Guest post by Adam.
Taryn is increasingly honing her skill at getting me to read books. Several weeks back she (seemingly) innocently showed me Annihilation, the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy. “Here’s the first book in the Sci-Fi trilogy I mentioned earlier,” she said whilst distracting me with her blue eyes. “Don’t you think it sounds interesting?” This second line was also delivered with a generous portion of feminine wile.
Ok, so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. But ONLY a bit.
It shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise that later that night Taryn casually mentioned that if I wanted to read that book first, she wouldn’t be able to get to it for a few days. At that point I had to embarrassingly admit that I’d already stolen Annihilation and hidden it in in my work bag to begin devouring the following day.
I never stood a chance. Luckily for me, Taryn only uses her powers for good and not evil. The Southern Reach Trilogy turned out to be a weird, wild, awesome ride.
All three of the books that comprise the trilogy were published in 2014 just a few months apart from each other. One might ask why VanderMeer didn’t just publish a single volume and then ungenerously suggest that it was for money. And maybe it was at least a bit, but I can honestly say each book felt different and distinct. Besides, three 350+ page books are easier for most people to tackle instead of one 1000+ page tome (though if you're into that kind of thing, you can buy a hardcover version with all three novels bound into one volume).
Taryn asked how I would talk about this series while avoiding spoilers. The truth of the matter is that I really can’t. In my opinion, the magic of the first book, Annihilation, is that sense of unknown and foreboding that VanderMeer creates so masterfully. It feels like an awesome survival horror thriller. Like a zombie movie where you can’t yet see the zombies but know the main character is well and truly screwed already. Who am I to ruin that? So I’ll have to leave you with the vaguest of premises and let you decide from there.
Annihilation follows the twelfth expedition into Area X. The expedition is made up of four women, a psychologist, surveyor, an anthropologist, and the narrator, a biologist. Just what Area X is and exactly what they will be doing on the expedition is unknown, but past expeditions have ended horribly. The four members of the expedition have been instructed not to use names, so they only go by their job title. This somehow further adds to the creepiness factor.
I’ve read some reviews complaining about the biologist as narrator. She’s cold and scientific. Sort of a Sheldon Cooper meets Sherlock Holmes (the awesome Benedict Cumberbatch version, not the Robert Downey Jr. one). Personally, I found her scientific navel gazing much more palatable than some woe is me hippy dippy let’s talk about our feelings narrator like we are normally subjected to. But opinions may vary.
I can’t really list much info on Authority and Acceptance, the second and third installments, without spoiling the whole thing. All I can really leave you with is my opinion of the resolution at the end of the trilogy. I’m not sure what I expected, but the awesomeness of Annihilation may have artificially inflated my hopes for the resolution. It’s sort of like the fancy restaurant at the end of the week that you’ve been looking forward to for days. Was it delicious? Yes. Was it as delicious as you’d imagined it in your mind the last few days? Not quite.
At the very least, Annihilation is worth a read. If you love it as much as I did, then dive in to the remaining two and find out just how good of an author VanderMeer is.