‘Annihilation’ by Jeff Vandermeer – Don’t Go Into Area X

‘Annihilation’ by Jeff Vandermeer   (2014) – 195 pages

I must admit that ‘Annihilation’ was out of my reading comfort area. I don’t read much science fiction. although this year I did enjoy ‘Roadside Picnic’ by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.  I was willing to give science fiction another try.

In ‘Annihilation’ four unnamed woman researchers explore a mysterious abandoned area known as Area X. They are the psychologist, the anthropologist, the surveyor, and our narrator the biologist. There have already been eleven expeditions into the area, and many of the previous explorers have met a tragic or strange end. Our narrator’s husband had been on the previous mission and had returned little more than a zombie. Our biologist goes there to investigate what happened to him.

We were scientists, trained to observe natural phenomena and the results of human activity. We had not been trained to encounter what appeared to be uncanny.”

The leader of the group, the psychologist, can use hypnotic commands to control the others.

Much of Area X is like a marsh, teeming with creatures both below and above the water line.

Far worse, though, was a low, powerful moaning at dusk. The wind off the sea and the odd interior stillness dulled our ability to gauge direction, so that the sound seemed to infiltrate the black water that seemed to soak the cypress trees.”

I suppose this novel could be classified into the subdivision of ecological science fiction.

‘Annihilation’ is heavy on physical description with little or no character development. The characters have no names and there is little mention of their character traits. Since most of the fiction I read is character-driven where each of the protagonists has a well-defined personality and a name, this was really alien territory for me, my own Area X. The writing here seemed rather amorphous to me and not at all spellbinding even though the events taking place were monstrous and scarifying.

One of the reviews I read of ‘Annihilation’ mentioned the author’s “deliberate vagueness”. That intentional vagueness of the characters and the creatures they encounter left me with a vague impression of this novel.

I will not attempt to grade this novel, since it is written in a style that I could never appreciate.

‘Annihilation is the first of a trilogy of novels called the Southern Reach Trilogy. I won’t be reading the others.

4 responses to this post.

  1. I haven’t read this, but have seen the film adaptation which is quite good. I’m not sure the book would be for me though.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Cathy,
      Yes, I expect ‘Annihilation’ would work better as a movie than as a novel since at least in the movie the actresses would still have their intrinsic personalities. But what am I saying, the book sold extremely well. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person


  2. I absolutely loved the books, and have gone on to enjoy more by Jeff Vandermeer. I loved the weirdness, the eco-thriller bits, the not knowing what was happening much at all. Conversely I didn’t enjoy the movie as much!

    Liked by 1 person


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