Annihilation

Review of ‘Annihilation’ by Jeff VanderMeer

There were four of us: a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor and a psychologist. I was the biologist. All of us were women this time, chosen as part of the complex set of variables that governed sending the expeditions.

Introduction

‘Annihilation’ is written by Jeff VanderMeer. It is the first book in the ‘Southern Reach’ trilogy.

I got to know of its existence when I saw the trailer for the movie. The trailer was bizarre but was quirky enough to pique my interest. Plus, it was directed by Alex Garland and starred Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac. Since it was based off a book, I went to Goodreads to see what kind of book it was. My pleasant surprise when I found it was the 2015 Nebula Award winner was balanced with my  apprehension at its poor ratings. This is akin to wanting to eat a gourmet pizza but then you find an insect on the edge. Depending on your hunger, you might either chose to take the risk of eating the pizza or chose to reject it. As always, the consequences of your decision will known only after much later.

Annihilation straddles both science fiction and horror. There is a mysterious Area X that the protagonist, a biologist, has to explore along with three others. This is the 12th such expedition into the area and the previous ones have not fared well.

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Recommendation

As you may have guess by my pizza analogy, the results were quite bad. I gamely stuck it through to the end of the book in the hope of finding something to take away. Sadly, this book has very little going for it. A lot of people have praised the paranoid atmosphere that the book generates. But, I found it to be a poor facsimile of the old Edger Allan Poe stories. There is this nameless horror that somehow keeps creeping up on you but when you turn around you see nothing. That is the majority of this book. Along with some generic government secret orders and conspiracy bull shit.

I could have put up with anything – a weak plot, poor writing, poor characterization. But this book commits the cardinal sin of being plain boring. In the effort to generate atmosphere, everything else falls flat. Poe’s stories did well because among their other merits, they were short. Annihilation is overly  long at even 200 pages.

So, “Annihilation” gets a massive thumbs down. Avoid it. Stay away from it. Nuke it from orbit.

 

Other Thoughts (Spoilers warning)

Spoilers below. Continue reading at your peril.

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There is so much of teasing in this book. A mysterious creatures that moans, the Crawler which somehow kills people, garbled nonsensical writing, conspiracies etc. Nothing is ever explained or bought to a conclusion. Maybe these points are resolved in the later books. But I really cannot give a fuck since the first one was ultra boring. Maybe I am missing the point of the book. But life is short and there are a lot more interesting books out there.

Also, the women characters in this book act like men. I mean if you are going to write women characters like men, then what is the point. The author could have at least made an effort since this is supposed to be integral to the plot.

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Also published on Medium.