"Annihilation" is trippy, surreal science-fiction. It's best classified in a genre which should be called science-horror. It's sure to strike a chord in readers enjoying the weird, the paranoid, and the destabilizing. It's like David Lynch directed an H.P. Lovecraft's story, one produced by H.G. Wells and written by Franz Kafka.
Author Jeff Vandermeer plays with perceptions and expectations in this compelling story about an all-female research team sent into Area X. They are the twelfth expedition to do so, and their mission is to learn all they can and report back in a timely fashion. Only problem is: all the previous expeditions have ended strangely at best, deadly at worst. The geographical location of Area X is intentionally ambiguous to the characters and the reader. Area X shares a border with a civilization known as "The Southern Reach," whose government is responsible for stopping Area X from expanding over its border and taking over their country-perhaps the world.
This first-person narrative follows a woman we know only as "the biologist." The other women are known only by their professional titles as well: the surveyor, the linguist, the psychologist, etc.. Once they arrive, the mystery really piles on. Books are found. Bodies are found. Words are found-as are animals which should not exist. The ecosystem is a character all its own.
The primary strength of "Annihilation" lies in its masterful tone, thick sensory atmosphere, and slow-boiling dread. The plot and characters will not be sufficient for some, but they are supposed to be elusive. Vandermeer has penned a brilliant and strange short novel here. (This is book one of the "Southern Reach Trilogy." Book two, Authority, is out now. Book three, Acceptance, is available as of September 2, 2014.)
Recommended by Matthew Lowder