Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mini-Impressions: Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy #1) by 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.
Science fiction? The "new weird"? Speculative fiction horror twisted into the "new weird"? Whatever the label, Jeff VanderMeer hit the spot with this book. The first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation is a great example of a Lovecratian-based, fungi infected (or is it colonized?) piece. With its distant, disconnected narration, heavy atmosphere, tense horror-filled moments, and excellent prose, it is one of the most memorable books I've read this year so far. Yet, the story is not finished. . . this is just the beginning of what promises to be a fantastic trip (read) when fully realized since obviously the overall story arc has a long way to go. Annihilation leaves the reader, at least it left me, haunted as the progression of events occurring in Area X affect the unnamed biologist and her three companions. Highly recommended.

Trilogy:
Annihilation (Southern Reach #1)
Authority (Southern Reach #2) Releasing May 6, 2014
Acceptance (Southern Reach #3) Releasing September, 2014

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