Annihilation reads like an episode of The Twilight Zone, complete with the explanatory monologue at the end. I could hear Rod Serling’s voice in my head. I think that’s why I liked Annihilation so much.
It’s about the twelfth expedition to Area X, a mysterious plot of land that has been under investigation for thirty years because of mysterious occurrences. This expedition includes four women: an anthropologist, a psychologist, a surveyor, and a biologist. They are never named, and the biologist narrates in journal-form. The situation seems weird from the beginning. They discover a tunnel into the ground, which the biologist insists on calling a tower, and descend to find a scrawl of mysterious and terrifying words. The biologist gets close enough to discover that they’re some sort of fungus, and inhales, infecting herself with…something. The biologist discovers that the psychologist, who leads the group, has been giving posthypnotic commands to them all along, but this fungus has made the biologist impervious. She goes on to discover some of the mysteries of Area X and what it does to her and her fellow expeditioners.
In a way, Annihilation reminded me of Bird Box, which might be another reason I liked it. The reader sees the world through the biologist’s tunnel-vision, affected somehow by that fungus, but she doesn’t know how, and she keeps it a secret from the other women. We’re kept in the dark, waiting for her to write something down that makes sense of things, like discovering this area as she does.
Annihilation is the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy, by Jeff VanderMeer. All three books were published this year, only a couple of months apart and only in paperback. That seems like a strange move, though they were first self-published, I think, so maybe it makes sense? Anyway, I’ll be reading the second and third, Authority and Acceptance in short order because I’m entirely hooked.
Shakespeare was not nearly as enthusiastic:
In other news, I finally finished uploading photos from my one-day whirlwind tour of Washington, DC. Here’s the full set.