by Jeff VanderMeer.
This is a great example of one of those times when picking up a book because of its cool cover really pays off. Annihilation is the first short book in a series about the mysterious Area X. It’s never stated directly, but the sense I get is that this takes place on Earth in the future. Area X is where some sort of Event happened, and humanity has let nature take that area back, keeping it walled off from civilization as best it can. Several expeditions have been sent in to map and study the area. The first one went fine, but expeditions since then have ended in disasters of all sorts – suicide, murder, cancer, disappearance. This book is the story of the 12th expedition and what they find there. It is not what they expect.
This was such an interesting read. For starters, none of the characters have names. The 12th expedition is made up of 4 members, all women, and they are referred to solely by their job title. Even the narrator refers to herself as the biologist and never gives her name. You’d think that would make it hard to follow the story or connect with the characters but somehow it doesn’t. And the writing itself is just… atmospheric. The air of mystery and menace and general off-ness in Area X comes through quite clearly. The suspense is well done. The world VanderMeer has created is just so strange, it’s near impossible to predict what will happen next. I wasn’t bored once. The pace is pretty fast throughout and it is a quick read, being somewhat short (195 pages). And while the narrator’s story is wrapped up satisfactorily at the end of the book, some of the answers about Area X are still unknown, waiting to be explored in the next book. Which I will definitely be picking up.
If you’re into otherworldly sci-fi with a thriller twist, give this a try.