Author: Jeff Vandermeer
Originally published: 2014
This is a top shelf book.
I’m going to come right out and say it even if people don’t like it: I am not a science fiction fan. I get put off by things that are weird and terrifying and do unhuman things. I don’t want to learn about weapons that don’t exist or worlds that are in parallel universes to ours. It doesn’t do much for me.
At least I thought it didn’t until I read Annihilation.
An area of the world has been cut off from the rest, dubbed Area X, and a group called Southern Reach send expeditions in to it to explore it, learn what they can, document and test anything they notice, and hopefully learn more about this incredibly odd region. Within it are multiple ecosystems, animals that aren’t quite what they seem, and a history of terrible violence. I was hooked from the first page.
As we follow the twelfth expedition through their explorations you realize this is about way more than scientific discovery. While the backdrop for this story is Area X, what you’re really reading about is how people are affected psychologically by stress, hypnosis, and the bizarre. I love psychology and I loved this portrayal of humans.
I found it eerie and captivating, willing me to read through the pages as fast as possible to learn what happens next. The slow discoveries of various truths throughout the text, including where its title comes from, are quite unnerving. I spent most of my time with this book wide-eyed and tense.
It is the first of a trilogy, the second two installments slated to come out later this year, and I am impatiently waiting to continue on. I loved its weirdness, its confusion, and the way I still have absolutely no idea what Area X even is.
The publisher has put this in the genre of “psychological thriller”, which I would agree with, but remember that there is a high level of science fiction-based themes. Even if you’re not a fan of those things, like me, give it a chance. Then tell me how many times you gasped or cringed in perverse delight.