The Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer has been released throughout this year beginning in February. So with the final novel Acceptance being released this month (September) I thought to pick up Annihilation which is my first Jeff Vandermeer book. Outside of this trilogy I do also have the Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction on my GoodReads read list.
Let’s get into the bones of the review…
The premise is a smart set up; we are recounting the journey of an expedition to a location only know as Area X. The party is made up of four women; a Psychologist, a surveyor, an anthropologist and the narrator of this journal/book, a biologist. There’s is the twelfth expedition to Area X – an area of the world cut off from the rest of human civilization for 30 years. Each of the previous expeditions have resulted in failure to uncover the secrets within the borders of this land now reclaimed by nature.
At 195 pages the book at first feels like it would be too slight in weight to have much impact on the reader. But as someone that struggles to read books of more than 400 pages it was a nice three to four days worth of reading that had me engrossed at all times. Annihilation is book devoid of filler and those 195 pages are some of most unsettling that I have read.
Under the microscope
The masterstroke that Jeff Vandermeer pulls with this novel is to allow the biologist to retell her story as a journal. The detail in the description of the fauna and wildlife of Area X really bring the book to life. And he has mentioned in an interview that he was inspired in part by the hiking he did in North Florida. If anything Annihilation is a character study of the four women that enter Area X. While not knowing anything about each other the party of four have to deal with the mental and physical effects that Area X has on them. But also we slowly see how the secrets that these women take with them into the unknown ultimately lead them into confronting them and also each other.
Worth a read?
As the first book in a trilogy Annihilation does an excellent job on the nerves and propels you into a glimpse of the world that has experience an unnamed ‘Event’ that has gone unexplained for decades. I knew reviewing this book would be difficult; there’s much to uncover in the story and the four unnamed women know little to nothing about each other. The biologist herself has a intriguing back story which she reveals during the course of her adventure. But what I found really impressive was how well the story sat within such a small page count. Much was revealed yet there was always the feeling that something was being held back in the story the biologist was telling.
Both Authority and Acceptance, the next two books in the trilogy, have a bigger page count than Annihilation which I’m kind of glad about. Yet I do worry that these latter books may not have the same impact and this excellently chilling book. If all goes to plan I should have those reviews up here at Hex Dimension in the very near future.
Annihilation is available to buy now and the writer of this review paid for his own copy.