their reading list. A side note: while this is set in the Borne universe, it is not a sequel, nor is it necessary to have read Borne to understand Dead Astronauts. A minimum of 20% of royalties from Dead Astronauts will be donated to The Center for Biological Diversity, The Friends of the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, and other environmental organizations because Jeff VanderMeer is the bomb. Thank you to Edelweiss and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Edelweiss for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Shiveley

    With Dead Astronauts, VanderMeer returns to his lyrical puzzle box of prose roots. Much like many of the protagonists in this book the words of the world that he builds, line by line, truncated paragraph and unexpected line break by...well you get the point, are at times mystifying and dense. The feeling of having tapped into someone else's fever dream and having to sit still and quiet as the roots of the novel find their way under your skin and into your cells can be one of overloaded stimuli With Dead Astronauts, VanderMeer returns to his lyrical puzzle box of prose roots. Much like many of the protagonists in this book the words of the world that he builds, line by line, truncated paragraph and unexpected line break by...well you get the point, are at times mystifying and dense. The feeling of having tapped into someone else's fever dream and having to sit still and quiet as the roots of the novel find their way under your skin and into your cells can be one of overloaded stimuli but it is as always a pleasurable drowning. It is a too rare a treat to dip back into VanderMeer's labyrinths of thought and let myself stumble through them never knowing when the tight corridors will open up and drop me into an expanding vista that will take my breath away.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kanootcha

    This novel is as frustrating as an abstract painting, sure there may be plenty of technique, but in the end what's the point. Like an abstract, you probably have to ask the artist to get the explanation, or perhaps a pretentious tool standing nearby. In the end you think to yourself, I could have created that, if I could be bothered. Or, in the case of this novel you may eventually conclude that it was more like an experimental piece that replicates what the current generation of AI come up with This novel is as frustrating as an abstract painting, sure there may be plenty of technique, but in the end what's the point. Like an abstract, you probably have to ask the artist to get the explanation, or perhaps a pretentious tool standing nearby. In the end you think to yourself, I could have created that, if I could be bothered. Or, in the case of this novel you may eventually conclude that it was more like an experimental piece that replicates what the current generation of AI come up with when you give them the first sentence of a tweet and allow them to finish it...but no one turned it off and it kept looping for 350 pages.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Morton

    Do you understand? Nothing thrives without being broken. Nothing exists without being dead first *expanded and edited the below* I know it’s been a handful of years since Borne was released - for me the separation between the books is like 3 days - but this feels like a really huge stylistic leap from there to here. The Strange Bird actually is a decent step in this direction, but this just leaves it all behind. The thing about Bourne that kind of held it back for me was the Rachel narrator - and Do you understand? Nothing thrives without being broken. Nothing exists without being dead first *expanded and edited the below* I know it’s been a handful of years since Borne was released - for me the separation between the books is like 3 days - but this feels like a really huge stylistic leap from there to here. The Strange Bird actually is a decent step in this direction, but this just leaves it all behind. The thing about Bourne that kind of held it back for me was the Rachel narrator - and it's really mostly that she's so normal, surrounded by this kind of sea of weirdness- it adds this very accessible sheen over the whole book. Accessibility is not really a big sticking point to me, it's just that story itself is pretty far removed from normal - and many of the other entities that populate the city during the narrative have in many ways began the transition to posthuman - that having Rachel be so normal (while it does make the book very, very readable) is a bit of a disconnect, even if you factor in some of revelations about her that come towards the end of the book. The Strange Bird takes a step away from that. It's not first person, but it's very much told from a close over shoulder perspective of the titular Strange Bird. It is a few steps removed from normal based on this non-human perspective, and even though a lot of it is told kind of in parallel to Bourne, it ultimately comes off as more distant and removed from present reality, and works better as a piece of weird fiction thanks to this remove. Dead Astronauts just completely leaves all of that behind. It’s weird and confusing and it absolutely has to be because it’s attempting to tell a story so very unmoored from humanity. And it is distinctly unmoored from humanity. the following few italicized sentences are very mildly spoilery - not enough where I'm going to tag them, but if you want to avoid any all spoilers just skip these italicized sentences. I mean, a portion of the book (third person) focuses on three "people", two of which are basically not human at all, and all three are easily *arguably* far removed from humanity as we know it. The book is then told from the perspective of the leviathan (first person), a crazy sort-of-human (second person), a mutant duck (first person), a somewhat fox (first person), and even a group of foxes (what is that, first person plural?). It basically contemplates a world where humanity is not the ultimate victor, and does it in a way that is really experimental and weird but ultimately works. And, again, that's really only mildly spoilery as it doesn't get into the plot of the book basically at all. Dead Astronauts feels vital at this moment, especially while Australia is literally burning, while we continue to just bury our heads to the coming looming crashing wave of impending man made disaster where avaricious lust for profits and convenience continues to take priority over actual long term viability of the species as a whole. This is actually a really fucking impressive work. I didn’t expect that, not even with the general vibes of the reviews (though I mostly skimmed them to avoid knowing anything before I read the book); I doubt I’m going to work backward with VanderMeer’s work (I’ll likely end up letting my wife talk me into the Southern Reach stuff though) but I’ll almost certainly pay attention moving forward. The sentimental tale. The tale you always need to care. Which shows you don’t care. Why we don’t care if you care.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Steven Shaviro

    Jeff VanderMeer is one of the best contemporary authors of what has come to be known as weird fiction, and specifically the New Weird (the title of an anthology VanderMeer edited with his wife, Ann VanderMeer). Most of his books have ecological themes, focusing on the ways that nature, and reality, are quite different from what our anthropocentric prejudices take them to be; many are especially concerned with the environmental destruction that we are causing. That said, VanderMeer is a writer of Jeff VanderMeer is one of the best contemporary authors of what has come to be known as weird fiction, and specifically the New Weird (the title of an anthology VanderMeer edited with his wife, Ann VanderMeer). Most of his books have ecological themes, focusing on the ways that nature, and reality, are quite different from what our anthropocentric prejudices take them to be; many are especially concerned with the environmental destruction that we are causing. That said, VanderMeer is a writer of extraordinary breadth; he never does the same thing twice. DEAD ASTRONAUTS, his new book, is set (more or less - given that here we appear to be in a multiverse that features numerous slightly different versions of the same setting) in the same ravaged world as his previous novel BORNE (which I wrote about here: ). And yet, this is a very different book from BORNE: indeed, its experimental prose makes it quite different from anything else that VanderMeer has published. I was flummoxed at first by the unmooring caused by this new style; the book eventually won me over, but I feel far less sure about the book, what I understand and do not, what I can possibly say about it, than was the case with any of VanderMeer's previous texts. We have human figures traversing a radically disrupted landscape: the Company, familiar from BORNE, has destroyed everything with its crazed genetic experimentation, and its determination to exterminate both the natural world, and any of its own "unnatural" productions that do not serve its purposes of domination. But life persists in the ruins; much of this life is not human, and even the human characters are often not quite, or not entirely, human. In the course of the novel we get a range of viewpoints, human and nonhuman to varying extents; and their stories, though not entirely lacking, are dissolved and refracted into fragments of description and poetic evocation (and sometimes, brute repetition of the same horrendous phrases over and over). My provisional sense of the book is that, where in his prior novels VanderMeer sought to narrate the passing of the human-centered world - which also means narrating the passage into a world that cannot be described and understood narratively, here he tries to give us a book that has already come out of the other side: we get a world that cannot be narrated any longer, though distorted fragments of what used to be narratives still sort of exist as (small) portions of the overall post-human landscape. There is a lot of misery and degradation, but there are also strange hints of beauty, and even of meaning (albeit a non-human sort of meaning). VanderMeer is trying to evoke a world that is radically OTHER to us, and to our efforts at understanding it. I am not sure if he completely succeeds, but he does open up new vistas, take us to new ground. An attempt to apprehend radical otherness has been an important project both of speculative fiction and of what might be called "theory" in the humanities for the last several decades - all these attempts may be seen as responses to the collapse of our dominating anthropocentric world order, as we have been forced, by events ranging from rebellions against oppression to climate catastrophe to scientific discoveries, to abandon our previous humanist certainties. The only thing I can say with anything approaching certainty is that VanderMeer answers this imperative in a radically different way than any of the other thinkers and fiction writers involved in such a project have done. He is showing us the glimmerings of a new world, though I am not sure I can really see its outlines yet.

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