The penguin is ecstatic, and Waterstones, sharing updates about literature, discovered numerous gifs centered around a new theme: “Take my money”. Fans pleaded for their money to be taken in exchange for a quicker arrival of the book.
All of them were responding to the announcement that Keanu Reeves will be writing his debut novel, titled The Book of Elsewhere, together with the acclaimed British writer China Miéville.
I received a comment on Twitter that said, “I just got so excited as a nerd that I hurt my back.” And by “typical,” I mean that Keanu Reeves fans are unique and diverse like snowflakes, and each one is special.
“Ridiculously excited about this,” tweeted another fan. “Even more excited about the idea of China Miéville and Keanu Reeves being friends.” Sangeeta Waldron called it the “dream writing partnership”.
The local bookstore Book-ish in Crickhowell, Wales also shared their excitement, stating: “We were completely surprised and amazed by the announcement of a new novel co-written by the renowned Keanu Reeves and the incomparable writer China Miéville.”
How can we understand this response? Let’s use an example: do you recall when Eleanor of Portugal married Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III? They seemed like an unlikely match, but together they built an empire that maintained the throne for 400 years. That’s the level of significance we’re talking about here. Reeves and Miéville may hold the title of Weird Novel champions for an indefinite amount of time.
Which of these is an unlikely pairing and why is there excitement? What is the topic? Let’s start with this one: it takes place in the BRZRKR comic book world that Reeves created three years ago, following an immortal warrior searching for the secret to his immortality. Its initial release became the top-selling single-issue comic since Star Wars No 1 in 2015. The rest all plays into our perception of Reeves and what we project onto his enigmatic persona. His cultural contributions feel like mysterious messages from outer space or the past. So complex! There is obviously a purpose behind it. What does it signify? Can it be consumed?
The puzzle has generated its own cultural spin-offs, such as James King’s 2020 book, Be More Keanu, and the forthcoming Keanu Is Not in Love With You. They are probably as different as two books could get: the first is a cute little toilet book, patch-working together wisdom to live by from lines in his classic films. The second is a chatty investigative book about romantic scammers, many of whom, apparently, pretend to be Reeves.
Both books focus on a common trait: the “famously blank expression” described by King. Reeves’ appearance could be seen as the ultimate romantic deception, with no specific appeal but rather appealing to everyone equally. King goes into more detail about this blankness, describing a face that is both stoic like Michelangelo’s and yet deeply absorbed in the present moment. You know how babies can sometimes seem incredibly wise? While I would never dare to compare him to a baby (considering his massive fanbase), Reeves possesses a similar sense of emptiness. He is like a green screen, onto which entire worlds can be projected.
In the community known as the “manosphere,” people have utilized the character of Neo from the movie The Matrix to create the popular red pill/blue pill concept. This idea has long been associated with alt-right ideology, questioning whether one has chosen the correct pill to reject liberal beliefs and embrace their own superiority (the red pill being the correct choice). Another example is the “Sad Keanu” meme from 2010, featuring an image of Keanu Reeves sitting on a bench and eating a sandwich with a sad expression. This meme has been humorously altered numerous times (my personal favorite being one where he has a cat army). Although it is rumored to have originated on 4chan (a hub for the manosphere), the sentiment behind it is actually quite different. It is a representation of a group of playful and unconventional individuals who see Reeves as a symbol of the bittersweet sadness that comes with being human.
Despite never purposefully choosing to be the face or head of this situation, the stories surrounding him always seem to surpass his control. In 2011, he expressed his regret about having his photo taken while eating a sandwich in an interview with the BBC. Despite this, he also published a poetry book called “Ode to Happiness” in collaboration with artist Alexandra Grant that same year. Although it was difficult to obtain even at that time (with rumors that his local bookstore had more copies than Amazon), it now costs almost $2,000 to purchase a second-hand hardcover edition.
That manoeuvre, of taking his apparently uncontrollable image and wrestling it in a weird direction, is repeated with the BRZRKR universe. Its high concept – tough, superhuman hero with a sensitive soul, wracked by the mystery of that contradiction and its origin – is both an echo and a reclamation of the Keanu myth itself. Whatever his motivations, they aren’t money: he is the highest paid actor of all time.
The Book of Elsewhere is a collaborative project between two individuals. What does China Miéville gain from it? It aligns with his reputation as a key figure in the “new weird” literary genre, which emerged in the late 1990s and seeks to blur traditional genre boundaries. It is possible that his strong left-leaning political beliefs also played a role, as he is known for rejecting the divide between popular and elite culture from a Marxist perspective. Alexander Cochran of the C&W literary agency expresses excitement for the partnership between devoted genre fan Keanu Reeves and literary mastermind China Miéville, and eagerly anticipates their joint creation.