Saturday, February 10, 2018

Hamburger Helpers, Running Around Causing Problems

by Jeff VanderMeer

Read on October 31, 2015.

The cover is gorgeous.  The premise is interesting.  It's gotten a lot of buzz, even if the buzz has a sort of cult feel to it - not mainstream, definitely weird, but supposedly terrific.  I even bumped this into my to-read list over the discouragingly big bunch of my yet-to-be-read Challenge books for this year.

Instead this is a contender for most disappointing read of 2015.  It's not that its bad, per se.  Okay, well maybe it is.  The only way I can admire it is if I look at the writing itself as creating a state in my brain that is akin to what would happen if I tried to read a normal book while I was in Area X.  

The text seems distorted in an unusual way, that's what I'm getting at.  Sentences just don't track right - the words don't quite make a sensible thought. The flow of the book is odd. "Here's this weird green thing. I hid my inner self from my husband. I see the lighthouse."  If all this is on purpose, it might be brilliant, but I don't think that it is.

There's not much meat to build atmosphere or context either.  A complete list of what we get is:  a tower tunnel, a scary blob, a lighthouse, a base camp, something that moans, a photograph, a pile of paper, and three women. Possibly an island?  And that's it.  

The other problem here is that it's a psychological study told in the first person, and that person is a bit of a wet rag.  She never draws the obvious conclusion about a situation. She describes things in opposite ways, at least one time doing it in thoughts that are only inches apart on the page.  She uses the word really in dialogue. A lot.  

Then there's this talk of hand-shaped fruiting bodies, and after that, all I can picture are lots of little Hamburger Helpers running around causing problems.

Final call:

Maybe two and a half. At least its quick?  To give this perspective - this is the first in a trilogy.  Using page counts, over three Annihilations could fit inside The Passage, which is itself the first in a trilogy.

If you like this, try:
H.P. Lovecraft
Other books in the 'New Weird' genre.

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