Cyclonopedia: Best Horror Novel You’ve Never Heard Of

Reza Negarestani’s first novel Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials is among my favorite books of the aughts, and the most original piece of fiction I’ve read in ages. I have to thank China Mieville for bringing Negarestani to our attention. We’re excerpting the novel in our anthology The Weird, and Reza is a contributor to our forthcoming Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities anthology, working off of an illustration by Mieville.

Think Borges by way of Lovecraft by way of William Burroughs by way of…well, Negarestani. This is a one-off original, by a writer who is only going to get better. For once an Amazon product description comes close to describing a book in all of its complexity:

At once a horror fiction, a work of speculative theology, an atlas of demonology, a political samizdat and a philosophic grimoire, CYCLONOPEDIA is work of theory-fiction on the Middle East, where horror is restlessly heaped upon horror. Reza Negarestani bridges the appalling vistas of contemporary world politics and the War on Terror with the archeologies of the Middle East and the natural history of the Earth itself. CYCLONOPEDIA is a middle-eastern Odyssey, populated by archeologists, jihadis, oil smugglers, Delta Force officers, heresiarchs, corpses of ancient gods and other puppets. The journey to the Underworld begins with petroleum basins and the rotting Sun, continuing along the tentacled pipelines of oil, and at last unfolding in the desert, where monotheism meets the Earth’s tarry dreams of insurrection against the Sun. ‘The Middle East is a sentient entity – it is alive!’ concludes renegade Iranian archeologist Dr. Hamid Parsani, before disappearing under mysterious circumstances. The disordered notes he leaves behind testify to an increasingly deranged preoccupation with oil as the ‘lubricant’ of historical and political narratives. A young American woman arrives in Istanbul to meet a pseudonymous online acquaintance who never arrives. Discovering a strange manuscript in her hotel room, she follows up its cryptic clues only to discover more plot-holes, and begins to wonder whether her friend was a fictional quantity all along. Meanwhile, as the War on Terror escalates, the US is dragged into an asymmetrical engagement with occultures whose principles are ancient, obscure, and saturated in oil. It is as if war itself is feeding upon the warmachines, leveling cities into the desert, seducing the aggressors into the dark heart of oil …

Buy this book.

10 comments on “Cyclonopedia: Best Horror Novel You’ve Never Heard Of

  1. PhilRM says:

    Done! (Except I purchased it from Powell’s, not Amazon.)

    Thanks for the reminder. You made an intriguing, passing reference to this book a while back, but I had completely forgotten about it. That description is amazing.

  2. A fascinating, strange book. I liked the way it shifted register early on, from a lit crit/ mentality to the obsessive one. The working out of its… conceit? mythos? was remarkably, almost ruthlessly sustained.

    Maybe my best choice for plane reading in 2010.

  3. JimO says:

    hard to pass up a book that you and China Mieville recommend. just purchased it.

  4. GlenH says:

    “At once a horror fiction, a work of speculative theology, an atlas of demonology, a political samizdat and a philosophic grimoire”

    That’s all they really had to say to pique my interest.

  5. Ennis Drake says:

    “Borges by way of Lovecraft . . .” STFU! That was the fastest book-buying decision I’ve made in months; and it cannot arrive fast enough.

    There’s only one left in stock now at Amazon, peoples. You’re going to have to fight over it.

  6. edkeller says:

    I’ve been suggesting to my students for over a year that this is the book to read
    to get their fingers on the pulse beating in the weird, multi-chambered heart
    that is Post Empire. And yes, it’s HP Lovecraft, along for the ride on the
    boat in Apocalypse Now, and Kurtz channeling Deleuze, and the boat’s chef
    really into solar magneto-hydrodynamics as a way of understanding the
    ontology of all things. And Willard : a rogue Persian Numerologist decrypting
    numbers stations on his anabatic journey against the flow of time, heading
    home. Utterly brilliant.

  7. Vladimir says:

    Hi Jeff, at the risk of being sorta self-serving– I looked up this book and LOW and BEHOLD: It’s available through the Espresso Book Machine!
    So if you’re in Seattle or Bellingham, or Vermont, or Grand Rapid, or… you can watch it get printed out for you. Very cool. I’m going to print one out for myself *right now*. Cheers,
    Vladimir, Third Place Press.

  8. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Vladimir–hey, any time you’d like to be self-serving here, be my guest!

  9. JimO says:

    50 pages in and I cannot fathom anything about this book. Maybe I am not smart enough. Have to give up. I really wanted to dig this but I cannot understand or process this stuff.

  10. derker says:

    i think i’ll wait for nick land’s new one…

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