Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon March 3, 2014 - 7:42am

'Annihilation' by Jeff VanderMeer

Discussion has officially started!

Synopsis: 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.

Author: Widely regarded as one of the world’s best fantasists, Jeff VanderMeer grew up in the Fiji Islands and spent six months traveling through Asia, Africa, and Europe before returning to the United States. These travels have deeply influenced his fiction. He is the recipient of an NEA-funded Florida Individual Artist Fellowship for excellence in fiction and a Florida Artist Enhancement Grant. VanderMeer’s book-length fiction has been translated into 20 languages, while his short fiction has appeared in several year’s best anthologies and short-listed for Best American Short Stories.

Discussion has officially started!

I've never read anything by Jeff VanderMeer before. I have to thank Nikki Guerlain for bringing this book to my attention. Honestly it sounds like the type of story I'd love. And I've been meaning to hit up something written by VanderMeer. So this is perfect. Can't wait to see what everybody thinks.

Get to reading.

Purchase the Book Here

Kari Wolfe's picture
Kari Wolfe from Colorado Springs, CO March 4, 2014 - 5:42pm

This is an AWESOME book. Can't wait to discuss it with everyone! :) 

Max's picture
Max from Texas is reading goosebumps March 8, 2014 - 10:21am

I'm currently halfway through this book, so I may actually participate in one of these finally!

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 1, 2014 - 9:05am

This book is wonderful! Jeff VanderMeer also was kind enough to send me an ARC of the next book AUTHORITY so I will be reading that soon. :-)

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers April 1, 2014 - 9:26am

As promised, I started the book. Like on page 17 just started it. It's short, though seems like there's a LOT of story within those pages. Be back when I'm done. 

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 2, 2014 - 12:26pm

Wonderful !!! I can't wait to discuss!!!

SRead's picture
SRead from Colorado is reading Stories April 2, 2014 - 1:06pm

Just finished this yesterday. I'm so glad he's doing the rapid release of the sequels!

It reminded me of Algernon Blackwood's The Willows, with some very sinister Lovecraft mixed in. I'll not get spoilery till more people are finished, but I'm anxious to chat about it.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 2, 2014 - 2:22pm

I'm getting there!

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers April 2, 2014 - 9:15pm

I read some today while traveling to Houston, about 1/2 through the book now. Fortunately, I wasn't driving. Writer's read differently, as in we are somewhat more analytical with our choices of reading material, and how we actually read the book. It was probably around the 50 page mark in this book when I shifted into reading for pure pleasure, which is one of the strongest things I can say about the book right now. 

I don't think I'm going to be able to give a thorough critical review at this point, and that's a good thing. 

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers April 8, 2014 - 7:50pm

I finished the book a few days ago. Since no one else has started, I'll give me brief-non-spoilery thoughts. 

First, if you're still on the fence about this book, just read it. Second, a confession; I do not like most science-fiction stories, especially those of the hard science-fiction category. The adventures of the Gadalon Millineum Enterprise super freighter near the Radistone Galaxy where they intercept a distress call from a Klugoneon vessel in a neutral zone, who just happen to be holding Princess Hamalama from the planet Hamalamadingdong hostage in an effort to re-define the boundaries so that the Spice will flow, just doesn't interest me. 

Saying Annihilation is Science-Fiction is like calling the film Alien Science-fiction. Both are horror stories, one is set in Space and is icky and gooey and in your face, while the other is set in Area X and is icky and gooey and not so in your face. What sets Annihilation apart is that while there are some horrific things happening, some in-your-face things, there's this massive, building, almost overwhelming sense of dread starting from the first page, finally escalating into a very emotional climax that asked more questions than it answered. 

There's a lot to be said about fiction that asks more questions than it answers. For some, the aspect of reading such a book can be a daunting task. Some people just like neat and tidy stories with no loose ends. This book ties its ends quite nicely, yet while it tightens the knots, the implications of such a story filled my mind with more questions, as well as a revelation, and this is what made it happen for me. The concept that a group of people on an expedition investigating a geographical location, to put a series of longitute and latitude coordinates in a petri dish so to speak, then the revelation that there is a much larger petri dish, literally blew my mind. Maybe I'm the only one who noticed it, or it was the authors intention all along, whatever the case, it doesn't matter. It worked for me, and that made it personal to me, and that's what a story like this is supposed to do. Job well done, bravo. 

To carry that sense of dread, building and building for two hundred pages...man, that's talent. I was spellbound. 

I love that he did not name a single character in the book. Read it and you will see that it doesn't matter. I grew to love the main character; she was the most brutally honest unreliable narrator ever, and I loved it. 

The story also reminded me of something I've never really seen or read, so I guess it reminded me of something I think I know about, which is the novel/film Solaris. I've never read it, never seen the film, but I think I know a little about it, and this reminded me of that, which is weird, but makes perfect sense to me, so whatever.

Get off the fence and read this book. It's not long, but there is a lot of story within those two hundred pages, and it's part of a trilogy, so hopefully those questions I have will be answered later on. Or maybe not. Either way, it's one hell of a ride. 

 

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 9, 2014 - 12:16am

Great breakdown Bob! It is so unique but I totally get the Solaris thing. The way that this unfathomable environment is working itself on the expedition. Great! I totally understand how someone could get frustrated at times reading this but a lot of that is alleviated once you trust that the author is taking you where you need to go.

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 9, 2014 - 12:18am

I'm really glad it's having so much mainstream success. I feel like it's a real game changer for other writers in the sense that it shows that mainstream readers are capable and actually desire material so complex and unresolved. You know?

SRead's picture
SRead from Colorado is reading Stories April 9, 2014 - 9:41am

Nice, Bob. Yes--all of that. I love a book that leaves me with questions. It makes me think about it for a long time after it's finished, and when that afterthought turns into something clicking--it's like magic. It's like the story is taking place outside of itself. And when a story this creepy climbs out of its pages like that is when I start losing sleep over it. Really an incredible writing feat. 

Can we be spoilery now? I want to play "If I were on a mission in Area X, I'd have died when _____." 

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 9, 2014 - 4:30pm

For those who have read Annihilation Book Circle Online (which my friend Jason Squanara Hosts but which is produced by Maria Menounos) does an in depth discussion of the book that runs the gambit reaction wise and by the end episode all 4 hosts even the ones who were initially very frustrated were like WE HAVE TO READ THE NEXT TWO!!! You should listen to the entire episode because it really does go to some fascinating places.

http://bookcircleonline.com

great to see mainstream coverage of such an intense book!

 

LizardKing's picture
LizardKing April 9, 2014 - 11:38pm

I enjoyed the book enough to pre-order the remaining two titles in the trilogy.

The story was very unique and interesting. And I almost never read any sci-fi so this was a nice change.

One thing I didn't like was the occasionally rambling nature of the narration. 

It felt at times as if the story had been expanded for the purpose of releasing a trilogy when it could easily have been released as one novel.

I find the concept of releasing an entire trilogy within the same calendar year strange. I'm really not sure what to make of that.

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 12, 2014 - 9:37am

The second book takes place within the Southern Reach organization so it's very much a separate book. The accelerated schedule I imagine will help people piece together all three of the books regarding some of the major mystery elements. I have an ARC of the second book but haven't read it yet but it's much thicker than the first one.

Kari Wolfe's picture
Kari Wolfe from Colorado Springs, CO April 13, 2014 - 4:31pm

According to what I've seen, it wasn't Jeff's idea to release all 3 books in a year -- it was the publishers. 

I LOVE this book. :) 

I've also pre-ordered the next two books. 

I too am waiting to post spoilery information :)  

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 14, 2014 - 6:23am

No need for you guys to wait to post your thoughts. Just label things with SPOILER tags. ;)

SRead's picture
SRead from Colorado is reading Stories April 14, 2014 - 7:32pm

Oh, good!

Okay, SPOILERS.

I think the biggest "oh shit" moment, for me--and the part where I know I would have died--is when she finds the pile of journals. The proof that they'd been lied to, and that the danger wasn't just in Area X, but back home as well. It was so sinister. And I know I would have stayed in that pit and read as many as I could before the monster or madness got to me. For some reason that pile of books made me way more uncomfortable than the thing at the bottom of the tower.

And are the people who come back from Area X really themselves? Or are they some sort of Area X mimic, sent back to explore?

I'm dying to know the tie between the lighthouse and the tower/tunnel. Why was the lighthouse keeper in the slug-thing? What is past that light at the bottom? Are the two connected, somehow? I'm glad to hear that the next book is longer. I want more answers. But, I've found the second books in trilogies usually just raise more questions.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 16, 2014 - 1:06pm

Just finished it and I'm really torn on how I should rate it.

I loved the ending. And it had some awesome moments (agree with you, SRead - the discovery of the diaries). But then there were some sections that really bored me.

The parts of the book that held my attention though were just so good.

I think something that probably hurts the story more than helps it is - not naming the characters. It made everybody seem like a cardboard cut-out. None of them really had any characteristics that set them apart - except for the psychologist, and that wasn't as much as it could have been. I feel like trying to create mystery hurt this aspect more than helped it.

What I really liked though was the atmosphere and mystery of Area X (the place, not the people). It kind of reminded me of that computer game Myst. It was like grabbing a still life where everything just sort of disappeared and trying to figure out where it went. And that's probably why the diaries were such a freaky moment. They possibly held the answers.

If I could do half stars on goodreads, I would give it 3.5. But because I can't do that, I'll round up to 4 stars.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 16, 2014 - 1:10pm

Because it's part one of a trilogy too, that makes me want to rate it higher. He definately made me want to buy the next two books in the Southern Reach trilogy.

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 16, 2014 - 8:24pm

I think in the second and third book we find out more as to why they had to go by general titles rather than names. Also why modern technology isn't brought with the expeditions.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies April 24, 2014 - 7:45am

(not looking at spoilers)

dammit this sounds really good. Anybody comparing it to THE RUINS? i only have one JVDM book, FINCH, and I've only peeked at it, but really liked what i read. this looks like an epic trilogy. adding it to the pile.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 24, 2014 - 11:07am

It's really hard to judge until the full trilogy is read. It's like judging Lost based on the 2nd season only.

klaut's picture
klaut from London is reading 52 Pickup May 2, 2014 - 2:24am

A bit late.

Read it. Loved it!! Pre ordered the second one.

I am really curious to find out how some managed to come back and what happened to them.. Were those really just doppelgangers? Something similar like the Flesh from Doctor Who, maybe?

Tony McMillen's picture
Tony McMillen from Mostly glorious Tucson Arizona but now I live near Boston. is reading Not, I'm writing June 7, 2014 - 1:04pm

Just finished it. Really dug it. Can't wait for the second and third installments. I hope there are some answers as well as more questions. 

Natso's picture
Natso from Mongolia is reading Moby Dick August 2, 2014 - 2:57am

I decided to check what the whole buzz is about. I finished the book overnight (imagine reading the tower descent scene on a quiet night home alone). The journal narration was very smooth and conveyed the dread like Stephen King's epistolary short "Jerusalem's Lot".

[Spoilers:] I liked the Lost meets the Mist meets the Thing elements. Definitely the thing of our generation. The suspense was highest at the tower descent part.