"Annihilation" is a novel that's as dense, murky and foreboding as the mysterious Area X it seeks to describe.
Is Ecohorror a genre? How about Environatural Thriller? While perhaps an odd set of references, Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation reads like a mash-up of Lost, House of Leaves, Heart of Darkness, The Ruins and Pulp's We Love Life.
Something has gone wrong in Area X, a wilderness left unpopulated following a mysterious and undefined "event." More troubling is the fact that the first 11 expeditions to explore this region all met with inexplicable (and grisly) endings. Undaunted, a 12th team is assembled with the intention of completing the survey started by their predecessors.
Not surprisingly, the group is thrown off balance almost immediately, encountering an unmapped structure that houses a mysterious message. The team argues over the best course of action. Trust erodes and infighting ensues as each member struggles to make sense of a world that no longer conforms to logical explanations.
There's something fablesque about Annihilation, something dense and dreamlike. VanderMeer presents a natural world that's hostile to humans in ways that border on the hallucinogenic. It's like a revenge fantasy penned by Mother Nature herself, remorseless and unrelenting. Adding to the sense of queasy surrealism, VanderMeer presses an often unreliable narrator into the service of a story that transcends human understanding.
Is Annihilation logical? Not particularly. Does it follow the conventions of known science? Not so much. And while some might decry the lack of logical explanations as lazy storytelling, I'd suggest that readers ought not expect all tales to be wrapped up in neat little packages. The world is, as readers of Annihilation will quickly see, a messy place indeed.
Annihilation is the first book in VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy. Books two and three are scheduled to be published later in 2014.
I am the library manager at Northwest Library. When I'm not reading fantastic books, I enjoy painting, writing, traveling and getting my hands dirty tinkering on vintage Italian scooters. My previous lives include time spent playing in punk rock bands, and working in the food service industry.