Book - 2014
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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.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780374104092
Characteristics: 195 p. ; 19 cm.
Subjects: Discoveries in geography -- Fiction.
Scientists -- Fiction.
Science fiction.
Fantasy fiction.
Action and adventure fiction
Paranormal fiction.
Thrillers (Fiction)


From Library Staff

marycatlyons Mar 30, 2018

A very different read. It's not written in the traditional style and may leave some readers a bit lost and hurt at times as we can't trust our narrator. But I would say it's worth at least one read. It gives you quite a few things to think about that's for sure.

From the critics

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Jan 10, 2019

Pretty slow-going, hard to understand what is happening, and not much action. At the end of the book, you still won't understand what the mystery holds or what is going on - need to read the next 2 books in the series. Wouldn't invest the time in the 3 book series if I had to do it over again, but each book does get better as characters carry over from book-to-book and you gain more understanding of the "border" and "Area X".

IndyPL_SteveB Jan 09, 2019

Creepy and compelling short SF novel, first of a series. If the movie *Alien* could be described as a “haunted house in space”, perhaps this book could be described as an “ecological haunted house” story.

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the Earth for decades. Eventually the government (we are not told *which* government) found an entryway, so they sent an expedition to explore it. Then more expeditions. Disasters occurred: sometimes no one came back; sometimes the expedition members killed each other; sometimes they came back but strangely blank or dying. The 12th expedition is composed of only four women – a biologist (our focal character), an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist. On the first day in base camp they discover an odd tunnel, which the biologist insists should be called a tower. As bad decisions are made and the biologist gets deeper into Area X, the reader is filled with dread.

Very well written but not a good book to be read late at night.

Dec 23, 2018

All three books in the *Southern Reach* trilogy were published in 2014. *Annihilation*, the first book in the trilogy, is a short science fiction adventure horror novel about a team of female scientists tasked by a mysterious organization to investigate a mysterious jungle region known as Area X. VanderMeer so effectively channels classic Lovecraftian horror that I was half expecting Cthulhu to make a surprise appearance and inflict raging insanity on the helpless party members. Apparently the book was made into a Hollywood movie already; I find this somewhat surprising since there isn't much typical Hollywood action in the book.

Dec 17, 2018

Annihilation is one of the strangest, most surreal, enigmatic books I've ever read. It's certainly character rather than plot-driven, and other than the premise, which is very straight forward sci-fi, it defies genre. It feels more literary than anything else. We see the protagonist, a dispassionate biologist, psychically unravel in the pressure cooker of a strangely mutated landscape and the trickster government/military team she travels with. Who is the hunter? Who is the prey? What exactly is going on in Area X? What the hell is happening in that lighthouse? These are all questions you will ask during the course of the novel. Van DerMeer sort of answers them by the end. More importantly, he has created something so sublimely bizarre and other worldly, you sort of won't care.

OPL_DavidD Dec 05, 2018

I liked how much you got into the main character's head space, and what the book had to say about her and her circumstances. I'm a fan of introspective science fiction books with unreliable narrators, so this book pulled me in. I recommend it to any fans of introspective science fiction and the weird fiction sub-genre.

Nov 25, 2018

This book is vague. Not in either a good or bad way. It does a great job of intentionally leaving you in the dark as you imagine the wild possibilities of this ominous ecosystem. However, I saw the film first and actually enjoyed their interpretation a little more. Maybe it is an instance of what you see first is what you prefer. However, if you're into science fiction with a very sure sense of style, give a shot I suppose.

LPL_EliH Oct 31, 2018

At once lusciously imaginative and tense with dread, Annihilation is a gem of recent scifi. The mysteries of Area X are deep and satisfying whether you choose to finish the series--and trust me, it gets even weirder--or if you just let them ferment inside you for a while.

Aug 22, 2018

Annihilation is written like the protagonist is trying to remember a dream. You know how the details upon waking are all fuzzy and slippery? This makes the story both exciting but hidden in half-truths. Don't be surprised if upon reading a scene you feel like you glossed over important information. In this case, it wasn't reader inattention. The narrator is being guarded and cagey.

Aug 20, 2018

I decided to read this book after I heard Alex Garland speak about the movie he made based on this novel. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I must say I enjoyed the book. The psychological thriller aspect of the book wasn't a let down. All in all, reading this book was time well spent. I'll be sure to read the additional books in the series.

Aug 18, 2018

I purposefully avoided the highly recommended movie until I read the original novel. While I have only read the first book in the series, I have to say I really enjoyed a lot of it. At the same time, there were definitely a couple of things I did not like as much. Other reviewers have described Annihiliation as having an almost Lovecraftian horror vibe, and in my opinion that comparison is spot on. A particular Lovecraft short story, "The Colour out of Space", shares a lot in common with Annihiliation. A strange an indescribable area where plant and animal life experience horrific changes. Changes that also effect people who observe them. Annihilation is almost a modern re-telling of the 89 year old tale. As with the lovecraftian story, I enjoyed the psychological horror aspects of this tale. The main character can be seen as unendearing due to her being a social introvert, but I actually found that refreshing. She knows who she is, and withstands pressure to change or pretend to be a person she isn't just to fit in.
As great a read as it is, the thing I enjoyed least about the novel has been brought up by other reviewers as well. The overall story plays out like the first few seasons of LOST. The questions pile up, but no explanation or background is given. It felt as if the author wanted the reader to come up with their own explanation of what's going on and why. There's nothing wrong with that kind of storytelling, but it needs a strong ending that gives a purpose to the story. In that aspect, Annihilation fails a bit. I finished the book thinking "Well that was pretty trippy, but it was just a story about someone visiting a place I know nothing about, for no explanable reason, to which nothing was resolved". Its a fun ride, but the substance of what you went through fades as the ending putters out. I still plan on reading the sequels though, so the story did its job in hooking me in at least.

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