Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The cover of this book (I won’t call it a novel) must have a mention. It’s gorgeous to see in person, it’s gorgeous to see in pictures, it’s gorgeous to touch.
Note above that I feel I can’t call it a novel. The book reads like poetry, like a novel length work of prose verse. Rhythm, imagery, repetition, and thematic overtures take precedence over the story. There is a narrative, but it is spun fine and cast wide like a net.
Borne (the previous book set in the same multiverse post apocalypse) followed a tight character arc. Yes there was crazy biotech mutant apocalypse stuff, yes a floating golden bear the size of a building, and enormous monster warfare, but at its heart Borne was a story of found family: a young couple struggling to navigate the changes in their relationship caused by the addition of a “child” (in this case, a blob monster child that grows to the size of cities) while dealing with their own baggage (enormous vast trauma). It is a personal story with wild, multi hued surrealist trappings.
DEAD ASTRONAUTS is very far from Borne. There is no close character arc, no diving into a layered emotional journey. If anything, it is almost an esoteric tribute to angry cosmic magical foxes who want to eliminate humanity for fairly good reasons, the landscape populated by dead astronauts and lost women who drift disconsaltely in and out of the narrative.
Is it good? Sure.
Is it a novel? Not… Really.
Is it a sequel? Sort of?
Would I recommend it? Yes, but not as an entry point to Vandermeer. Best to read Borne first, or better yet, Annihilation and THEN Borne. It may also help if you enjoy poetry / free verse / novels in verse.