Updated on February 2, 2018
4. ‘Annihilation’ by Jeff VanderMeer
Hands up if you’re excited for 2018’s Annihilation movie, directed by Alex Garland and starring Natalie Portman! I am, having finally read the book, but unfortunately it looks like we won’t get to see it in cinemas. The flipside is that we can get it on Netflix as soon as its released, but I am a little sad that I won’t be able to see this marvellous story played out on the big screen.
Annihilation is about a mysterious place called Area X, a strange section of land created by a mysterious ‘Event’, and in which several teams of investigators have been lost. One team ended up killing each other; members of another team made it out but died of cancer. In short, if you go into Area X, you likely won’t survive – but nobody knows why. This is the situation at the beginning of this story, when we meet an unnamed biologist, one of a team of four female scientists who are about to cross into Area X. She is accompanied by an anthropologist, a surveyor and a psychologist. That’s all the set-up you need for this book. In fact, the less you know going in, the better – that’s why I’m not going to give away any plot spoilers in this review. Just know this: I guarantee you will not be able to guess what’s coming.
This book is so atmospheric. VanderMeer does an excellent job of describing Area X, with all its strange flora and fauna, and the narrative style – which feels quite simplistic and mechanical to begin with – creates a perfect atmosphere of creeping dread. Annihilation brims with watchful eyes, paranoia, strange happenings and some downright heart-pounding scenes. This is all helped by the fact that we remain in the biologist-narrator’s head throughout, making discoveries when she does, and finding (or not finding) out the answers to her questions. The book is, essentially, her journal, and she weaves her account of her time in Area X with memories from her childhood and her life before she came on this expedition. We also discover, as time goes on, that she might not be the most reliable narrator, and that adds another layer of complexity to the story.
Annihilation is the first of three books (called the ‘Southern Reach’ trilogy), and I can’t wait to read the next ones. With this book, VanderMeer manages to leave the reader with a satisfying ending (some questions answered, some mysteries revealed), while still leaving so much unexplained. I can’t imagine where this trilogy will go, but I know that – like Annihilation – it will be both thoroughly unexpected and totally thrilling.
This book is short but powerful. It will get under the skin. It will leave you breathless.
“When you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.”
Have you read this book? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Want to read it? You can buy the book here.