Hi friends! This is the first book I’ve read in a while that isn’t an ARC or a book I received in a subscription box, so I’m excited! This book comes to me at the recommendation of my fiancé, who has recently gotten back into reading. I bought this trilogy for him as an early Christmas gift (having not read any of them myself), and he blew through them, loved them, and demanded I read the first one so we could talk about it together. Shout out to Dev, this one’s for you (he doesn’t read this blog haha).
Synopsis & Quick Thoughts
Annihilation is the first novel in the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. It follows the twelfth expedition into a wild, mysterious, and dangerous location named Area X, which has been cut off from civilization and reclaimed by nature for decades. The expedition consists of four people: a biologist, a psychologist, an anthropologist, and a surveyor. As the group venture further into Area X, taught to expect the unexpected, record the terrain, and not be contaminated, they soon discover the secrets they’re keeping form one another may be the most surprising thing of all.
This book was absolutely, totally fine. Not great but not unenjoyable. The biggest flaw for me was the writing style that really killed the pacing of the novel, but I can see why some people would really enjoy this title. I think that this novel could have benefitted from a more fast-paced writing style or condensation to a short story, but it wasn’t unenjoyable by any means.
This world building is really, really cool. The concept and synopsis of this book is unique and intriguing and although it took me longer to read than usual, I was engaged and looking forward to learning more the entire time. Although I disliked the writing style, I appreciated how it was indicative of the narrator’s profession and personality and certainly added another level of realism.
This book was very slow-moving and very atmospheric; while i take issue with the former, the in-depth descriptions of the environments, creatures, and encounters were very well done and helped to build an atmosphere with a lot of tension. The reveals were executed well and instilled a sense of dread in me every time.
I really enjoyed the mysterious nature of this book and the lack of explanations for a lot of the plot points or questions brought up in the novel. While I’ve been told some of these mysteries get answered in the sequel(s), the ambiguity kept me thinking and guessing while reading, and the ending left a lot up to the reader without being too vague or lazy. I know that type of conclusion doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I liked being able to add on my own thoughts and ideas to the end of the novel and make peace with what I read.
As I mentioned above, the pace of this novel killed a lot of my excitement. I understand why VanderMeer made the choices about the writing style that he did; the slow, detailed, methodical prose was very indicative of the way that a biologist may categorize and describe her surroundings. With that being said, the pace was incredibly slow and even reveals and moments of high tension were written with such intricacy and description that all feelings of suspense were quickly gone. This book is only 195 pages and it took me four days to finish (a book with that length would normally take me half the time).
Although I wouldn’t consider this a negative for this book (and didn’t factor into my rating), I want to note that my fiancé did not like the second book in this series, mostly due to its continued slow pace, additional length, and lack of engaging plot points, and thought the third book was just okay.
Rating & Final Thoughts
I’m going to rate Annihilation 3 out of 5 stars. I feel very so-so about this novel and can see why some people love it and some don’t. If you’re a science fiction lover and are okay with a slower paced novel, I would definitely recommend this one. I just don’t think this novel was the right one for me.
Buy Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer here.*
*as a reminder, I am an Amazon affiliate and make a small commission off of purchases made using my link.