Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Series: Southern Reach, #1
Page Count: 195
Original Publication Date: 2014
Genre(s): Adult fiction, New weird
Area X is a mysterious place where nature has reclaimed the Earth, and there are no signs of civilization. For decades, expeditions have been sent across the border to gather as much information as possible about this strange area, to map out the terrain and discover what caused this puzzling event. The twelfth expedition follows four women: an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist, and a biologist. They have been trained to expect the unexpected, but what they discover in Area X changes everything they ever knew about the word, and about themselves.
First of all, can we talk about this FSG Originals cover? It is absolutely gorgeous and is what initially caught my eye and forced me to read the synopsis. I love it. When I went to the bookstore to pick up the other 2 books, I made sure they were both of the same cover art. Gorgeous.
I finished this book early this morning (around 2 AM). My girlfriend was asleep on me, and I didn’t dare wake her up because she doesn’t care about this book at all. I don’t know of anyone who’s read this book, so I was at a loss. I needed answers! I needed to converse! I’m so confused!!!! I still do, and still am. I went to bed with more questions than answers, and a desperate desire to find bookish friends so I don’t have to suffer alone.
I’ll tell you what I can, though, about this incredible book. Annihilation is told in first-person from the biologist’s perspective; we never get her name. Though her husband was part of the eleventh expedition, which concluded mysteriously and fatally, that’s not the reason the biologist volunteered. She and the other three women study Area X as directed, but nothing seems to go as planned, and soon the women can’t trust each other, let alone themselves.
As a narrator, the biologist is entirely unreliable. We learn early on of a compromising moment, added to the fact that Area X is a mysterious place where nothing can be trusted, not even the people exploring it. The story is to be read as the biologist’s notebook, her detailed account of everything during her journey through Area X. Not only are first-person narrator’s unreliable, but here she’s writing down her experiences, not just “telling” them. She even omits to leaving things out of her account. This only adds to the intrigue of the book, and it’s fascinating to follow the biologist on this journey.
The majority of the book is simply the biologist’s observations of Area X. If you’re looking for an action-packed, dialogue-filled tale of treachery, you’re way off base, here. The book predominately focuses on the landscape and the things the biologist studies and encounters. Maybe this sounds boring to you, but trust me, it’s not—it’s suspenseful and creepy, and you probably shouldn’t read it alone, at night, in the near-pitch dark. Seriously.
It’s entirely too hard to explain what this book is about. My advice to you is to probably just read it, go into it with no information and let it take you where it takes you. Annihilation falls into this new genre called “new weird,” which is basically like a mixture of sci-fi, fantasy, and supernatural horror. Right up my alley. In fact, Jeff and his wife even compiled a book of short stories that serve as a kind of introduction to the new weird genre. I very much want to read it.
I met Jeff VanderMeer last March in Louisville, KY at my National English Honor Society’s annual convention. Unfortunately I missed his talk (and his wife’s), but I did get a chance to purchase his book (which had been on my TBR for years) and get a chance to meet him. Sadly, I am literally the most awkward human being on the planet, so it was a super awkward encounter. I had no idea what to say to him—I missed his talk, hadn’t read any of his works, and barely knew what Annihilation was about. I was a mess. I wish I could apologize for how awkward I was. Sorry, Jeff…
He was nice enough to sign my book, though:
And take a photo with me:
So, Jeff, if you’re somehow reading this, I did enjoy your book, and after only being 50 pages in, I went out and purchased the other 2 in the trilogy and look forward to reading those as well. Thanks for being awesome, and sorry for being so awkward!
I hope to finish the trilogy soon, and hope to read more of VanderMeer’s works, as I really enjoy his writing. It’s very beautiful and intelligent, and I’d like to read as much of it as I can. For a book with less action than you may think, VanderMeer really knows how to keep up the suspense and creep you out.
After finally finishing this book, I’m nervous for the film adaptation, which comes out in less than a week. That’s why this book moved up on my priority list. I was super excited for the film, but now that I’ve read the book and watched the trailer again, the two look nothing alike. So I’m afraid I’m going to severely dislike the film… Sometimes I wish they’d just never turn book into movies.
Anyway, that’s it. I’m not sure how else to explain this whirlwind of a book, but I highly recommend it and encourage you to read it. Hopefully book 2 will answer some of these questions I have.
Stay tuned for my adaptation review next weekend!
“There are certain kinds of deaths that one should not be expected to relive, certain kinds of connections so deep that when they are broken you feel the snap of the link inside you.”