Review: Colony Collapse, by J.A. Tyler

Colony Collapse

J.A. Tyler

Lazy Fascist, 2013

128 pages

I’ve had this book sitting around for quite a while, but I only got around to reading it recently. I’m like that with a lot of books. Especially if I’m not overly familiar with the author. I started it a few times, but never really sunk into it. I bought it because it’s got that trademark Lazy Fascist aesthetic to it. The strange, vague plot description, the stunning cover design, and the promise of high quality, unique prose. This book reads like a dream. Or a puzzle. On the back cover, there is simply the word “Deathly” and nothing else. This book is about a man who is a deer lost in the forest. He builds a house with a chimney and gutters for the rain. He traps foxes and bears and burns them with the house to the ground. He is looking for his deer-brother. His brother has ten daughters that thrown death blankets over him. He imagines he has daughters of his own, made out of forest and mountain and sky. He searches for his brother, yet all he has to go off is a piece of paper with a black dot on it which signifies his own death. If this is not a dream or a puzzle, then the forest must represent some form of maze. It feels like the sort of book that each person would read and take away something different from it. The prose is very rhythmic and cyclic. It always comes back to being lost in the forest, building and burning houses, facing death, huddling under death blankets, imagining daughters, trapping and killing foxes and bears, and searching for his brother. Is this nature? Why is this family so elusive? What is the meaning of being lost and alone in the forest? Searching for family.

For a while I felt as though it were all about the character coming to terms with his own sexuality. He wants to have a family like his brother. He wants so many daughters. He is loved by a woman, but he is incapable of loving her back. He loves his imagined daughters, yet he cannot love a woman. A homosexual deer in the woods, abandoned by his family? Searching for his kind yet only discovering he doesn’t belong anywhere? I was having these thoughts later on in the book, yet by its conclusion I felt like this ‘theory’ I had wasn’t the solution to the puzzle, the riddle to the end of the maze. Instead, I don’t think this book can be summed up with one single crystalized idea. Nature is complicated. It becomes more complicated the moment you try to break it down and understand it. It becomes jarred the moment you try to build it up into something it isn’t. It’s about death and loss and family. It’s about love, searching for something, trying to figure things out for yourself. The prose is fantastic, the imagery is vivid, yet fluid – ever changing. Colony Collapse is introspective. Colony Collapse is mesmerizing.

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