Saturday, October 3, 2015

Book Report: Annihilation

Here's one of those rare instances where I could probably sum up a book report in two words. And those two words are: MIND FUCK.

Jeff Vandermeer's Annihilation is unlike any book I've ever read, which can be confusing and slightly frustrating, but it's also exhilarating (in a book-nerd sort of way). Structurally, the story was told as any other, from the start of events to the finish, so the narrative was easy to follow. But where it starts to get wonky is the fact that none of the characters in the book have names. Yeah. Weird, right?

They are instead identified only by their positions on this mysterious expedition; the surveyor, the anthropologist, the psychologist, and our narrator - the biologist.

Something else I loved was that all four of these characters were women. There was some major chick power in the story!

It's hard to assign a genre to this one, but if I had to I'd say futuristic dystopian, without any real sci-fi elements. Also a bit of horror and thriller. And adventure. Okay, fine. This one defies any labeling.

So without giving away too much (almost impossible considering how the entire story is cloaked in mystery) I can say that these four women are chosen to explore Area X, a vaguely described section of the United States where there was an "event" some years back after which time it was abandoned and reclaimed by nature. The Southern Reach is a government agency tasked with figuring out what the fuck is with this place, and so they send in group after group, with no luck at all. Not just no luck, BAD luck. Pretty much everyone is fucked over by Area X in different, screwy ways.

Vandermeer's writing style is simple and concise, and the story only flashed back a few times to the biologist's home life before the expedition, so apart from that you're trapped in Area X with the protagonist the whole time, wondering WTF along with her. There are some awesome eerie, suspenseful moments, and one amazing feat on the part of the author in which he describes something that is essentially indescribable. You'll have to read it to see what I mean by that.

All in all I was hooked by the unknown in this book, and couldn't put it down because of the intense need to know more. Which is pretty much the motivation of the biologist for volunteering to go to Area X in the first place.

(Game show announcer voice) And now it's tiiiime foooooor...

Things I Learned About in Annihilation:

  • a bit of the biology of pond life
  • hypnotism and "trigger words"
New Words I Learned In Annihilation:

Eukaryotic - Used in the book to describe a mossy fungusy thing. A sciency word that a biologist most certainly would use.

"...what would have looked to the layperson like rich green fernlike moss 
but in fact was probably a type of fungi or other eukaryotic organism."

Crenellations: This word was used to describe parts of a lighthouse that is visited in the story.

"I could see crenellations that created lines of sight for rifles."

Bulwark: This word was used to describe moss on the seashore.

"They, clinging to the soil, stopped it from eroding and helped 
bulwark the dunes and the sea oats that came next."


I'll give Annihilation a 3.5. It was thoroughly enjoyable, incredibly suspenseful and spooky, and very addictive. It lost a point for me when it failed to answer some major questions that I had. I suppose that's why it's a trilogy though! Also, a half point is lost for making the strong female lead's motivation largely about a man.


Up next on the Quirky Canuck Book Club!

Undermajordomo Minor, by Patrick deWitt

A love story, an adventure story, a fable without a moral, and an ink-black comedy of manners, international bestselling author Patrick deWitt's new novel is about a young man named Lucien (Lucy) Minor, who accepts employment at the foreboding Castle Von Aux. While tending to his new post as undermajordomo, he soon discovers the place harbours many dark secrets, not least of which is the whereabouts of the castle's master, Baron Von Aux.

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