Sunday, August 17, 2014

These Books Will Change Your Life - Apocalypticon by the Clayton Smith and Annihilation by the Jeff VanderMeer.

There is vacation, and an isolated strip of beach and marsh and deer and fecund plant life, creeping everywhere, green and moist. There is death in countries far away, and much closer to home in militarized communities, as well as, suicide and disease. There is also read. Specifically, Apocalypticon by the Clayton Smith and Annihilation by the Jeff VanderMeer. These books were not selected as intentional efforts to illuminate the state of the world, much less our choice of where to travel. They were next on pile and they are beach reads. But they are also stories about nature, fear, and violence run amock. Apocalypticon is a Midnight Run for the dystopically inclined. Or, maybe The Road crossed with Some Like It Hot, sans the cross-dressing. All external banter and journey, but fucking A funny, even if built around disintegration, loss, and a sadness that cannot be fully faced.
On the face of it, Annihilation is somewhat its opposite in terms of approach. All internal search in terms of not just the protagonist's journey into her own insulated psyche, but the murky, self-contained, bio-hazard world she explores as well. Both remind us however, that the best speculative work is never very far removed from what we know: scared people do terrible things; there is an ongoing disintegration of family, even as we redefine what family can be; and the environment is morphing into something we cannot hope to contain, much less understand. Further, humor may be one of chief defenses against all of it, but we cannot deny that while we may prefer to avoid making hard decisions, there is a growing, and global, psychic rot of our own creation that we will not escape, unless we are willing to change the way we live, and begin to embrace the belief that the world deserves better.

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