Book Reviews

Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer

I’ve seen the movie first and ’cause I’ve had issue with the structure of it, I postponed reading the book (which I already had!) for nearly a year.

That was very wrong of me and I’ll tell you why: the book was awesome and there’s so much more detail in there explaining parts of the movie which just didn’t feel right.

Official blurb

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world 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 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—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.


“Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives while from the dimlit halls of other places forms that never were and never could be writhe for the impatience of the few who never saw what could have been. In the black water with the sun shining at midnight, those fruit shall come ripe and in the darkness of that which is golden shall split open to reveal the revelation of the fatal softness in the earth. The shadows of the abyss are like the petals of a monstrous flower that shall blossom within the skull and expand the mind beyond what any man can bear, but whether it decays under the earth or above on green fields, or out to sea or in the very air, all shall come to revelation, and to revel, in the knowledge of the strangling fruit—and the hand of the sinner shall rejoice, for there is no sin in shadow or in light that the seeds of the dead cannot forgive. And there shall be in the planting in the shadows a grace and a mercy from which shall blossom dark flowers, and their teeth shall devour and sustain and herald the passing of an age. That which dies shall still know life in death for all that decays is not forgotten and reanimated it shall walk the world in the bliss of not-knowing. And then there shall be a fire that knows the naming of you, and in the presence of the strangling fruit, its dark flame shall acquire every part of you that remains.”

You know what I liked about this story? It’s almost a story of “becoming” very much similar to the old tales where the hero has to go on a journey to find themselves and in the process they become something new, a new person, with new thoughts and new ideas because the journey is transformative.
“We were neither what we had been nor what we would become once we reached our destination.”

I loved the theme of the Tower (or Tunnel) which symbolises the inner travel and the cycles. The diaries of the other scientists who travelled there. The other teams who came and who left and the continual changes happening. All matter is alive, even the walls seem to be breathing and the Crawler is noone else other than the lighthouse keeper who spent so much time in the new environment that he became something completely new.

Just the eyes seem to remain the same – the dolphins, the wild boars, the Crawler.

“I am walking forever on the path from the border to base camp. It is taking a long time, and I know it will take even longer to get back. There is no one with me. I am all by myself. The trees are not trees the birds are not birds and I am not me but just something that has been walking for a very long time…”

What this book is, it’s an introspection caused by a drastic change in the environment.

“I am just the biologist; I don’t require any of this to have a deeper meaning. I am aware that all of this speculation is incomplete, inexact, inaccurate, useless. If I don’t have real answers, it is because we still don’t know what questions to ask. Our instruments are useless, our methodology broken, our motivations selfish.”

The Marriage is analysed, the thoughts that brought her here are checked again and the future is also looked as almost something new to explore.

My husband had had an inner life that went beyond his gregarious exterior, and if I had known enough to let him inside my guard, I might have understood this fact. Except I hadn’t, of course. I had let tidal pools and fungi that could devour plastic inside my guard, but not him. Of all the aspects of the journal, this ate at me the most. He had created his share of our problems—by pushing me too hard, by wanting too much, by trying to see something in me that didn’t exist. But I could have met him partway and retained my sovereignty. And now it was too late

And during all of this, the amazing and wonderful new alien scenery which is slowly but surely expanding.

4/5

Leave a Reply