Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review: Annihilation

    Who the heck is Jeff VanderMeer, and where the heck did he come from?!  Well, turns out, he’s been around for a while, working frequently as an anthologist, and penning a few stories as well.  And he’s been garnering some acclaim for that.  But, due to my general disappointment with the state of science fiction today (I’ll go out and wave my cane at whippersnappers later) I’d never heard of the guy.  Now I have, and I won’t soon forget.

    Did you like Lost?  Do you like weird, challenging stories that hint at much bigger things?  Do you enjoy that unsettling feeling created in the best horror (not the jump-scare/gore horror that is so common, but the real, intellectually terrifying stuff)?  I do, and this delivers.  Alienness and the slow, creeping madness it instills in people gives the book a terrible menace that builds and builds.  What could possibly be worse or more shattering than the previous discovery?  Try the next one.

    The book unfolds like a puzzle.  It’s the journal of a biologist, recording her part in an expedition into a corrupted landscape called Area X.  What is it?  Who made it?  How long has it been there?  Why?  So many questions and too few answers.  But it is the questions that linger.  And who is this biologist, anyway?  Is she a reliable narrator?  Why did she sign up?  Who are these other women on the expedition?

    Annihilation is the first part of the Southern Reach trilogy, which will be completely published before the end of the year (no waiting years on end for the next part of the story).  It should appeal to fans of Lovecraft and his disciples, fans of Lost and Fringe, and fans of mysterious adventure.  I was frequently reminded of the strange science fiction that trickled out in the late 60s and 70s, and of the works of Robert Charles Wilson.  I’ve heard good things about the second book, Authority, which has recently been published.  And I understand that it is stylistically quite different, giving more indication as to why this was split into three books.  The final book, Acceptance, is due out in September.

Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0-374-10409-2

-Matthew J. Constantine

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