Annihilation (Southern Reach Series #1)

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The book is an account of the 12th expedition to a place called “Area X”. The group is made up of four women, a psychologist, the group leader, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a biologist, the story’s narrator. Their mission is to explore, collect samples, and record observations of this strange place that’s taken an irreparable toll on previous expeditions.

“Control thought of the theories as “slow death by,” given the context: Slow death by aliens. Slow death by parallel universe. Slow death by malign unknown time-traveling force. Slow death by invasion from an alternate earth. Slow death by wildly divergent technology or the shadow biosphere or symbiosis or iconography or etymology. Death by this and by that. Death by indifference and inference. His favorite: “Surface-dwelling terrestrial organism, previously unknown.” Hiding where all of these years? In a lake?”

Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation

This story is written as a first person narration from the biologist’s perspective, it’s sometimes in a stream of consciousness style, albeit a bit more organized. While her accounts are very scientific with some introspection here and there, the character is probably a bit of an unreliable narrator, there are lots of gaps in the details of the place which can make this both extremely interesting or extremely tedious for the reader.

“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.”

Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation

If you’re the type of person who enjoys filling in the blanks with own theories and imagination, then you’ll love this. But if you are the kind of reader who needs the answers on the page and a resolution, then this book will frustrate you. While I do enjoy a little bit of both and prefer to have the answers to the mysteries most of times, I really loved this writing so much. I was so engrossed in all the reflections from the narrator I never felt the dissatisfaction of not getting the answers.

You can either waste time worrying about a death that might not come or concentrate on what’s left to you.

Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation

Of course, the worry of not getting the answers in this book is greatly diminished by the anticipation of the next installments. Annihilation is only part 1 of the 3-part Southern Reach Series. This book is an extremely captivating read. Extremely. But it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. I can’t wait to read the next one!

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