Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Ah, the Southern Reach trilogy. This is yet another series that has been on my personal list of highly anticipated 2014 reads. The first title, Annihilation, released in February and was Christmas gift card purchase of mine. It's fairly short, clocking in at just 195 pages, but I never did seem to find time to squeeze it into my reading plans. When we went on vacation for my birthday, though, it was tops on my travel reads list.

They call it Area X - a site that is closed off from everything. A site where strange things happen. There have been eleven other expeditions before now. The last over two years ago. Expedition twelve is made up of four women: a psychologist, a surveyor, an anthropologist, and a biologist. The women are to map and observe, documenting their experiences along the way.

This is what the biologist saw.

Annihilation is strange. I probably should have known better than to expect it to be an easy read just because it's short. I've sadly lost most of the wonderful ability I had in my youth to completely tune out my surroundings while reading. This makes it particularly hard to concentrate when reading in places like the airport and on planes. Add to that the fact that this was such a bizarre story in terms of both style and plot and you have a really bad combination. Bleh.

Actually, had I not been trying to read in such an awful surrounding I probably would have zipped through Annihilation. While a much more dense read than expected, it is nonetheless fascinating. The narration is limited - we see only what the biologist supposedly writes in her journal. She does take a very scientific look at things but we aren't all that certain we can trust her for increasing reasons along the way.

As an intro to the series it is an interesting creative choice. (I've peeked at the second title, Authority, and the narration is completely different.) Annihilation leaves readers with so many questions. What exactly is Area X, what is the Southern Reach (who controls Area X), what's the purpose of the expeditions and what do they hope to learn from Area X, and what the heck happened there to begin with? Annihilation clears up nothing, instead adding more and more questions before all is said and done, and leaves readers like me craving more!

If you're into oddball reads this is truly the one for you. If you're easily frustrated by the lack of explanation in a story you'll want to steer clear. I personally am waiting to read through both Authority (out now) and the upcoming Acceptance (releasing in September) to see how the whole thing plays out.

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