Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
You want to get trippy? Let’s get fucking trippy.
If you want to have your brain shaken, liquified, and then have it slowly drip out of your nostrils, pick up Jeff Vandermeer’s first book in his Southern Reach Trilogy titled Annihilation.
The book follows an unnamed biologist and three other women who are tasked with exploring Area X, a landscape that was transformed years ago, for reasons we never find out, into a mysteriously primordial environment where new world technology seemingly doesn’t work and the creatures which previously inhabited the area are monstrous versions of themselves. Or maybe they are just perceived as monstrous…
While the group of women explore the weird environment, we get glimpses of the biologist’s past before the expedition. The brunt of these flashbacks concern how her husband was on the previous expedition, came back a husk of his former self (as most of the people who come back from these expeditions return, if they return at all), and died of cancer.
She wants to go on the expedition to try and understand what happened to her husband, and in a not so surface level way, to grieve her husband and his death.
The book is so strange slow burn of a read that it is hard to put down, and the unreliability of the narrator adds to the atmosphere of unease. And her unreliability is only buttressed by the fact that the organization, the aforementioned Southern Reach, which sent them into Area X has not provided the expeditions with any answers as to what they are really doing in Area X.
Are these things actually happening? Is it all in the biologist’s head? Is anything she has said, or anything provided by Southern Reach, real? None of these questions are answered, but if they were, it would be a disservice to the uncanny air of Area X.
Nothing is solved. Nothing is answered. Nothing makes sense. But everything is gorgeous, and maybe that’s the point. We will have to wait and see in the second book of the trilogy.
4.5/5 cups of coffee