Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts presents a City with no name of its own where, in the shadow of the all-powerful Company, lives human and otherwise converge in terrifying and miraculous ways. Get a full look at the cover below, plus read a sneak peek excerpt from Dead Astronauts—available December 3rd from Farrar Straus & Giroux.
A messianic blue fox who slips through warrens of time and space on a mysterious mission. A homeless woman haunted by a demon who finds the key to all things in a strange journal. A giant leviathan of a fish, centuries old, who hides a secret, remembering a past that may not be its own. Three ragtag rebels waging an endless war for the fate of the world against an all-powerful corporation. A raving madman who wanders the desert lost in the past, haunted by his own creation: an invisible monster whose name he has forgotten and whose purpose remains hidden.VanderMeer, “The weird Thoreau,”* makes a mind-bending, form-stretching, altogether dazzling return to the universe of Borne to address one of its central mysteries: the three dead astronauts at the crossroads of the City. At stake: the fate of the future, the fate of Earth—all the Earths. What further terrifying miracles might their stories unlock?*The New Yorker
came unto the city
under an evil star
A glimmer, a glint, at the City’s dusty edge, where the line between sky and land cut the eye. An everlasting gleam that yet evaporated upon the arrival of the three and left behind a smell like chrome and chemicals. Out of a morass and expanse of nothing, for what could live beyond the City? What could thrive there?
Then scuffed the dust, the dirt: A dull boot, a scorpion-creature scuttling for safety much as a human would had a spacecraft crash-landed there. Except the owner of the boot
knew the scorpion was not natural and thus anticipated the scuttle and crushed the biotech beneath one rough heel.
The boot-scuffer was the one of the three who always went first: a tall black woman of indeterminate age named Grayson. She had no hair on her head because she liked velocity. Her left eye was white and yet still she could see through it; why shouldn’t she? The process had been painful and expensive, part of her training a long time ago. Now she could see things no one else could, even when she didn’t want to.
Kicked a rock, sent it tumbling toward the thankless dull scrim of the City. Watched with grim satisfaction as the rock, for an instant, occluded the white egg that was the far-distant Company building to the south.
The other two appeared behind Grayson in the grit, framed by that bloodless sky. Chen and Moss, and with them packs full of equipment and supplies.
Chen was a heavyset man, from a country that was just a word now, with as much meaning as a soundless scream or the place Grayson came from, which didn’t exist anymore either.
Moss remained stubbornly uncommitted—to origin, to gender, to genes, went by “she” this time but not others. Moss could change like other people breathed: without thought, of necessity or not. Moss could open all kinds of doors. But Grayson and Chen had their powers, too.
“Is this the place?” Chen asked, looking around.
“Such a dump,” Grayson said.
“Old haunts never look the same,” Moss said.
“Would be a shame not to save it, no matter how shoddy,” Grayson said.
“Shall we save it, then?” Chen asked.
“No one else will,” Moss said, completing the ritual.
All the echoes of the other times, what they said when things went well, scrubbing what they’d said when it didn’t.
They did not truly speak by now. But thought their speech into one another’s minds, so that they might appear to any observer as calm and impassive as the dirt atop an ancient grave.
How could they dream of home? They saw it continually. They saw it when they closed their eyes to sleep. It was always in front of them, what lay behind, overwriting the places that came next.
Chen said they had arrived at the City under an evil star, and already they were dying again and knew they had no sanctuary here—only accelerant. But the three had been dying for a long time, and had vowed to make their passage as rough, ugly, and prolonged as possible. They would claw and thrash to their end. Stretched halfway to the infinite.
None of it as beautiful or glorious as an equation, though. All of it pushed toward their purpose, for they meant, one of these days or months or years, to destroy the Company and save the future. Some future. Nothing else meant very much anymore, except the love between them. For glory was wasteful, Grayson believed, and Chen cared nothing for beauty that declared itself, for beauty had no morality, and Moss had already given herself over to a cause beyond or above the human.
“While we’re only human,” Grayson might joke, but it was because only Grayson, of the three, could make that claim.
This was their best chance, the closest to the zero version, the original, as they might ever get, this echo of the City. Or so Moss had told them.