Monday, January 26, 2015

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

No one knows much about Area X or the nearly-impenetrable border surrounding it. The official explanation involves some kind of biological disaster that made the area uninhabitable. Over time, the general public grew to accept that story and lost interest in the mystery in their own back yards.

A number of expeditions have been sent inside Area X to investigate. Some returned to report a land reclaimed by nature, a “pristine wilderness” with no remaining man-made contaminants.  Other expeditions never came back at all. The 11th expedition came back changed and all with the same sudden and aggressive cancer that killed them shortly after their return.

In Annihilation, we join the 12th expedition. An all-women group made up of an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist, and—our narrator—a biologist. Stripped of their identities and armed only with the most basic technologies, this group of women quickly find much more than a “pristine wilderness” in Area X. And by the first night, one of them is already gone.

I picked up Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation after reading a comic/review of it from the Unshelved Book Club. The book is incredibly suspenseful; the author does a masterful job creating a feeling of unease and distrust throughout. The book is written as if it were a personal accounting of Area X from the viewpoint of the biologist.  This choice expertly sets the stage for the unnerving narrative to come, where one event is just as strange and threatening as another.

If Annihilation piques your interest, I suggest reading the rest of the trilogy: Authority and Acceptance. Or if you’re looking for more science fiction about the dangers of the unknown, read The Martian by Andy Weir, soon to be released as a major motion picture. These mysterious titles and more can be found at the Virginia Beach Public Library.

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