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Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 1) Audio CD – Unabridged, February 4, 2014
"Girl Gone Mad" by Avery Bishop
They say everything is fun and games until someone gets hurt. Well, someone did—and now the game has changed… | Learn more
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About the Author
- Publisher : Blackstone Audio; Unabridged edition (February 4, 2014)
- Language : English
- Audio CD : 1 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1482956756
- ISBN-13 : 978-1482956757
- Item Weight : 5.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.24 x 0.67 x 6.04 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,189,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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This book is a surprise and mystery if you have never read metaphysical horror before. To see what Annihilation would look like if executed flawlessly, read House of Leaves. The now-commonplace horror elements of humans encountering the utterly foreign and unknowable make up the backbone of the narrative. But whereas it is on glorious and staggering display in Lovecraft, King, amd other giants, here it is reduced to a bizarre oddity that induces head-scratching instead of spine-tingling.
The primary reason for this is the clashing styles. The first 160 pages of the book are so sterile and cold that even the strangest things are as interesting as unfinished jigsaw puzzles. The main character, The Biologist, states that this is to provide an objective account of events which necessotate a subjective experience in order to terrify. The last 30 pages are forced to give up the objective description, and only then does Annihilation actually become interesting.
The Biologist herself is done great injustice by the first 160 pages. In providing nothing but objective descriptions of events, the author fails to establish her as anything resembling a human being. She is nothing more than a camera lens that requires occasional flashbacks by the author to establish that she has Emotions and these are often at odds with the character as portrayed. The Biologist is a heavy introvert. She eschews people for her work. This is mentioned often and in bold fashion. Yet this person married, for reasons that are never explained beyond "he offsets my introversion". The Biologist is not portrayed as a person interested in the feelings or experiences of others. Why marry?
At the end of the book the semblance of a person begins to emerge from the Biologist, but by then the narrative has established her so firmly as a non-presence that her character feels like something the author shoved in when he realized there was no point to which the audience could attach. She is a walking fight between a detached third-person objective lens and a woman who wants to tell her own story. It does not end well for either party.
Finally, the book simply starts. No world-building or character history or any point of reference that would be helpful for an audience seeking a way into the story. In theory this plays along with the idea that the characters themselves know little, and are themselves poorly informed. In practice it is disorienting and dull. We know nothing about the state of the world. No baseline is established. Even the characters know more than we do, as is revealed later in the book - well past halfway in. The effect is like waking up to find yourself weightless inside an empty sphere. There is no point of reference and you can only make guesses until someone pops in and tells you what is happening.
There are many more small details that add up into a large pile of errors - debunked pop psychology from 1950 paired with hard science, characters that serve no purpose and go nowhere, jarring switches between clinical observation and surrealist prose, a world that is somehow both tantalizingly alien and horribly mundane - but describing those would take much longer.
Read a summary on Wikipedia. I guarantee it will be much more cohesive, interesting, and above all much less time-consuming than reading this book.
This is not a series by Michael Crichton. Although at times I was reminded of various Crichton works such as the Andromeda Strain, Sphere, and even Jurassic Park, Crichton takes painstaking efforts to ground the seemingly fantastical experiences in his stories with a semblance of fictional science. Crichton essentially is a magician who shows you afterwards how the trick was performed. There is no such reveal in this book (or really the series at large). Any sort of explanation (rational or irrational) is left entirely up to the reader. This can be frustrating for many people (including myself) who become engrossed in the plot and would like a finite resolution.
This is also not the book Arrival which also deals with potentially extraterrestrial beings, semiotics, and language. Whereas a linguist is the protagonist and narrator of Arrival, the linguist in Annihilation pointedly drops out of the expedition before the novel even begins.
What this book is, as many others have pointed out, is similar to Lost or (in my opinion) Prometheus. The writing, especially at the start, is both exciting and compelling. However, each mystery only leads to more mysteries. The main character is interesting if not rather obtuse (as many characters in sci-fi stories are -- if the crew of the Nostromo could follow simple quarantine procedures then the film Alien may have only been 15 minutes long -- but that's beside the point).
As a story, it's well written and the plot is intriguing. It borders on sci-fi horror and raises many interesting questions about the human condition. Hence the 3 stars. But the lack of exposition holds it back.
Top reviews from other countries
The book is written from the perspective of one of a team going to explore a quarantined area. They will be the twelve party to be sent into Area X to document their thoughts and findings during the expedition. It soon becomes apparent that Area X is not what it seems. But it seems that no one can make sense of what is happening to the party. All they know is that something is going on in the tower/tunnel, and what is the drawer to the lighthouse? Will they find out before the group collapses?
I liked this book no wiser than when I started really. I think to get the full enjoyment from the book it is probably best to read the whole series back to back. I would hope that by carrying on the series you get more answers than you have at the end of this book. But leaving it here makes me sceptical of whether I will come back to the series or not.
It was written well, with good tension. Its one of those stories that you would find yourself craning your head round corners in a film to find out what is there before the director wants you to as you just want answers! Full of suspense but not a lot of loose ends get tied up if any.
If you liked the TV series Lost, I think this book is perfect for you.
The first third of the book really did grab me. I was impressed by the concept of the book. I was beguiled by the mystery, and I felt compelled to keep reading so that I could gain answers and discover the secrets of Area X. The book is also nicely written. Very vivid, too.
I read this book quickly. (Let’s be fair, it is pretty short!) Unfortunately by the halfway point, I felt my interest in the book waning. There was just something missing. Instead of progressing, the story became rather stagnant. I even felt like I was also trapped in Area X, feeling very clueless about it all. Perhaps that’s the author’s purpose? I don’t know. I also felt a lack of empathy for any of the characters to the point where the biologist (narrator) was the only necessary character. For me, the book had no resolution. It provided me with none of the answers I sought and that was extremely unsatisfactory.
With that said, the book wasn’t all bad. The science and the world of Area X is breathtakingly beautiful. I am hoping that the film deviates from the book and provides the audience with a much clearer plot, and also, those all-important answers.
I’m really not sure whether or not to read the next instalment in this trilogy. Part of me wants to, because I actually still yearn for answers. But the other part of me thinks that the next two books might be as disappointing and confusing as this one.
Imagine, if you will, that you are lost within an alien landscape. You do not know whether you have left this earth or crossed through an alternative dimension, or whether you yet remain in a strange forgotten corner of the world. The only thing which connects you to the rest of humanity is a journal. A journal of a woman whose name you do not know, whose life is slowly unfolding as you turn the cracked and brittle pages, and whose fate will yet remain a mystery at its close.
Annihilation is a strange, disquieting and eerily beautiful novel which takes the reader on an expedition into Area X; where those who enter leave changed, if they leave at all. This is a tale of discovery and quiet observation, a preternatural mystery which should be slowly savoured until you are nothing but lost in the wilds of VanderMeer’s imagination.
Annihilation follows the expedition of an unnamed protagonist, the biologist, as she journeys into Area X, a mysterious and extensive partition of land under an apparent imposed quarantine. Previous expeditions have entered but all have returned altered, if they returned at all.
Together with a psychologist, an anthropologist and a surveyor, the twelfth expedition makes its way into this strange and mystifying land only to find that danger is as likely to come from within as without; no one remains the same in Area X. With towers that spiral into the earth, strange cries in the night and creatures straight out of a fever dream, finding a way home might be the least of their problems.
Annihilation is a quiet flight of (science) fantasy across uncharted territory; a novel which slowly draws you into a world of sinister discovery. Area X is a vast and mysterious zone which takes on an almost alien appearance; its utter unfamiliarity creating a heady and foreboding atmosphere which weighs heavily throughout. VanderMeer’s writing is effortlessly engaging, leading the reader one step at a time into this strange, hypnotic and almost hallucinogenic world which, whilst not overtly involved, rides a line of tension from beginning to end.
Throughout the novel Area X appears overwhelmingly large, but despite this impression the narrative remains confined to a comparatively small zone which the expedition is reticent to leave. Whilst the necessity for staging the narrative in this relatively small area is somewhat apparent, my own imagination was straining at these invisible borders, desperate to discover more of the land and its utterly strange inhabitants. But if it was a ploy to make me want to read book two, it worked! VanderMeer has set me on a voyage of discovery which I am determined to see through.
Our unnamed protagonist is a thoughtful, analytical woman whose perspective of quiet observation and discovery make her an engaging character. Whilst this works in the favour of the biologist, we gain little perspective on the supplementary characters beyond her observations. Her tendency to watch rather than communicate means we never establish any meaningful connection to the other members of the expedition and care little for them when events conspire against them. This does, however, add to the air of mystery and tension; anyone is capable of anything, everyone is disposable and no one is safe.
VanderMeer’s first foray into Area X is a beautiful, subtle and incredibly atmospheric read which resonates with a sense of the unknown and the unknowable. His lyrical writing is saturated with the strange, forming a sinister and other-worldly tale which becomes increasingly difficult to put down. Whilst I would have preferred a little more action throughout the narrative and a more climactic, defined conclusion, the story remained absorbing throughout and the beauty of VanderMeer’s writing more than made up for it. This is a tale of quiet enjoyment. Of the strange. Of dreams and of nightmares.
If you like your science fantasy subtle and eerie, and wish to venture into the unknown, then Annihilation might just be the book for you. This is a novel which diverted all of my expectations and still managed to impress. Jeff VandeerMeer may be a new addition to my bookshelves but I imagine he’ll be there to stay.
I bought this based on the film trailer and the premise started off great but quickly just went downhill to the point where nothing really happened. It's not that the ending was bad... there just wasn't really one; it just fizzled out.
Perhaps this is ploy to get you to buy the next book... but if so then if definitely feels like a money-grab, especially as the book is so short. I won't be bothering with the others. Hopefully the film is better!
This book has clearly been influenced by (the superior) Roadside Picnic by the Strugatskys but, where that was subtle and artful in its delivery, Annihilation feels much more staged.
And yet, I do really like Annihilation. The prose is easy to read, and the ideas that are conveyed are huge and thought provoking. The biggest problem here is that Vandermeer’s vision is not matched by his skill as a writer. He resorts to having the narrator state the various possibilities for the odd goings on throughout the book, rather than allowing you, the reader, to reach those conclusions yourself. The reasons for the existence of Area X, and the position of the expedition within it, could be any number of things, or a combination of all those things. The nebulous state of the area within the invisible border (if that border even exists) demands your input as the reader, and the points at which the narrator lays those possibilities out (could be aliens, or angels, or maybe the narrator is a ghost, or crazy, or straight-up lying) detract from the otherwise excellent world-building and atmospheric story telling.
That you come away from things at the end no wiser about the true nature of Area X, never mind the state of the world outside the border and the real reasons for sending expeditions in the first place, this is the true strength of the book. It’s a shame the author wasn’t brave enough to allow you to reach that point without the narrator providing glaring neon roadsigns along the way.
As an afterthought, please do not watch the movie before reading the book. It’s almost unrecognisable, and it is also far weaker. That a film maker with the skills of Alex Garland couldn’t produce a worthy watch with the source material here is testament to the complexity of Vandermeer’s ideas. The movie is hardly a reflection of the book. Garland was forced to reduce it to a simplistic sci-fi with cheesy special effects. In fact, please don’t watch the movie after reading the book either. It is dreadful (although I love Natalie Portman in anything).