13 February 2014
I was remiss in not noting the book release of my friend and comrade Jeff VanderMeer's new novel, Annihilation, the first volume in the Southern Reach Trilogy, to be followed by Authority and Acceptance later this year. It's getting lots of good press, great reviews, and wonderful support from its publishers. (You can read the first chapter here, if you're curious.)
I'm not going to review the book, because I can't really review Jeff's books at this point — I care about them and him too much, so my perspective when reading them is not that of any sort of objective reviewer. However, having now read a draft of Authority, I expect that after I've had a chance to read Acceptance and reread the others, I'll probably try to write something about the books, because I think there are really interesting things going on with regard to language, interpretation, and perception in them — the sorts of topics I find myself obsessively returning to in (semi-)academic critical writing. I haven't seen too many reviewers noting that element of the books, though it's early yet. (Also, I could be delusional.)
In any case, I don't want my previous silence here to suggest that I'm not excited about these books. I am. They're extraordinary work, and they've not only furthered my interest in Jeff's writing (which spans the 10+ -year history of this blog), but have in many ways softened some of my cynicism about the world of commercial publishing, because these are not necessarily books that scream out, "Huge Commercial Appeal!", and yet they have been embraced by adventurous publishers and readers — reminding us that, despite the many idiocies of our mass culture, some adventurous publishers still exist and adventurous readers may, in fact, be more plentiful than we cynics sometimes think.
Adventurous has all sorts of possible meanings. I don't want to scare people away from these books. They're strange and intelligent — intelligently strange — but they're not at all difficult or tedious reading. That's part of their mastery, in fact. I found Authority especially to be a page-turner, and yet I also now want to go back and read it slowly, carefully, because there's so much within it that I'm sure I missed by letting myself be carried along by the compulsively odd narrative.
(Finally, don't let the occasional comparisons reviewers make to Lovecraft put you off. Really, seriously — this book is not Lovecraftesque. If that's what people have for a point of reference, fine, because I know people love them some Lovecraft, and therefore anything that's weird and enticing is for them by default Lovecraftesque ... but Lovecraft's writing makes me groan and puts me to sleep; Annihilation does not, and therefore it is not Lovecraftesque, sez I.)