Sometimes, when I read a book, or become immersed in a particular kind of film, I begin searching. Searching for what—I’m not sure I even know. Maybe truth. Maybe revelation. Maybe I’m searching for that magic analogy that will help me to understand the human condition in a way I couldn’t have understood it before. Maybe I’m searching for a copy of myself. I don’t know. None of that seems perfectly correct, but none of it seems perfectly incorrect either. I suppose that’s why I begin searching in the first place.
Maybe you do this too, and if you do, then you know how often that search can end in disappointment. Truly, you end up having projected importance onto a story that was nothing more than smoke and mirrors from the outset. Most often, the story is a mechanism created to hold your attention, and nothing more. You are left searching for a greater meaning that was never there. Sometimes, when a storyteller is actually trying to convey greater meaning, they only capture a glimmer, just for a moment, but ultimately lose grasp of it, and something promising falls apart. Your search leaves you feeling unfulfilled.
So, if you have been on that ambiguous search that I’m talking about, then you also know that disappointment. If you know that search, then you also know there’s a trap to fall into. You know what your weaknesses are. You know the smoke and mirrors that get you every time. It’s the hook you will always take, no matter how many times it leaves you strung up on someone’s line.
The first book of Jeff VanderMeer’s trilogy, Annihilation, is the hook that I had to take, knowing that I was setting myself up for likely disappointment. Its smoke created the perfect screen to pique my curiosity, and its mirrors reflected the silhouettes that I had to chase down. That first book devoured me so completely that I was ashamed of how much I succumbed to it. After finishing, I moved on to the second book like a junkie injecting their fix, cursing the poison that had gained mastery over me. I had begun that ambiguous search again.
If the first book had set the hook, the second book, Authority, was reeling me in at a ferocious rate. I read and re-read passages as if they were incantations, sure to produce a revelatory vision. I regarded the book as if I had stumbled upon some ancient scroll that could unbind the universe. Damn it, I was caught up in it. When I tried to tear my head away from it, it still had me pondering its greater meaning. It was a pressure buried in my thought, it was a brightness embedded in my chest, its shadows were at the corners of my eyes, I could feel it on my fingertips, and I couldn’t wash it off.
The book had me ready to receive that message that I’m always searching for. I wanted it so damn bad. I was ready to peer down into the winding darkness, I was ready to walk across the swirling light of the void, I was ready to jump into the abyss, and the whole time I would be praying that this time would not end in disappointment. This time there had to be something worthy of the search. This time there had to be something that should be found, that needed to be found.
I burst through the surface of the third book, Acceptance, knowing that I had left myself vulnerable to another let down. Yet, as I read along, I realized that I would not be let down. This time, unlike so many expeditions that had come before it, I did find something worth the search. There it was, shining upon the surface of the grass, moving below the water like a great gray shadow, flitting through the air like an alien dust, exactly what I was looking for, exactly what I am always looking for.
• • •
I don’t know how to begin to review a work such as The Southern Reach Trilogy. I don’t know how to evaluate it, quantify it, or qualify it. I sure as shit don’t know how to parse it into a few paragraphs that will convince you that it is worthy of your attention. All I can communicate to you is that it is worthy of your attention because it holds within its pages something true. It’s something we just couldn’t find the right analogy for.
A little embarrassed, he said, “That fish down there sure is frightened of you.”
“Huh? It just doesn’t know me. If it knew me, that fish would shake my hand.”
“I don’t think there’s anything you could say to convince it of that. And there are all kinds of ways you could hurt it without meaning to.” Watching those unblinking eyes with the gold streaks—the dark vertical pupil—that seemed like a fundamental truth
• • •
Dylan Lee Peters
Author of The Dean Machine and The Everflame Series
1. I will, with almost 100% certainty, never write another novel under the title of Everflame. In that respect, the Everflame Series is completed.
2. Everflame and The Dean Machine are parts of a larger story that will be told in my next series of novels. They are connected in that they each take place in the same universe. The Everflame Series is a story of this universe’s ancient past, and The Dean Machine a story of its future.
3. Characters from both The Everflame Series and The Dean Machine will have major roles in this new series I will be writing.
Stay tuned for more information about this new project, and clues as to which characters will be along for the next adventure. In the meantime, make sure you are caught up with the story in the Everflame Series, and The Dean Machine.
I came to this party late. Very late. I abstained from watching The Walking Dead until last year. I’ve never been into the zombie genre. It always seemed so one-dimensional. Zombies attack, everyone runs, and ultimately no one escapes. The story ends in the inevitable pig pile of death. So, for a very long time, I assumed The Walking Dead would follow the same arc. I had even watched Season One: Episode One a few years ago, and concluded that the show would be exactly what I thought it was going to be. So I judged it unworthy of my time, and forgot about it.
It turned out that I was wrong. After years of hearing others call the show “the best on TV,” my wife and I reluctantly gave the show another chance. Our reasoning, if for nothing else, was that we needed to find out why everyone was hooked on The Walking Dead. We needed the mania to at least make sense. Season one of the show is still utterly boring in my opinion, but about halfway through season two, we were hooked. The story was certainly not one-dimensional; in fact, it was going places I didn’t think a television show ever would. We were binge watching on Netflix, night after night, loving the character building, the shocking deaths, and finding ourselves admitting we were wrong about The Walking Dead. It wasn’t just a show about zombies. It was a show about people, survival, and finding hope against seemingly insurmountable odds.
We caught up to the show just after Rick Grimes and his group found themselves behind the walls of Alexandria. At this point we were hooked. At this point we were Walking Dead fans.
But that’s where everything changed for me. In my opinion, the show has devolved into something lesser since that point. The characters had been sufficiently built, but in Alexandria we are forced to watch them stagnate. Carol is no longer bad-ass, and Daryl’s crossbow never seems to get enough of the spotlight. The plotline has fits and starts, and the show has lost the ability to make me believe they just might kill off anyone. The Walking Dead had never been boring, but now it felt like it was becoming so. It all came to a head with last night’s season finale, as I watched Rick and his group held hostage, on their knees, waiting for the next blow to come, and it never came. Not for the audience anyway. As the screen went black, the credits rolled, and the realization that I had just wasted another 90 minutes of my life washed over me. A much more sobering epiphany struck.
This is when I realized that as an audience, we were just like the characters of the show. We were hostages, on our knees, waiting for something to happen so we can stand back up… but nothing really happened.
Ask yourself this: what are the enduring images of last night’s episode? You will certainly see Negan with his baseball bat, Lucille, but think past that, what else do you remember? What stands prominently in your mind? For me it’s the repeated ads pushing us to watch Better Call Saul, or Fear The Walking Dead. Ask yourself why last might needed 90 minutes to tell a story that went nowhere instead of 60. Ask yourself why, when you hear the echoes of last night in your mind, you hear “AMC’s The Walking Dead.” I’ve never felt like I was watching HBO’s Game of Thrones, or USA’s Mr. Robot, but it’s definitely AMC’s The Walking Dead.
And this is why, when after 90 minutes of watching filler and commercials just to see who Negan was going to kill–because let’s be honest with ourselves, that’s all last night was–and then not be told who got that baseball bat to the head, I’m absolutely done watching this show. Last night was my series finale.
I will endure advertising for a good story, but I refuse to be strung along like some mindless fool, hooked up to the advertising machine, allowing myself to be shown ad, after ad, after ad, and be given nothing in return. We received no quality entertainment, no story, no resolution, and this has been happening since the walls of Alexandria appeared on the horizon. We’re all just kneeling in the mud, and watching commercials.
AMC’s Negan was exactly right, and it felt like he was speaking to AMC’s audience.
“Give me your shit or I will kill you. Today was career day. We invested a lot, and you know who I am, and what I can do. You work for me now. You have shit; you give it to me. That’s your job. Now I know that is a mighty big, nasty pill to swallow, but swallow it you most certainly will.”
Nah. I’m good. I’m not giving AMC half my shit anymore.
You really want to know who AMC’s The Walking Dead killed off last night?