PositiveThe New YorkerThe Long Haul is an occupational memoir with an untold human story at its center. In crushingly hard work, Murphy seems to be escaping from himself ... At times, Murphy seems determined to unearth a philosophy of long-haul moving. His goal is to practice moving and trucking in an elevated way. To articulate this philosophy, Murphy devotes much of The Long Haul to the nuances of moving ... What stays in your mind at the end of The Long Haul is that feeling of flight. Philosophically, emotionally, practically, Murphy has found ways to feel at home while on the run. He’s made moving a way of life.
RaveThe RumpusThe Thousand Autumns is a strange, chimeric creation. It’s deeply researched, like a proper historical drama, but it’s also luridly melodramatic, like a 19th century adventure story … There are twists and turns in the plot, but they happen within the safe confines of genre, and so can’t be truly surprising: forbidden cross-cultural romances blossom and are thwarted; irritating characters introduced early turn out to be basically decent; you know you’ve met the villain because he looks ‘like a hunting dog listening to the sound of its prey.’ Part of the novel’s cleverness is that these tropes strike Jacob as unreal, too, as he combs through the company’s books on Dejima: In some ways, he’s a 19th century man trapped in the 18th century. But it’s also the case that The Thousand Autumns is a special kind of modern novel, one in which the story steps through genres the way a concerto steps through its movements.
RaveThe New YorkerTeams of explorers are sent into Area X. They find that the nature there is strange. The purple thistles seem unnaturally eager. The sky is too full of birds; the long grass is teeming with little red grasshoppers. Everything is too alive. The explorers feel watched by things—plants, the sky—that can’t actually watch; in a paranoid moment, one of them suggests that all of Area X could be camouflage for a single, diffuse living process or thing … In today’s literary landscape, it’s natural for the Southern Reach books to find themselves grouped together with the broadly ecological, post-apocalyptic stories that are now in vogue. But there’s not much that’s post-apocalyptic about VanderMeer’s novels. They’re not interested in how life ends, but in how it changes, and they are fascinated by the question of persistence through change.