A biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor walk into the jungle… This group of four women, known only by their occupational titles, is the twelfth expedition into remote Area X, a pristine, yet unusual forest that rarely allows survivors. Annihilation is book one in the Southern Reach trilogy and it centers on a remote coastline accessible only by permission…from the forest? Protected by an invisible force, people are only permitted to enter the region under hypnosis. It’s eerie.
Part Lovecraftian fiction, part psychological thriller, this slim novel can be read in one sitting. If you are anything like me, you will find yourself glued to the book after a slower first 50 pages. What we as readers know about the story is far, far outweighed by what we don’t know. Unreliably narrated by the biologist, the reader learns that Area X has undergone unsettling, potentially sentience-inducing changes and that no one has lived to tell the tale. Not really. What they don’t know is how or why it happened; they just know that the phenomenon is growing.
Although it’s hard to imagine being satisfied by a book that offers no satisfactory explanations, Annihilation is exactly that book. Unnerving and filled with foreboding, it’s an extraordinary tale about nature gone awry. I’d recommend Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer for both fans of science fiction and mystery.
And now I can watch the movie. Finally.
As an alternative for a review, I decided to create a soundtrack for the book. Please note that quite a bit of this is intended to be playful and irreverent. I’m rarely serious and this post is no exception.
01. Thought Contagion // Muse
“But there is a limit to thinking about even a small piece of something monumental. You still see the shadow of the whole rearing up behind you, and you become lost in your thoughts in part from the panic of realizing the size of that imagined leviathan.”
02. Comedown // Bush
“We all live in a kind of continuous dream,” I told him. “When we wake, it is because something, some event, some pinprick even, disturbs the edges of what we’ve taken as reality.”
03. Paranoid // Black Sabbath
“I knew these elements were intended for me and me alone. There were no endearments, but I understood in part because of this restraint. He knew how much I hated words like love.”
04. Pretender // Foo Fighters
“Pretending often leads to becoming a reasonable facsimile of what you mimic, even if only from a distance.”
05. Sounds of Silence // Disturbed
“Silence creates its own violence.”
06. Hurt // Johnny Cash
“I think you’re confusing suicide with self-destruction, and they’re very different. Almost none of us commit suicide, whereas almost all of us self-destruct. Somehow. In some part of our lives. We drink, or take drugs, or destabilize the happy job”.
07. Green Grass and High Tides // The Outlaws
This was the way of things here. There were no reasons so mighty that they could override the desire to be in accord with the tides and the passage of seasons and the rhythms underlying everything around me.”
08. Love Will Tear Us Apart // Joy Division
“‘Ghost bird, do you love me?’ he whispered once in the dark, before he left for hs expedition training, even though he was the ghost. “Ghost bird, do you need me?” I loved him, but I didn’t need him, and I thought that was the way it was supposed to be.”
09. A Forest // The Cure
“There is no one with me. I am all by myself. The trees are not trees the birds are not birds and I am not me but just something that has been walking for a very long time . . .”
10. Dear God // XTC
“Eventually, though, I was able to reconstruct fragments of a handful of some of the variants: Why should I rest when wickedness exists in the world… God’s love shines on anyone who understands the limits of endurance, and allows forgiveness… Chosen for the service of a higher power. If the main thread formed a kind of dark, incomprehensible sermon, then the fragments shared an affinity with that purpose without the heightened syntax.”
11. Riverside // Agnes Obel
“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 soaked the cypress trees. This water was so dark we could see our faces in it, and it never stirred, set like glass, reflecting the beards of gray moss that smothered the cypress trees. If you looked out through these areas, toward the ocean, all you saw was the black water, the gray of the cypress trunks, and the constant, motionless rain of moss flowing down.”
Care to add anything? Or just chime in on the Southern Reach Trilogy?