Thursday, July 10, 2014
Audiobook Review: Annihilation
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers who dig a big ole heap of eerie in their fiction and don't necessarily need to know what's going on to enjoy it
Length: 6 hours
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Released: February 2014
Holy Jeff "you've got my attention" Vandermeer.
Let me start off by admitting that Annihilation was a book I'd been hearing a lot about, but wasn't necessarily in a rush to get my hands on. All too often, the "most talked about" books turn out, in my opinion, to be big fat duds. Not that I doubt you, dear readers, but I find that, time and time again, when discussing books we consider "scary" or "creepy" or "disturbing", our experiences with them tend to run perpendicular, rather than parallel, to each other. The most recent example I have of this is The Three. Every review I read gushed over how creepy and scary that book was, how people weren't able to sleep with the lights off for days after reading it... and there I sat, waiting and waiting for it get creepier and scarier, and it just never did.
This, though? This book. It totally brought the creepy.
No. Wait. Not only did it BRING the creepy... it kept building the creepy up until it became flat out disturbing. And then it went and turned the disturbing right on its fucking head.
So the premise of Annihilation: something catastrophic has taken place in a corner of the world. A kind of invisible border came down out of nowhere decades ago and anything that was caught within its net was lost. Gone. Vanished as if it never was. This is referred to as The Event. The landscape, the ecosystem behind the border, has changed, morphed, in ways no one knows or can understand. The land contained within it is referred to as Area X. And a group of people - part of a new government, a special branch, a highly confidential containment unit of some sort? - known as The Southern Reach have been sending Expeditions beyond the invisible border to research and observe Area X, and return with their findings ever since.
Only, when these expeditions return... when these people come back, IF they come back... they are changed. Not the same. In many different ways.
And what they claim to have seen, to have experienced, varies greatly as well.
Annihilation is the story of the twelfth expedition. And it is told in first person, through the eyes of The Biologist. Along with her were The Linguist - though she quit the group before they actually crossed the border; The Archaeologist; The Psychologist - the group leader; and The Surveyor. Each chosen for this expedition based on a particularly unique set of qualities or skills. And then they were stripped of their names, issued new names that corresponded with those skill sets, and put through grueling training sessions before they were packed up and shipped off to the border.
What they find within Area X, all recorded into journal entries by The Biologist, is unlike anything they have ever experienced before. Strange plant and animal life, a horrible keening noise in the night, a tunnel - or is it a tower? - that contains a string of living words on its wall, words that appear to still be in the process of being written by someone, or something, father down there...
Reminiscent of The Ruins and Fragment, Annihilation is very much a hybrid sci-fi thriller-slash-eco-terrestrial mystery of a book. The reader, following in the footsteps of The Biologist, is forced to experience Area X from her perspective. Which we discover, as we get to know her and the circumstances surrounding her personal interest in Area X (and as we learn of the "training" that she had been put through), may not be totally reliable.
Vandermeer exceeded my expectations with this creepy, eerily disturbing introduction into Area X and The Southern Reach. I am already in the process of downloading the second audiobook of the series, Authority, and cannot wait to uncover the secrets that it holds and further immerse myself into this terribly frightening and surreal world.