Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

This is a really, really hard book to talk about. One of the reviews on the back cover says that it “defies summarisation” (I may be paraphrasing, I’ve left my copy at my boyfriend’s house), and that is completely accurate. It’s a complicated, fascinating book, which is truly creepy a lot of the time.

I will, however, make a botched attempt to summarise is. There is a mysterious ecological area, cordoned off from the rest of the world by some sort of border. There have been various expeditions into Area X, but they’ve all ended badly. The book documents the twelfth attempt to understand the area, as a team of four women enter Area X. At this point, it’s pretty hard to say anything that isn’t a spoiler, because you’re fed information so slowly and in such tiny dribs and drabs that I can’t really say anything.

It’s the first in a trilogy, but as I understand it the second book doesn’t precisely follow on. We join a different character than the narrator of the first, who doesn’t know everything that we found out in the first book, but does know some things that we didn’t, which makes me pretty interested in completing the trilogy.

It’s a very pacey story, I ripped through the whole thing in a single day (it’s also not very long), and there is so much unknown that you always want to keep going, to find out what is around the next corner. It is, as I said, creepy as hell. The way the tension is constantly maintained is incredible. The whole thing is pretty confusing, I think because the narrator doesn’t have all of the information either, so it’s quite hard to follow. I don’t mean that as a criticism, it’s clearly intentional, although at times the descriptions are of things so bizarre that it’s impossible to follow.

It’s quite a hard book to genre, as well. It’s kind of sci fi, kind of dystopia, but neither of those are really adequate. I always think that the best books defy categorisation, and that’s definitely the case here.

I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like this before, and I’ll definitely be picking up the next two in the series as soon as I can.


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