Book Review: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer is probably one of the more interesting books I’ve read recently. I first heard about it sometime last summer when one of my best friends recommended the trilogy to me. It’s been sitting on my list since then until I found out that it would satisfy prompts on two of my reading lists for 2017 plus my library has the whole trilogy. I also noticed it showing up on bookstagram in last few months.


Synopsis: Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

Annihilation left me feeling … unbalanced. The first word that comes to mind about this book is haunting. It is haunting and beautifully written. It feels like a true science fiction novel with just the right amount of creepiness or maybe it’s otherness. It has passing moments of drama and suspense, but it’s written in a way where it doesn’t fully startle me like a horror book. It’s entrancing. It feels dream like.

What adds more to the story is that nothing is truly named – not our main characters, or people from those character’s past, or even animals or plants. Nothing is given a true proper noun of a name. While that was weird at first to me, it just added to the mystery that is Area X. This first book of the trilogy follows the journal of one of four women in the twelfth expedition into Area X, the biologist.

The biologist is distant and maybe cold. She’s a solitary person and very tight lipped (which is maybe why she comes off distant and cold). However, I found her to be well  written and developed. We’re reading only her journal so we don’t get everything which included things about her. She gives pieces here and there about her life before the expedition that makes you think that you’re getting to know her, but she only really shares the least amount that feels she has to.

This book is a great example of science fiction – and one that doesn’t rely on future technology or anything related to that. It’s all about the unusual and abnormal, set in a world that sounds exactly like the one we live in now.

Overall, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from this book, but it definitely wasn’t what I read. Which I take as a good thing because it was a great surprise, though I don’t know how I ultimately feel about this unsettlement that it left me with.

Have you read this book/ trilogy? Interested in reading it? Comment below!

2017 Reading Challenge Prompts Satisfied:

Sorry, I’m Booked: Read a Science Fiction novel

PopSugar: Read a book that will be coming out as a movie in 2017


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