I first came across this author when I during my Creative Writing part of my course at Staffordshire University. At the time, I was paired up with a fellow student, and we had to give a presentation on a writing exercise. I was looking for Creative Writing books and came across Jeff VanderMeer’s “Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction”. After reading that, I knew I had to read a novel from him. “Annihilation” came to me through BookCrossing.com and I have actually found a new favourite author.
Talk about the weird and the wonderful; how many books can you name where you’ve read the whole story without knowing a single character’s name? Jeff VanderMeer proves his amazing ability to write by skirting around identities. Instead, our main character is known as The Biologist.
We follow the biologist as she becomes a part of the 12th expedition to Area X. Also on this expedition are an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor. The area is bordered from the public and is practically deserted.
They were told they have to reach the lighthouse; all the while, recapping each day’s events in journals. What we do know, is that the biologist is emotionally attached to this place as her husband was on a previous expedition to Area X. Her husband came back distraught and different. He was later taken away and she never saw him again.
As the novel develops, we become more and more intrigued with what is going on in Area X. Things start getting worse and worse, and the biologist is noticing things; she becomes more and more aware of what is going on, yet she still doesn’t understand it.
It’s pure brilliance; written amazingly. Jeff VanderMeer transports me within Area X straight away. I always imagined Area X as a beautiful stunning place, which is probably why he chose the biologist has his main character so we could see what she was seeing.
On the other hand, it’s difficult to identify with the characters when they aren’t given a name. At times, I ended up having to reread what I had just read to make sense of what was happening in the scene. The other thing was our narrator; at times the biologist could be considered to be unreliable. I would’ve liked to have heard the perspective of the other characters to make sense of what was going on, especially when they all had conflicting ideas and interpretations. Nonetheless, it was fully engaging and in “Annihilation”, Jeff VanderMeer proves his skillfulness in writing as a whole.
The film rights were acquired in 2014 by Paramount Pictures; with Alex Garland writing the script and directing the visual. He last wrote and directed the award-winning film Ex Machina. Many cast members have been confirmed, including Natalie Portman, who will play the Biologist; Jennifer Jason Leigh, who will play the Psychologist; as well as Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, and David Gyasi. This is a film I do not want to miss.
This book is the first novel of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. The other books are titled “Authority” and “Acceptance”. Whether the next two books will be adapted into films is something I hope will happen but it all depends on the successfulness of the first film, and how it ends.
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