Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer: AKA The Weirdest Book I’ve read in a while.

Full disclosure: I actually obtained books 2 & 3 of the Southern Reach Trilogy about… A little over a year ago, and got so sidetracked with other books I simply never bothered obtaining the first book. It was only during the latter end of 2017 that I realised I wanted to try something new. So after a lenghty wait of a day, Annihilation finally showed up at my front door, and I was very pleased.

Annihilation tells the tale of a government-sanctioned expidition team exploring ‘Area X’, a plot of land in the US that’s is quarantined by an agency called Southern Reach. One of the first things that stood out to me in Vandermeer’s novel was that I was deprived the privelege of learning the narrator’s name. Instead, the narrator identifies herself by her profression. “I am the biologist,” she says, shortly before introducing her colleagues: the psychologist, the surveyor, and the linguist. Completely removing the names of our main character and her associates also removes the element of intimacy and trust that a reader gets from observing the narrator’s actions. I hadn’t realised it, but Vandermeer was already taking control of my own reading experience.

Normally, I find it very difficult to indulge myself in the world of science-fiction. On most occasions, I would tune out of the overindulgent use of hard to digest specialist terms and bizarre names. Fortunately, in the first part of the Southern Reach trilogy, we are spared any form of confusion. Instead, Vandermeer gifts us with absolute terror and distrust.

Another motif that is prevalent in the exploration/sci-fi genre is the ‘Us vs Them’ mentality this is found in numerous different works. I feel that as I was deprived of learning the names of the biologist and her colleagues, the sense of comraderie and the ability to identify with the biologist is dulled to an extent. Instead of meeting weird and wonderful new sentient races, we’re met with an insatiable curiosity: the biologist and her colleagues are in a world both remarkably foreign and entirely new to them. Previous expiditions had proved to be fruitless in understanding Area X, and former volunteers brave enough to undertake the duty of exploration were either killed, or came back a former shell of what they used to be. The biologist even mentions her husband, a victim of Area X’s strange influence, was one of the main reasons she volunteered.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We learn so much more about Area X as a whole, the biologist and her team as they try and forage through the hellish environment that they’ve been placed in. Looking back at it, I don’t think I could’ve started this year with a better book to read. I’ll be sure to be reading Authority and Acceptance very soon.

Until next time,


**Edit: So turns out this was queued for next Friday 12/1/18 instead of the first Friday of this year. So expect another review this Friday!**

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