Author: Jeff Vandermeer
Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Rating: ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️
Annihilation is the first book in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, and recounts the story of what is known as Area X. It is an area that has been reclaimed by nature and has managed to remain completely cutoff from the rest of the continent. Since its discovery, there have been 11 expeditions into Area X, some of those expeditions were successful while others resulted in tragedy and murder. When the story begins, the 12th expedition is making its way into Area X, with this particular group being made up solely of four women with very distinct job descriptions. There’s an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychiatrist who assumes the role of leader, and a biologist who serves as the narrator for the story.
Knowing the sordid history of the region and what happened with each expedition, the women are tasked with mapping the area and collection specimens. They are also meant to each keep written records of what they observe about the area and within one another, all while trying to avoid any possible contamination that may be present.
I added Jeff Vandermeer’s novel to my to read list almost two years ago, after coming across it while browsing through an airport bookstore and thinking that it sounded promising. I finally decided to move it up on my to read list after seeing previews for the film and thinking that it might be a good idea to read the book before seeing the movie. Thus, I picked up a copy from local library and dove in with high hopes for what I was sure would be a truly unique and different science fiction book than what I was used to.
The book lived up to the fact that it was different from other science fiction books, it was weird and as a reader I was never truly certain that what the narrator was describing was in fact true, or if everything was a version of some truth from an unreliable narrator. I ended up finding this a rather difficult book to get through as I found myself having to go back whole passages to reread them due to having lost the trail that the author was laying, or because I had completely zoned out and stopped paying attention. Although there were brief parts of the book that really engaged me and held my attention, for the most part I found myself having a hard time focusing on the story; I had to continuously push myself to keep reading in hopes it would begin to make sense at some point in time.
Upon finishing the book, I have been left with the feeling that I would have been completely fine in going to see the movie without having ever read the book and still have left the theater feeling just as confused as I was at the end of the book. Granted this is the first book in a trilogy, so it makes sense that things would be left open-ended in order to get the reader to read the rest of the books, but I had such a hard time focusing on this book that I’m not even sure I’ll finish the series because at this point in time, I really don’t care what’s going on or what happens to the characters. As for the movie, I’ll wait for it to leave the theaters and either watch it when it plays on HBO or check out the DVD from the library.