By Jeff VanderMeer
For years now Jeff VanderMeer has been carving out his own genre niche, as an editor, anthologist, and author. The label most easily attached to it is that of “weird” fiction, identified as writing that is an imaginative, sometimes disorienting blend of SF, fantasy, and horror. VanderMeer co-edited a massive volume of The Weird and most of his own writing fits the same bill.
Dead Astronauts is set in the same weird universe as Borne, though it’s not really a sequel. In fact, given how confused the time scheme is the notion of sequence may not apply. A trio of quasi-human figures are on a mission to the City to destroy the Company. The City is the same (or at least appears the same) as the mutant-ridden warren of ruins and biotech run wild of Borne. It also bears some resemblance to the psychedelic cancer-in-Disneyland of Area X described in the Southern Reach Trilogy. In this realm of infinite plasticity time itself has been perverted, or is merely perverse. We learn that the three have been on this mission a long time. Or no time at all. Either way, it seems that alternate realities are running out.
It is a world bereft of landmarks, and perhaps without meaning. At least that’s what we’re told. One reader will confess his inability to draw much out of this primordial tidal pool of language. Rich in imagination, experimental in form, intellectually incoherent, Dead Astronauts is both alien and alienating. Some readers will find it a trip. Others will get a headache. Many drugs have that same effect.