Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Annihilation is a first person account of encountering the surreal. And I think it can only exist on paper. A movie adaptation could not do it justice unless they went full first-person POV with the filming which is not something done much at all. I fear some filmmaker would try to make this a found footage horror film which would most likely ruin the story because one thing they touch on in the book is the fact that what they see often does not appear on film so does that mean it does not exist?
The basic story is: A group of four women go into a strange place to explore it and this is what happens. The book is classified as "New Weird". Here's one definition straight from the author, "a type of urban, secondary-world fiction that subverts the romanticized ideas about place found in traditional fantasy, largely by choosing realistic, complex real-world models as the jumping off point for creation of settings that may combine elements of both science fiction and fantasy." (From the introduction from an anthology called The New Weird.) This fits Annihilation to a T. The main character is the The Biologist. She breaks everything down to biology. Even the most fantastic can be made palpable by considering the thing's existence and biology. She isn't concerned with why the thing exists, only that it can.
Between flashbacks to mundane life that develop the veneer of the surreal within the context of Area X, the biologist makes her way through the strange landscape with three other women. The story is in first person in a pseudo-journal format that allows the biologist to speak candidly to the reader, letting us in to her most private fears and guilts. Her perception of the other women in the group is interesting as well for the unreliableness of it. She often sees a glimmer of hidden emotion where there might be none.
And then there is Area X itself. It is rife with danger and dread. And it's the dread that makes the story for me. The question of what is real and what is illusion is fascinating. Unlike a show like Lost where I wanted some answers and never got them, I was actually hoping for none here. I wanted Area X to wash over me with no stopping to consider the waves of strange and that is what Vandermeer delivered. All in all, this was a poetic book with a Lovecraftian tone that I found very satisfying to experience.
I do want to read the next book Authority. I'm curious about the organization that sent the team of women to Area X and the organization they try to imprint on something that defies comprehension. I sort of hope none of the second book takes place in Area X. I want to know what it looks like from the outside.
View all my reviews