Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Title: Annihilation
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Publisher: FSG Originals
Publication Date: February 2014
Genre: speculative fiction

The Premise

From Goodreads…

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

This is the first book in The Southern Reach Trilogy.

The Good

  • This book is creepy af. Like, seriously, disturbingly nightmarish stuff. It’s so weird and so great!!
  • It’s short! I know this might make me sound like a lazy reader, but I love a short book. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a time and place for a big tome, and it’s usually the fantasy section. I just really admire a writer that can tell his or story efficiently. In this case, that efficiency kept the plot moving and upped the intensity level. A lot.
  • I didn’t know I needed this in my life, but it’s the perfect read-alike for the tv show Lost, particularly if you care more about the weird ass stuff happening on the island than the flashback stuff.
  • First person narration that doesn’t make me want to punch a wall! Seriously, I have read some BAD first person narration in my time and it will completely turn me off of a book. And I think experiencing this bizarre, terrifying, beautiful world through the eyes of the unnamed narrator is half the pleasure of the book. Well, maybe pleasure isn’t the right word given how disturbing/claustrophobic/disorienting the reading experience felt at times…

The Bad

  • It’s nearly impossible to talk about this book. I read this book while on vacation with a friend who also wants the book. Every ten pages I would want to turn to her and tell her how freaking weird the book was getting and  her response was more or less “don’t you DARE ruin it for me!” Writing this review has been exceptionally hard, and I’m blaming the book for that.
  • If you’re looking for like… Plot with a capital P or, say, Character Development… this may not be for you. The book seems more interested in atmosphere and mood than in story telling. For me, that’s not a bad thing since VanderMeer does it so well, but it might be a hurdle for some readers.

The Verdict

4.5/5 stars. I liked this book.

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