Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. The natural world has reclaimed what was once a group of fishing communities. The government is sending in expeditions to explore what remains. Members of the previous eleven expeditions have died, disappeared or withdrawn into themselves. The twelfth expedition has just crossed the boundary into Area X…
First Impressions: This novel was different to what I had imagined. It is not at all your standard dystopian fare. I loved that the four explorers were women (unusual for a male writer) and none of them fit into easy female stereotypes. The biologist narrator was highly intelligent and had a strong, commanding voice. I liked her!
Highlights: I was pleasantly surprised by the ‘vintage SF’ feel to the novel. For instance, when the twelfth expedition began exploring the tunnel / tower (perspective!) there was so little action and so much detail it felt like I was reading a 1950s SF novel about moon exploration. How fantastic! It really felt like I was reading a musty old novel from a forgotten corner of the library. VanderMeer has tight control over his modest setting and it feels believable when the narrator is exploring it. I liked the setting and it reminded me of a newspaper feature I read recently about the unexpected nature reserve that now occupies the Chernobyl zone. I was glad the narrator was a biologist as it provides extra insight into the flora and fauna. Unusual phenomenon weren’t necessarily explained by VanderMeer. This was a little frustrating but it did add to the mystery of the story.
If I was an editor: This is a unique SF venture but at times it became a little too abstract when the narrator was pondering the motivations and souls of her fellow explorers…
Overall: Yes, I will be reading the next in the series, just not straight away.
Annihilation: 5 stars
Thank you to Harper Collins (4th Estate) for a copy of the ARC to review.