Soon after watching the film, I ordered the Southern Reach Trilogy off of Amazon. I’m glad I did. Annihilation is the first book and although there are some similarities to the movie, this is a much different beast.

The biologist wakes up in Area X. She knows she trained for this expedition. She knows her compatriots along with her: the psychologist, the surveyor, the anthropologist. And she knows what she is supposed to be doing.

But as they say, the best laid plans…

Area X is a unique place. No one can enter, except through the door. Anyone who tries elsewhere vanishes. Time has no bearing on events. The area is pure of all contaminants, and the local flora grows at an incredible rate. What happened? Why did it happen? And who caused it? Other expeditions came out just fine. Others disappeared completely. Even others returned from Area X only to all die of cancer.

And just what the hell is writing the words on the walls of the tower?

An enterprising individual might ask, does it matter? The biologist is that individual. As she unravels the lies, the truths, and more mysteries than the ones she started with, her psyche slowly unravels. Not into madness, no. But certainly something else. This is a book in the Lovecraft fashion. Where the weak go mad thinking of the impossible. The only thing anyone can be sure of is that there is SOMETHING altering things, exploring, probing.

Beautifully written, Annihilation is a tough pill to swallow. The biologist is a hard character to get behind, but neither are her compatriots. Vandermeer knows how to delve into a character’s mind revealing deep, deep emotions and values. This is a masterful novel told by a masterful author. I can readily admit it’s not for everyone, but as far as science fiction goes, this is up there with the greats. Maybe you’ll think it’s biting off more than it can chew. It’s certainly a mouthful. But the promise of more novels, perhaps with more answers, is keeping me excited.

4 out of 4 stars.

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