Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation follows the twelfth expedition into the unknown, expanding, evolving, quarantined wilderness that is Area X. Their mission: to collect samples, chart the land and collect relevant data to help expand the knowledge the secretive agency Southern Reach have on Area X – which they have been monitoring for thirty years.


The plot of the book sounds great, mystery and intrigue, potential pre apocalyptic vibe and a secret organisation sitting in the middle. It’s been in my “to read” pile for a while and has finally worked its way up to the top. I’m not going to lie, I was excited – who doesn’t love a trilogy! And one about a wild, living expanse of land, hinting at potential bio-hazardous fallout, I knew I would be in for a wild ride.


Ummmmm, yeah – I didn’t really like it.


I just didn’t feel engaged by the main character in any way. Considering we are reading her account of the events the twelfth expedition faced, I was left feeling indifferent. Indifferent about her, the group, their finds, the surroundings and the events in the book. I understand that the biologist is an introvert, but I couldn’t relate to her in any aspect. In her account she even admits to holding back information from us, the reader, which further annoyed me and made me question her – is anything she is recounting actually as it happened? Or is she manipulating us like she was manipulated? Withholding information, data, from the logs so Southern Reach – and by extension us – have no idea what is happening in and to Area X?


That’s another aspect I didn’t like. While it was minimal, Area X was the only part of the story for me that held any intrigue. (This next sentence is a spoiler so you may want to pick up at the next paragraph) We find out nothing about it. A few things of interest are mentioned but not elaborated on. I feel cheated to have been given so little information – I understand this is most likely a ploy to get readers interested in the second and third books of the trilogy, but this has not worked for me.


I will say, the way VanderMeer describes things (scenes, feelings, thoughts etc) is incredible. He sets a good scene and atmosphere, it’s a shame the character and pace of the narrative let Annihilation down, in my opinion.


I found the story and the main character – the narrator – dull and had to force myself to finish it. However, as they say, “no two people read the same book” so you may love it! I will be unlikely to continue with the trilogy. Though I will watch the movie which is currently in production, when it’s added to Netflix or Amazon Video that is…



Favourite quotes and passages from Annihilation:


Besides, we were strongly discouraged from using names: We were meant to be focused on our purpose, and “anything personal should be left behind.” Names belonged to where we had come from, not to who we were while embedded in Area X. 


As if somehow the blankness of the walls fed off the silence, and that something might appear in the spaces between our words if we were not careful.


There are certain kinds of deaths that one should not expect to relive, certain kinds of connections so deep that when they are broken you feel the snap of the link inside you.


I saw each drop fall as a perfect, faceted liquid diamond, refracting light even in the gloom.


The ghost bird had found his ghost, on an inexplicable pile of other ghosts.


In my absence, the surveyor had become a kind of frenzied serial killer of the inanimate.


The black sky, free of clouds, framed by the tall narrow lines formed by pine trees, reflected the full immensity of the heavens.


Think of it as a thorn, perhaps, a long, thick thorn so large it is buried deep in the side of the world.


Every night, the moaning creature has let me know that it retains dominion over its kingdom of reeds.


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