Annihilation (2014) – Jeff VanderMeer

Full disclosure: I had never heard of this book until I saw the trailer for this movie from the writer and director of Ex Machina, the visuals looked amazing, and the ambiguity and mystery conveyed by the short teaser drove me out to find a copy of the Southern Reach trilogy right away.

Annihilation is a wonderfully mysterious and unnerving book, with hints of Lovecraftian horror lurking in the corners. In fact, for me, it’s a perfect blend of horror, science fiction and a completely unfathomable, and possibly unrelatable mystery.

Four women compose an expedition. There are have been no real survivors from any of the preceding expeditions. The team is composed of a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist. They are the twelfth expedition into a geographical oddity known simply as Area X.

They have no recollection of passing through the ever expanding border that surrounds the Area, and have been conditioned to hypnotic suggestion. As they begin their explorations, things unravel quickly, as things are glimpsed, sensations are felt, and the unnerving presence of a tower/tunnel hints at something never before encountered.

I loved being wrapped up in this narrative, told through the notes in the biologist’s journal, and becoming completely unnerved by what she feels, and possibly encounters.

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And that for me is one of the great things about this book – the fear of something you don’t see, or can’t see entirely is always greater than seeing the thing completely revealed, and there is a lot of not seeing going on in this tale. There are hints, glimpses, and moments of sheer terror, but you never get a clear look at everything.

As the group quickly falls apart, the biologist recounts some of her own reasons for going on the expedition – she is not just driving by the need to document and understand the transitions that seem to be occurring in Area X, but her husband was on the previous expedition.

Leaning the meaning of the title, literally sent a chill down my back, and showed me just how involved with the story I was.

It’s fascinating, engaging, and as I’ve said, often unnerving exploration of this Area, seeing how the characters change, including the biologist is fascinating and frightening. As the first tale wraps up, you worry for those who will follow in the biologist’s foot steps, and wonder what is going to become of her, as she continues her explorations, even as she undergoes a change.

Now, having watched the trailer again, I have to wonder how faithful the film will be to the book, or if they are going in a completely different way, and combining three of the books into one film.

Either way, I’ll be seeing the film when it is released, and digging into the second and third book very soon!

Have you read them? Thoughts?

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