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Book Review: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

19/09/2014

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Judging books on their covers pays off. This trilogy is beautifully presented in hardback editions with simple yet elegant designs. The texture is rough and they are the size of an average paperback. It makes them feel really lovely to hold and read. They smell good too.

The Southern Reach is a mysterious government organisation in charge of investigating and sending out research teams to Area X. All previous expeditions have failed, the scientists either never come back, or die soon after. No one knows what Area X is, where it came from or why it is there. It is an area of land that has been completely cut off from the rest of the continent for years and has been reclaimed by nature.

VanderMeer does not waste time explaining anything at all. What is Area X, how long is it there, what is Southern Reach? I still don’t know. The protagonist didn’t either, really. It didn’t let really what the rest of the world was like either, everything else felt very cut off and remote.

The protagonist was the Biologist. There are no names in this book. Each member of the expedition is known by their profession only – the Biologist, the Psychologist, the Anthropologist and the Surveyor. It makes everything feel so formal and depersonalised at first, but slowly you get to know the Biologist. Yet at the same time, you do not – she remains a mystery – one that you want to get to the bottom of.

The first book asks more questions than it can answer. What is Area X, what is the strange tunnel/tower? What happened? And, what happens next??

I started off reading this feeling a bit sceptical – I felt lost in this unknown world with very little context. What, or who Southern Reach are isn’t answered at all. What Area X contains is only hinted at. VanderMeer merely teases the reader with bits of information. It makes a reader curious. As I proceeded however, I came to really, really, really enjoy this book. I love VanderMeer’s style and writing. It is beautiful. I didn’t expect it to be so well written, to be honest.

The next book is Authority and has a slightly different format to the first. It is about someone from within this mysterious Southern Reach organisation. I really like it when a series of books doesn’t just follow on from each book as if they were really one big tome. I do enjoy it when each one is linked, but feels separate in style and protagonist, place and experience.

If I can get through Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World, I think I will continue on with this series. I’m tempted too much already to pick it up now…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 19/09/2014 22:04

    The covers I’ve seen here are different from what you show above but they are also quite eye catching. I haven’t read the first yet. I hesitated when I heard it was part of a trilogy. I am not into trilogies this year, apparently.

    • 19/09/2014 22:23

      Unusually these are the UK covers, I usually prefer the American. I think I have had a trilogy-year this year. I’d absolutely recommend it.

  2. 21/09/2014 16:37

    Love the cover! I like this better, I think, than the American cover — definitely makes me want to pick up the book. And your review does too! I had been ignoring these books, and now you have made me want to read them. 🙂

    • 05/10/2014 13:59

      Good!!! I can’t wait to read the next one. I love all the covers, they’re really enchanting. I love it when publishers/book cover artists get it right. It’s a physical pleasure to read as much as it is a wonderful book. The cover feels nice, easy to read and comfortable. The paper is good quality and smells nice. They feel nice to turn. Everything about this book is just a pleasure.

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