Page Turner: Annihilation

As someone who loves Lovecraftian horror, but has already read most of his work, I asked r/suggestmeabook for help. Once again, I was pointed in the right direction and got my hands on a brilliant book.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer is a Scifi horror novel. The book is an in-world written account of the Biologist of the 12th expedition mission of the cryptic Area X. 

Area X keeps expanding, so the Southern Reach keeps sending expeditions to try to uncover it’s secrets. Each expedition has ended horrifically, perhaps they might be more successful this time around. 

None of the expedition members is referred to by name, but by title. Hence why I will refer to our lead as Biologist instead of her name.

I had not seen a name or heard a name spoken aloud for months, and seeing one now bothered me deeply. It seemed wrong, as if it did not belong to Area X. A name was a dangerous luxury here. Sacrifice didn’t need names. People who served a function didn’t need to be named. In all ways, the name was a further an unwanted confusion to me, a dark space that kept growing and growing in my mind.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

The Biologist, our lead and somewhat unreliable narrator has something in common with Area X. Both of them are more than they appear. She writes about her life before the mission as well as what went down. She is a rather intriguing character and reading this story from her point of view is compelling.

Needless to say, the expedition doesn’t go as planned.

Even when describing rather peaceful moments, Annihilation always has a rather unsettling atmosphere. As if there is always something not quite right in the air. It is also captivating, I found it hard to put it down. 

During the last chapter, in particular, I felt a sense of dread wash over me and intensified the more I read. Every time I felt that I knew what was going on, the rug was pulled out from under me. 

Like Lovecraft, the horror comes from things beyond human understanding. VanderMeer’s descriptions alone freaked me out. If you have read the book, you know what I’m talking about.

I don’t have anything bad to say about this book. I’m trying to think of something but nope, drawing a blank. It was paced well, had great character dynamics and a truly freaky environment. Yet, while somewhat disturbing also oddly beautiful. 

It’s rather short, the edition I read was just over 200 pages. The day after I finished it I bolted to my local bookshop to get the next book in the Southern Reach trilogy, Authority. 

VanderMeer’s universe is horrifying but fascinating and I want more of it. I hope the other two books are half as good as Annihilation.

It was a brilliant unnerving read. If you like Scifi horror, you have got to read Annihilation. Just don’t go to Area X, I hear that never ends well.

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