cover image None of This Is Normal: The Fiction of Jeff VanderMeer

None of This Is Normal: The Fiction of Jeff VanderMeer

Benjamin J. Robertson. Univ. of Minnesota, $19.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-5179-0293-3

The primary thrust of this heavy-going academic study of the fantastical fiction of Jeff VanderMeer is that his “fictional worlds manifest materialities that do not represent the given reality that realistic, mimetic, historical, and critical fiction assume.” Analyzing the discontinuities and ambiguities that characterize the strange worlds of the author’s Veniss, Ambergris, and Southern Reach series, Robertson, an assistant English professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, identifies what he refers to as a fantastic kind of materialism in VanderMeer’s fiction: “one that defies any apparent convention” and gives the work its unique, distinctively discomforting character, as in VanderMeer’s depiction of “the Zone,” an eerie area filled with natural mutations, in the Southern Reach books. Robertson also discusses the author’s affiliation with the “New Weird,” a term coined in 2003 for a kind of fiction that blends genre tropes in order to escape cliché. Unfortunately, Robertson’s jargon-laden prose is often hard to penetrate: “Posthumanism may be a reciprocal consequence of living in a milieu.” VanderMeer’s fiction is certainly deserving of serious scholarly study, but this book is more about the critical methodologies applicable to his stories than to the stories themselves, and, as such, will have rather limited appeal, even among VanderMeer’s fans.[em] (Nov.) [/em]