Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer [5/10]

Jeff VanderMeer is one of the most daring, eloquent science fiction authors we have. His Southern Reach trilogy (the first book of which, “Annihilation“, was turned into a wonderful movie) set a new standard for weird yet stunningly relevant writing. 2017’s “Borne” was a stunning, innovative triumph about biotech apocalypse. I’ve adored all of these and therefore hung out for “Dead Astronauts,” a novel in the broad Borne world but even more out-there in conception. So it is with regret that I report that my read of “Dead Astronauts” was an extended, puzzled letdown. Intricately pivoting around a time-and-space epic involving three rebels battling the world-butchering Company and its maniacal scientist, Charlie X, an initial wild ride had me poised on the edge, but then the remainder of the novel turned into a blancmange of uber-wild authorial experimentations. Tenuous plot links do attempt to tie it all together but in the end, I lurched past the climax baffled, half admiring, and fully irritated. Experimental and often beautiful, “Dead Astronauts” might captivate you but left me behind.

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