Book Review – Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Review of: Annihilation
Jeff VanderMeer

Reviewed by:
On 2015-03-23
Last modified:2015-03-23


Well written but not really up my alley.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

The blurb creeps:

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; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition 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 weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.

The 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, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, 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 book reminds me of Finch by the same author – the author seems to have a fixation with fungus, human transformation and mysterious history.

Where the books differ is that Finch is a detective story whereas this one is more of a horror story.  I don’t mean horror in the sense of messy gore, but more of a sense of impending doom – Lovecraftian dread that stretches on for the whole book.  It really is tense and forbidding – it’s well done but not really the kind of experience I go looking for in a book.

Interestingly although there are a lot of mysteries, having some of them answered by the end of the book made me realize that the mysteries weren’t what the book was about – it’s about the journey of the main character in the context of her personal history.

The book is kind of a pure experience – it’s really pared down, with only a few characters and settings.

Unlike most series, I really don’t know what direction the next book in the series will take.  It could continue with the main character but I kind of wonder if instead it’ll follow a subsequent expedition into Area X, with the main character from the first book appearing as a minor character.