Amy’s Book of the Week

Annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeer

Area X is thought to be a myth, a conspiracy theory, an environmental disaster.  But, it’s real.  It appeared 30 years ago and after 11 expeditions, somehow it seems that even less is known about the area.  The government has sent in several teams of skilled, highly trained people into Area X to try and discover its secrets; the teams have either vanished into thin air, killed one another or mysteriously reappeared at their homes with no knowledge of Area X.

Expedition 12 is headed into Area X with an anthropologist, linguist, surveyor, psychologist and our narrator, the biologist. All are women with no names, they have been stripped of everything but their titles.  They have trained for months in a secret government facility (a sector known as The Southern Reach) in weapons, science, survival skills, and combat training.The book is our narrator’s journal and our view into the horrors inside Area X.  The four women have no idea what lies in wait for them on the other side of the border, nothing could prepare them for what happens next.

This book is FULL of anticipation and tension, if you’re looking for a calm, relaxing book, it’s not this one.  I read the whole thing in one sitting on my day off.  COULD.NOT.PUT.IT.DOWN.  VanderMeer is a master at giving tiny, creepy bits of information that you as the reader, piece together to try and decipher what is actually happening in Area X.  You frantically try and add up the pieces as each member of the team slowly succumbs to the horrors of whatever is causing the illness, insanity, and transformation that is spilling out of Area X’s every living cell, from the bark of the trees to the gigantic animals that you can hear moaning in the darkness, but never actually get a good look at, until they are hurtling toward you at full speed, jaws wide open.

Yet another wonderful and amazing thing about this book is that all of the main characters are women. Women are the good guys, the bad guys, the smart ones, the stupid ones, the brave ones, the scared ones. There are men interwoven into the background and into the narrative, but they don’t take the focus away from the main characters.

The book leaves the reader with a zillion unanswered questions, conspiracy theories and suspicions.  It has several bad Amazon reviews from angry people who are upset that VanderMeer doesn’t tie everything up in a neat little bow.  But, how can we know the answers when our narrator doesn’t know the answers?  We can only follow along behind her, cataloging clues and creating our own theories.  That’s half the fun!  (And it’s a trilogy, we have to get answers eventually right? RIGHT?)

Annihilation is a constant page turner, a masterfully crafted novel that demands readers’ attention.  It had mine for several hours while I refused to move from the couch until I finished it. VanderMeer’s storytelling brilliance is on full display in these 200 pages, using setting, character and intricate description to craft not only a growing sense of dread, but also the need to confront the source of that dread.


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