SCAN Book Club: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

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A Lively review of Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation.

‘I am walking forever on the path from the border to base camp. It is taking a long time, and I know it will take even longer to get back. There is no one with me. I am all by myself. The trees are not trees, and the birds are not birds, and I am not me but just something that has been walking for a very long time…’

Jeff Vandermeer, a well-known name in the fantasy genre, goes on a foray into psychological horror in ‘Annihilation’. This book is not your average horror novel. Critics widely regard it as one of the scarier series of books out there, which first drew my attention to them. As a reader, you’re constantly questioning the reliability of what you’re being told and guessing the true intentions of ‘Area X’ which contributes to a general feeling of unease while reading.

Vandermeer himself said that the inspiration for the novel came from his hike through St Marks National Wildlife Refuge. This influence is easy to see through the rich and evocative imagery throughout the book. For example: ‘When you see beauty in desolation, it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonise you’. In that short extract, you can get a sense of the overall theme of isolation that runs throughout the novel, paranoia and madness swiftly follow.

In terms of style ‘Annihilation’ is the biologist’s journal of her exploration of the mysterious ‘Area X’ an unexplained biological mystery that has a moving border towards civilisation. Flashbacks slowly uncover the biologist’s motivations as to why she joined the 12th expedition in the first place. The books greatest strength comes through its vivid descriptions of the creatures, environment and slowly settling insanity. The end of the novel doesn’t solve the riddle of Area X, but the finale builds the mysteries to a nerve-shredding peak.

While this book will not be for all people due to the heavy amount of introspection and description, it isn’t too long at 200 pages to find out whether it’s your cup of tea or not. The slow creeping paranoia and self-doubt might not be enough for gore fans, but there is no denying how unsettling some of the writing is. ‘If I kept looking, I knew that ultimately, I would have to admit I knew less than nothing about myself as well, whether that was a lie or the truth.’. I for one can safely say I’ll be reading the next two books in this trilogy as ‘Area X’ has a whole lot more explaining to do!

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