Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review: Annihilation

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer is the first of three novels that make up the Southern Reach trilogy.  I have only read this initial volume and so I don't yet know if the series comes to a satisfactory resolution or if it trails off into boring drivel.

I do know that this first work is an excellent piece of "weird fiction".  There is certainly a Lovecraftian feel to the entire novel both in its use of language, style and content, though its differences are more than significant enough to stand on its own.

The story surrounds an ill fated expedition that is following in the footsteps of previous ill fated expeditions to an location dubbed "Area X".  The first person speaker relaying the novel is the biologist assigned to this four woman expedition and she recounts her travels around this Area X and all the strange things we encounter.  There are dolphins with human eyes, large lizard creatures waiting in the weeds, nefarious team members, microscopic parasites, strange lighthouse keepers, indescribably beautiful/horrifying/powerful creatures from seemingly another world, etc.  No real explanation to many of these observations is given leaving the reader with the disquiet feeling that they only have a small insight into what is going on.

The locale of the tale is within a Southern "transition-land" between the swamps, grasses, forest and dunes bordering the ocean.  The author's favorite Southern hikes taking place in the St. Marks National Wildlife reserve in Florida is the inspiration for much of the book's geography and gives the tale a great feeling of "being there" as the voice coming out of the novel has a great tone of authenticity.  There is a bit of lengthy Lovecraft-like wordiness to the work which sometimes gets in the way of the story as you can be lulled into lethargy by paragraph length sentences at times, though luckily these are relatively rare.

I'm very interested in seeing where the groundwork put down in this work leads in the next two and hope the author didn't use up all his great ideas, mythmaking and mood creation on this one novel as he's certainly composed a world worth exploring further.  I'll label it as my favorite fiction work of '14.

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