Book Review: Annhilation


This past weekend I hopped on a plane, well, technically there were 4 of them– 2 going and 2 returning– and meandered over to Topeka, KS for a wedding. En route I found time to read, something I tend to have very little time to do on the ground.

I read TWO books, which means you’ll get two reviews, but I’ll only hit you with one today.

The first book I read was, “Annihilation” by Jeff Vandermeer. A friend of mine gave me a free copy awhile back and I finally had a chance to read it.

vandemeerHere’s the Amazon blurb:

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died 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 months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their 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 and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—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.

Annihilation is the first volume in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, which will be published throughout 2014: volume two (Authority) in June, and volume three (Acceptance) in September.

Pros

  1. Prose was well written. Not once did my inner editor kick in.
  2. Excellent use of description.
  3. All five senses are evoked.
  4. Good pacing.

CONS

  1. No real surprises. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, or because I’ve read enough stories that followed a similar premise that I knew early on exactly what path the story would take.
  2. The story is purposely written in a very objective sort of manner,  and this is done well. Perhaps, maybe too well, as the main character is so emotionally distant that I did not really feel the same connection I usually do to characters. The very end hooked me just enough to have a bit of a curiosity as to what happens to her, but if I don’t get a chance to read book 2, I won’t fret over it.
  3. While the concept of the story was creepy, it failed to evoke the kind of skin-crawl, avoid dark room sort of feeling that I had expected.
  4. The characters have no depth and die pretty quickly. The main character sticks around for awhile, but has very little character growth. I get the no name thing, but you don’t need a name to connect a reader to a character. Besides, at some point the main character should have thought of her name if merely to show her reaction to it and the changes she’s undergone.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, but less character driven than the stories that I prefer. For readers who don’t mind more plot centered stories, this drawback might not matter.

 

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