An unknown biological catastrophe claims a chunk of the world, cuts a clear border between the tainted and the untainted. This tainted place is called Area X, named so by an unnamed government, a government not at all above sacrificing lives to unlock the mystery that is Area X. This government charges a cloak and dagger agency, The Southern Reach, with the handling of Area X, infiltration; training personnel to cross the border and study Area X.
The very first team reported a place once inhabited by people living in modest homes, a lighthouse off the coast, then, somehow, nature took it all back. Life became death, grass, vines, spread over the homes, forests grew thick, marshlands swelled, the people apparently swallowed by nature growing unabated. Loss of life aside, the early reports described Area X as beautiful, peaceful, pure. This picture didn’t last long. Then came the mass suicide of one team, another self-destructed in a hail of gunfire, blasting each other to fleshy mounds of former colleagues. The eleventh expedition came home, only to die of a very rapid terminal cancer. Despite the early reports, Area X is dangerous, its beauty, false. Answers, however, are more important than lives, The Southern Reach is willing to spill as much blood as necessary in order to know what they need to know.
Enter the twelfth team, four women; a surveyor, a psychologist, a biologist, and an anthropologist. Teams are chosen by various statistics, skill-sets and variables known only by The Southern Reach. Team twelve is tasked to study Area X, and each other. Any member who might behave oddly or appear “changed” by Area X is to be shot on sight, lest the mission as a whole be compromised.
The novel is narrated by the biologist, teams leave their names and lives behind. It’s much easier to remain impartial to each other if everything is impersonal. It’s also easier to shoot a “changed” colleague in the face if they don’t have a name, or a story. The biologist is a flawed character, a woman more comfortable around frogs and dragonflies than people and their conversations and desire for closeness. Yet, through her story, her struggles, we do care about this detached woman of science. This is part of VanderMeer’s skill, he makes us care about characters whose general lives are incomprehensible, as there’s always still some relatable spark in them.
Immediately, VanderMeer sets a tone of dread, we’re told early that members of the team will die, one very quickly. From the start, we know the mission is damned, there’s no heroic happy ending. We don’t know the hows, we only know that the biologist is looking back from the ruins of a wrecked ship. We read, desperately at times, because we want to know the hows, and more urgently, the whys. Why does The Southern Reach send people to Area X like cattle to a killing floor? Why is such a beautiful place so full of death? So many whys, but I won’t reveal them here. There’s also a what, a most important what. What ultimately becomes of the biologist? We don’t want Area X to claim her, but there’s a constant fear that in her final sentence, it will.
VanderMeer uses perfect words to paint images of gorgeous landscapes, macabre dark, hidden places, and images of death and decay that will disturb readers long after the final page is turned. His use of descriptive imagery, quick plotting, and rich character development is spot-on, perhaps the best balance he has ever struck.
Annihilation is a short, fast-paced novel that is really the beginning of a much deeper narrative. For those who have never read Jeff VanderMeer this novel is a perfect introduction, and for those who have, his brilliance will only be further demonstrated.
Buy Annihilation, it absolutely won’t disappoint, and I’m sure the rest of the trilogy will be just as spectacular.
Oh, if you hurry, you can win a copy of Annihilation here!No comments
So, this is post #667, nothing evil about that. I’ve been writing here since… mid-2007, so the stretches that I haven’t written show in the numbers. Still, 667 posts isn’t an awful number. I’ve tried to not post garbage, which is why sometimes I write nothing at all. I don’t know where this post is going, I don’t know where this blog is going, I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know. Who knows?1 comment
So, this is post #666, aka Satan’s Post. I feel like rather than make it some regular post that’ll just get turned and twisted into some nightmare, I’ll just acknowledge that this is, in fact, Satan’s Post, post it, and move on.No comments
So, every day in November, I am going to post something, hopefully thirty good somethings. Only time will tell, really. I need to get this space going again.
If anybody has any post suggestions… do comment.1 comment
I’m aware that at some point, probably soon, people are going to forget me if I don’t start writing again. I’m sure this is already starting. I really don’t want this to happen.I love words and writing, arranging words into something whole, and hopefully beautiful. I like that people read my stuff, and when someone tells me that something I wrote affected them. I don’t want to be forgotten, and I don’t want to disappear before I’ve written something of real importance, something that feels important to me anyways. I’m just stuck, and the desire to write things, anything, isn’t in me. I’m drowning in anxiety, and fear, and a certain emptiness, and ennui. I hate these feelings, though they’re so completely familiar. The thing is, I don’t feel “lost,” I’m not lost. I know where I want to be, what I want to feel, I know everything I want. I always know what I want, I’ve never not known. This, it’s like a bad dream, and I can’t wake up. I so can’t wake up.
Still, I need to write. I need to force myself to write, something, anything, everyday. Maybe everyday. I need to try, at least.2 comments
So, Rigor Amortis launched today, the collection of zombie erotica and romance flash fiction which contains one of my stories. It’s a really good collection, stories ranging from sweet to sexy, disturbing to terrifying. Rigor Amortis mixes horror and love, death and sex, it bends genre barriers until they break, creating unexpectedly wonderful stories. If this sounds interesting, pick up a copy on Amazon. I’d love to get some feedback on my tale sex and the undead.2 comments
I’ve never had this much trouble writing, at least, not since I started writing this blog. It’s a bad feeling, not being able to create, it’s frustrating. I know I can fix it, I know I can dig my way out if I try hard enough. I mean, ultimately, writing is the only thing I have that’s truly mine, I can’t quit. Whatever I write is what will be around when I go wherever I go after I quit breathing, it’ll be all that’s left. I want something left. So, this not being able to write nonsense has to stop.
I need to pull myself together. I need to write with complete abandon. My writing is about absolute honesty, I need to get back to that place. I need to write like Kurt, and Elliott, and Alanis, writing without safety nets. Otherwise, the writing is empty and meaningless.7 comments