Recently finished reading Alex VanderMeer’s Annihilation. It’s taken about a week to digest. My initial impression was, “Wow, this is good writing.” I still stand behind that, but it took a while to decide whether I enjoyed the novel. Confession: Saw the movie before reading the book. The movie was good for its possibilities rather than the actual script. And now I can say Portman did a good job as the biologist.
So, did I like the book? Yes. It’s difficult to write a good unreliable narrator, and VanderMeer does it well. He lets us know from line one that something or someone is amiss in this land. “The tower, which was not supposed to be there, plunges into the earth…” The story continues in its weirdness. Every page asks us to either believe the narrator is in a strange land, on a wild LSD trip, going insane, or perhaps a little of all three. The narrator’s lucid moments are touching, allowing us to see inside a person in mourning. Despite of (or maybe because of) the narrator’s struggle to find logic in the mysterious “Area X,” we can’t help but feel compassion and even a little empathy for her.
While the development of the narrator, known only as the biologist, makes for a compelling read, VanderMeer’s description of nature and the effects of the human exhibitions into it open a world where nature and humans merge to become one entity. VanderMeer allows us to dwell in this world and imagine our place in nature. Our place, at least in the mysterious “Area X,” is not what we think it should be.
I will read the other books in the Southern Reach Trilogy. VanderMeer has me hooked. I want to see whether is is just an LSD trip, the insanity of us all as we destroy nature, an alien invasion, or perhaps the revenge of the earth on human kind. Annihilation wasn’t a quick read. There are too many details and lovely descriptions for that, but it is worth the time.