Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer. ★★★★
Annihilation is a science fiction (or possibly fantasy?) novel with the pacing of a thriller. For decades, Area X has been a land apart. A shady branch of the government has been sending in expeditions. Sometimes the expeditions return. Often they don’t. Our narrator is a member of the twelfth expedition, a team of four women sent to investigate the mysteries of Area X. What she finds is beyond her wildest imagination.
Each of the four women is known only by her job title. The narrator is the biologist. The others include a psychologist (the leader), an anthropologist, and the surveyor. Beyond the narrator, it felt like the team members didn’t get much characterization. To be fair, this is because not all of them made it very far into the novel. The publisher’s blurb makes it sound like Annihilation is a character piece and that the drama comes from the interactions among the four. This isn’t really true – there’s a bit of intrigue within the group, but most of what drives the book comes from Area X itself.
“The effect of this cannot be understood without being there. The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.”
Area X was delightfully creepy. I absolutely loved how strange and uneasy it was. It is utterly impossible, and no explanations or answers are provided as to how or why Area X exists. Possibly there’s some answers in the two sequels. Regardless, I enjoyed the chills the setting gave me.
Annihilation is a short read. With it’s fast paced thriller pacing and less than 200 pages, it didn’t take me long at all to get through it. Once I had, I immediately went and requested the sequel from the library. I don’t think this book will be for everyone – its sheer strangeness may put some people off – but I would suggest giving it a try.