Annihilation (Book One of the Southern Reach Trilogy ) by Jeff Vandermeer (3 out of 5)

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I am intrigued enough about this trilogy after reading about it in Kirkus Reviews over the weekend that I had to immediately read it. It was named as a “quick read, can’t put down” trilogy. We had the first one at the store so I give it a whirl. It’s a quick read and a small book. It starts off on the right foot, grabs you and pulls you into Area X and its study group, and then it throws you out in the middle of the freaking wilderness of survival by the end. That end is truly something. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
That, in itself, is a work of true intellect. Because then you HAVE to read the next one. Which I intend to do over the weekend. I would definitely recommend it.
Area X has been closed off from civilization for decades. Study groups have come and go before this one goes in. Study group one claims it is a paradise lost; another study group leaves the earth via mass suicide; another kill one another in a hail of bullets; the one before this expedition come back emaciated, soulless, and they end up dying of cancer. All of the expeditions end up dead. So what happens? They send in another expedition. I questioned that logic, but then realized that if not the case, no trilogy would be in sight, and therefore, no review from me on this title. Besides, if this was some HBO show, they would have to keep sending people in to try to figure it out so it can be stopped, right? Or the way that media destroys books, maybe not? We might have another Walking Dead on our hands, but with a lesser success rate. Who knows?

Our new group consists of four women (more questions there- why women? Why not men or a combination of both? Why women? The supposed “weaker sex”?): the biologist (the narrator of the story), the anthropologist, a surveyor, and the psychologist, who’s the leader of the expedition. The names of the characters? You don’t get them. At least not in this novel. I found that strangely fascinating- as if they are lab specimens with labels. No name, no identity, no soul? I have questions galore for Vandermeer if I ever get the chance to talk to him after the books are released and I have read them all. Maybe it will make the eventual decimation of them all the more easier? Questions abound!

They have to map out the area, record all their observations in their natty journals (that they CANNOT share with one another, which in itself, again- ODD Especially if they are working together as a team, and not independent of one another). You feel as if this means they possibly have their own agendas, and maybe, just maybe, that’s the way they want it?They also have to write down their thoughts and observations of each other, for those funding the expedition (shadowy government). But they aren’t allowed to ever discuss or show these journals. They also somehow have to accomplish all of this shadowy activity without getting themselves contaminated by whatever evil is lurking there (remember the fates of previous expeditions). All in all sounds like one hell of an expedition. Or a nightmare. Or a Stephen King novel. Or- all of the above. They find a topographic abnormality that may or may not have something to do with the inexplicable life forms that are inhabiting Area X. Now, will they be able to get across the border and take their findings back to safe ground, without bringing any of the strange juju with them? Or will they all start losing their shit and all hell breaks loose? What happens in Book 2 *Authority*? After that ending, well, you have to read the second book.

I apologize for all the parenthesis. They are unavoidable in writing this review.

Vandermeer paints quite the bleak landscape in the first book. It took me only a hour and fifteen minutes to read. It is quick, painless, and effective in sucking you in (to book 2, hopefully not to Area X, for you may not come back with the program, or at all). Annihilation reminded me a lot of a fantastic book that came out in 2010. The book was The Passage by Justin Cronin. Very similar in creating the mood of the escalating danger of the situation and those who are trapped in that situation. He is incredibly effective at striking out at the reader quickly. Mass props for that.

I had a problem with only a few things- the questions, at parts of the book, overtook the book. However, if there are that many questions rolling through my distracted brain, then that means that Vandermeer has accomplished the impossible- getting inside the reader’s psyche. And that makes me want to come back for more. Mass props for that. I wish they had given the expedition members names. It’s easier for me with my “inner reading voice” to read the book with actual names. Then again, it can be argued that Vandermeer did this on purpose, in plot theory and execution of the book. I have so many questions, and so few answers. I wish the book had been a little bit longer, but he did a hell of a job getting the iron hot for the other two books in the series. You have to wonder if Ebola or a similar destructive pandemic is coming, or will the arachnids grow to the height of a skyscraper and kill us all. You don’t know what’s coming. And that’s exactly why you need to give this trilogy a shot. I only gave it 3 stars because it’s so damn short and all of the questions coming forth from this book overwhelmed my sheer enjoyment of this part of the saga. If you’re asking so many questions that you’re setting it down, picking it up, rereading it again, and then in doing so, happen to maybe miss a clue or ten, well, that’s not always cool. I feel like I missed a few things and will have to revisit Annihilation. You should also visit Annihilation, as soon as possible.

~ by generationgbooks on May 29, 2014.

One Response to “Annihilation (Book One of the Southern Reach Trilogy ) by Jeff Vandermeer (3 out of 5)”

  1. Sounds good, G. Will definitely have to check this one out. Thanks.
    Sheila

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