ANNIHILATION, by Jeff VanderMeer [2014]

Annihilation

R. Tim Morris’ Rating: 9/10

At only 200 pages, this book (the first part of the Southern Reach Trilogy) is a VERY accessible novel. When I say that, what I refer to is a few things:
1) Book Length: 200 pages certainly will not intimidate potential readers. Plus, one (not me though) could probably read it in a single sitting;
2) Characters: the characters here are sparse (there’s really only five of them) and they are simple, though quite complex in their stripped-down-ness (is that a word?). There are no names for the characters, only job titles (Biologist, Psychologist, etc.) and it works. We know instantly what their roles are and there are no names to remember/mix up;
3) Genre: Southern Reach is billed as Sci-Fi, and though it is, it is also an exploration into Horror, Psychological and Literary fiction.

To me, Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation is part H.P. Lovecraft and part Stanislav Lem’s Solaris, which is a cool mix. There were a couple of legitimately terrifying moments where I couldn’t wait to turn the page. Hard to do these days.

There are also a number of truly tender moments, when the main character reflects on moments from her past. VanderMeer nailed these for me, and the book would not have been the same without them.

The title choice is interesting, and readers will know why when they reach that part in the story. Its moment in the novel is short but it sort of sums up everything and it sort of doesn’t, but still makes sense as a title, which is important.

From what I’ve read, the three parts of the trilogy are connected, though only very loosely. Annihilation could easily be read on its own without any sequels. Still, I’ll be checking out the next two and I’m excited to read what comes next.

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