- Published by: Blackstone Audio
- Published date: 2014
- Format: Audio CD (5 disks)
- Listen Time: 6 hours
- Author: Jeff Vandermeer
- Read by: Carolyn McCormick
- ISBN 10: 1482956756
- ISBN 13: 9781482956757
Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer is the first book in The Southern Reach Trilogy and I don’t know if I want to read the rest of the trilogy, not because I did not like the first book, but because I liked it a lot. I liked that not all the questions in my mind were answered. I liked the mysterious nature of Area X. The story itself is about an ongoing search for answers in a completely unknowable space and I fear that once answers are supplied they may be less satisfying than open questions and pondering.
In the story, a group of four nameless women make up the twelfth expedition to Area X. Area X is cut off from most human interaction. Nature has reclaimed the area, and something more than natural as well. Eleven previous expeditions have been sent into the area to try to understand and study the area. The previous expeditions have faced various types of adversity such as the members of one group killing each other and another who returned with no memory of how they returned. The biologist’s husband was one of these in the eleventh expedition who returned unexpectedly and succumbed to cancer not long after.
The four women of the twelfth expedition are only know as: the anthropologist, the surveyor, the psychologist, and the biologist (the narrator of the story). Keeping the characters nameless was an interesting choice. In a way, it makes them less personal and less human, identified only by their role and not by their humanity. As time goes by, some of them seem to become less, or perhaps more, than human as they investigate the strange landscape. The environment becomes its own character, driving and guiding and terrifying at different points.
Shortly after entering the area, the questions begin. The flora and fauna of this area are both familiar and somehow alien. Normal looking animals that do not look quite normal. They come across a large underground structure that does not appear on their maps. It seems to have been there for too long to have been missed when the maps were created. How it could have been missed? Or was it purposefully left off the maps?
As the investigations and analysis continues, more and more questions arise and only a very few of them are ever answered. The ambiguity and the incomprehensible nature of the area make for a chilling and intriguing story. There are many questions raised in the reader’s mind and in the mind’s of the character, and many of these are never answered. When we reach the end of the story with an inconclusive ending, it actually adds to the enigmatic nature of the novel. I hesitate to read the other two books in the series as I was so satisfied with the questions that I am concerned that the answers are likely to be less satisfying.
Eventually I will probably come back and finish the rest of the Southern Reach trilogy. If you’ve read the entire trilogy, let me know in the comments if the answers in the other two books are worth erasing some of the questions.
For a Science Fiction story without quite as many open questions at the end, try Plastivore by Matt Truxaw