I’ve now read nearly 20 books this year, and have yet to rate any of them 4 or more stars. Granted, this is partially my fault for re-reading two mediocre fantasy series from the 80’s. That, at least, allowed the realization that the state of fantasy fiction, the talent level of the writers, is in a much better place now than 30 years ago.
Still, I have read a number of highly regarded books this year that didn’t live up to my expectations. I liked Ancillary Justice (winner of many awards) and Caliban’s War, but I didn’t quite really like them, and certainly didn’t love them. I disliked the peculiarly popular The Martian. I didn’t much like Divergent, though I don’t know if that is well-regarded except by teenagers.
Finally, and part of the justification of this post’s title, I only liked Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation. I wanted to love it. I think he’s a tremendous writer, but part of the problem for me is that in most of his stories, and granted I’ve read only a small fraction of his catalog, “weird” seems to be synonymous with unpleasant, grotesque, horrible, and a bunch of other similar adjectives.
I believe weird should just as often be wonderful and amusing and enlightening, and I think it is in real life. Weirdness makes life worth living. (Along with family and friends, and personal goals, of course.) I think it more than likely that Mr. VanderMeer feels the same, with perhaps a bit more focus on the dark side.
So, it is with some excitement, and a tiny amount of trepidation, that I have begun to delve into his recent book on writing called Wonderbook. It looks great. I mean literally, it visually looks, well, wonderful and weird, with bits of darkness and light and a lot of color. As for the writing, I can’t yet comment, but essays by Ursula K. LeGuin, and George R.R. Martin and other people with middle initials, lend to my excitement.
I have a feeling that this is the wonderful book I’ve been waiting for.