Monday, April 2, 2018

Annihilation - Jeff Vandermeer

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.
 (Summary and image from

Review: Hm.

So, Me upon finishing this book: I have no idea what on earth I just read.
Also me upon finishing this book: I better read the other two books in the series.

It's been a few weeks since I've read this first book, and I've got to admit, I still have no idea what on earth I just read. Was it exquisitely written? Yes. Was it otherworldly? Yes. Was it overwhelmingly confusing? Yes, but I also got the feeling that that was 100% by design. The world that Vandermeer has begun to create in Annihilation defies description and logic. 

No one knows how Area X was formed, it just appeared without warning, slamming a border down that cost thousands of people their lives. Eleven expeditions have been sent into the area to learn, but none have been successful. This expedition is comprised all of women, with the hope that their unique talents and abilities will unlock the mysteries of the geography. 

Tasked with finding a lighthouse, our main character finds herself inexorably drawn to the tower - a spiraling staircase that descends deep into the earth. There are mysteries there. Words, growing out of the walls. A creature which can't be described, only experienced. Spores, which may be changing her. 

Seriously guys, this book plays with your head. It's so gorgeously written, so complex and detailed and still so vague. I've looked up stuff online, I've read the next book, and for the life of me, I'm still so perplexed! Why don't the characters have names? What is Area X? What was the catalyst? Why so much hypnosis? 

I don't have the answers. I have questions upon questions, but is this a book I'd recommend? Honestly, I think I would. 

Rating: Four stars

For the Sensitive Reader: Proceed with caution. There's some vile language, unnecessary sex scene (in a flashback), and some murders.

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