Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Review: Dead Astronauts by Jeff Vandermeer

It's been a long time since I have been so disappointed by a book. I thought about writing a long fiery screed ripping this book to shreds, but I actually don't hate the book. The problem is precisely that I could not care less about this book. Although I was brought close to tears by Vandermeer's Borne and Strange Bird, I felt no emotional investment in any creature (or plant....) in Dead Astronauts. Despite the inordinate amount of suffering portrayed in the book, it all felt flat. There were no stakes - everything was just consistently terrible and hopeless in the world. The plot and the chronology was confusing and mysterious, but not in an enticing way where I wanted to reflect on it, to untangle it. The themes were... somehow the most straightforward thing about the entire book. Humans aren't the only creatures that can feel pain, consider research ethics, watch out for monopolies, protect the environment, trauma is passed down through generations.

The strangest thing about the book is that you could flip to a random paragraph, and it would have intriguing and beautiful sentences woven together. And somehow, those fascinating paragraphs combine to become something much less than the sum of their parts.

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