Book Review: Annihilation
“𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘤𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘤𝘢𝘯𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘣𝘦 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘰𝘥 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘪𝘵 𝘤𝘢𝘯𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘣𝘦 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘰𝘥, 𝘦𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘺 𝘪𝘯 𝘥𝘦𝘴𝘰𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘪𝘵 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘴 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶. 𝘋𝘦𝘴𝘰𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘻𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶.”
I‘ll be honest, it was initially difficult for me to judge this book because I saw the film version first and LOVED it, and because the book differs in some significant ways from the film. In the end I believe it’s best to consider book and film as companion pieces, both giving insight and detail into different facets of the same world.
SUMMARY: 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; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition 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 weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition. The 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, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, 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.
Briefly, the plot is about a team of four women who have been sent to explore a mysterious site known only as Area X. Other teams have gone before but almost none have returned. With very little knowledge of what they’re about to get into, the women venture in to explore a strange new world. The book is narrated by the biologist, who must grapple with a series of increasingly bizarre and compelling horrors.
As mentioned before, the book diverges (immediately and massively) from many of the plot points in the film. However, some basics remain and the atmosphere of strange wonder and building unease are the same. The book is vague in many parts, most on purpose, and that can be a little frustrating at times. I think I would have been even more lost if I hadn’t seen the film first.
That being sad, the book is DEFINITELY still worth reading! The tension and dread are palpable, and the scope of imagination reaches levels of cosmic terror and fascination. It’s hard for me to describe this book, so you should just go read it for yourself 😁(and it’s less than 200 pages!).