Book - 2014
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Area X has claimed the lives of members of eleven expeditions. The twelfth expedition consisting of four women hopes to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.
Edition: First Edition.
ISBN: 9780374104092
Call Number: SF VAN
Characteristics: 195 pages ; 19 cm.


From Library Staff

IndyPL_SteveB Jan 09, 2019

Creepy and compelling short SF novel, first of a series. If the movie *Alien* could be described as a “haunted house in space”, perhaps this book could be described as an “ecological haunted house” story.

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the Earth for decades. Eventually the governm... Read More »

Part horror, part science fiction, this novel explores human nature through dystopia. Why do expedition parties keep killing themselves? What is out there that is so difficult to face? Also available as an ebook.

From the critics

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May 15, 2020

This book is an excellent, atmospheric and unsettling spin on the science-fiction genre. A group of scientists, all of them women, are tasked with venturing into Area X: a coastal area that has been abandoned for 30 years which has produced a scientific phenomenon known as The Shimmer. The Shimmer appears as a strange glow that seems to change and morph the DNA of all organisms within it. The Shimmer is growing steadily in size, and the group of women are required to record any and all information they encounter, as well as trying to find clues about all of the previous expeditions. They are then required to return with their findings. These women are the 12th expedition into Area X; all previous expeditions have been fraught with lapses in communication, suicides, death, and mysterious disappearances.

The group of women are comprised of a biologist, a surveyor, a psychologist, and an anthropologist. The story unfolds as a series of observations from the biologist's field journal. We learn that the biologist's husband was one of the people in a previous expedition, and we see that this mission takes on a personal meaning for her as she tries to learn what happened to her husband. As readers, we also learn that the narrator, the biologist, is highly unreliable. She quickly lies to her teammates in order to venture further into Area X, despite one of the women disappearing and a series of mysterious incidents occurring. Vandermeer is excellent at slowly building tension and horror, and as the women venture deeper into Area X, the events that unfolds become even more mysterious and eventually, horrifying.

Many readers were frustrated that the end of the book left many questions unanswered, but I appreciated it; sometimes I feel that works of art that leave you with questions are often more powerful and impactful than those works that tie up all loose ends. This book is the first in a trilogy, and I will definitely be reading the next in the series to continue with this strange and fascinating journey. I also really loved that all of the main characters in this work were women; that is very uncommon in a genre such as science fiction. Overall, I found this work fascinating and there were times where I could not put the book down because I wanted to find out what happens next. I highly recommend this book.

RyanR_KCMO May 07, 2020

This book is another perfect example of science fiction at its best. Instead of using shockingly alien and bizarre situations for some effect, VanderMeer puts his characters into situations predicated by an anomaly but focuses on their very human and regular interactions. VanderMeer also respects the reader by not turning over all the stones and giving away the mystery. There are still so many questions at the end of the book. These blatant omissions are tools to focus the story not on the things being uncovered in “Area X,” but instead on the people sent to do the uncovering.

MickWF Apr 09, 2020

Unlike any book I’ve ever read. A perfectly strange blend unsettling beauty, slow burning tension and environmental cosmic horror. At less than 200 pages, this quick read stuck with me longer than any other book. It’s the first part of a trilogy, so make sure you have the other two on hand by the time you finish this one!

HCL_staff_reviews Mar 23, 2020

I was listening to NPR last year and heard a review of "Annihilation," and was intrigued. I put it on my Goodreads to-read list and finally got around to reading it this winter. I couldn't put it down. It chronicles an expedition to Area X, a quarantined area on a coast in an unidentified part of (an alternative, future?) United States. This is the first book of the Southern Reach trilogy, part of a genre called weird fiction. The main character in the book is "The Biologist," one of an expedition of the team of four into Area X from an organization called the Southern Reach. The team does not use their names and is composed of all females because they are trying to avoid problems that came up with the previous 11 expeditions. High jinks ensue, with the Biologist being simultaneously affected by and accepting the strange powers of Area X while also trying to keep a scientific mind. I had to read the sequel, "Authority," immediately after I finished the book. A great introduction to weird fiction. — Ian S., Communication

Tigard_AdrianneD Feb 23, 2020

Our detached and possibly unreliable narrator, a biologist, takes us through Area X, a pristine wilderness blocked off by mysterious forces filled with unusual animals. The biologist is part of the 12th expedition into Area X, feeling the urge to go there after her husband came back from the previous expedition a shell of who he was. VanderMeer has created an interesting space filled with lots of unknowns, and you don't get many answers in this book, and maybe not even in the trilogy. Still, the mystery is enough to hold you, and being left with questions only makes the mind wonder, and the work that much engaging.

OPL_AnnaW Dec 20, 2019

The first book in VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, this is sci-fi for folks that may not label themselves sci-fi readers. Mysterious things are happening in Area X, and a select group of professionals are tasked with figuring out why.

Sep 19, 2019

Numerous expeditions have been dispatched to explore the newly-discovered and bewildering Area X, but participants always come back altered or die prematurely (when they return at all). An unnamed biologist, whose husband participated in a previous expedition and has since died of cancer, joins the newest team setting out, and things get pretty creepy right away.

I guess I was expecting this to be a thriller of some kind, maybe even psychological. It was overall...unexciting, with no real climax of "aha" moment. Even the mysterious creatures were rather dull. I found I didn't really care what happened to the protagonist, and certainly not enough to read any further into the series.

Jul 17, 2019

Though most would consider it horror, Annihilation reads more like science fiction that unsettles the reader with its oddities and warped distance from reality. The narration is engaging and kept me enveloped for its entirety. I've never read another book quite like it, and I'm glad for it.

Jul 15, 2019

I stopped reading the Southern Reach Trilogy after the 2nd book. "Annihilation" was okay but purposefully and frustratingly hard to read. But it was a LOT better than the 2nd book "Authority" in which almost nothing of real interest or note occurred until the end, which of course being a trilogy resolved nothing. I'm serious - half the sentences in "Authority" were questions the 3rd person John Rodriguez (new director of the Area X research facility) was asking HIMSELF! And there was so much clutter in the story, about who wore what, back histories that were irrelevant and detailed descriptions of people coming and going. I couldn't believe this series was actually liked. I have just finished a collection of all of H.P. Lovecraft's works and his best stories do not compatre at all - at least he eventually resolved the plot. And to boot, Jeff decides to make the lighthouse keeper gay, as if to check a political correctness box in the final book "Acceptance".

Hard pass - there is far better scifi out there.

May 11, 2019

Annihilation is the first book in a trilogy about agents of a clandestine government agency exploring a forbidden territory.

Annihilation is a parable about personal identity, epistemological frustration, and the elastic boundaries of human consciousness.

Annihilation is a short novel structured around themes of exploration, control, and survival. The principal character and narrator, identified only as "the biologist," is simultaneously de-personalized and carrying out a deeply personal agenda regarding her lost husband. She is part of a small team which experiences catastrophic internal conflict, and she encounters phenomena of evidently non-human origin that are overwhelmingly exotic. The book defies genre, but I might class it as mystical horror, with some science fiction and espionage tropes.

Despite the obvious differences, Jeff VanderMeer's "Area X" and the "Kefahuchi Tract" of M. John Harrison's novels (Light, etc.) have more than a little in common. The infection/mutation of characters and their ambivalent encounters with transcendent power are in both cases oriented toward a mysterious region of putatively non-human influence. Protagonists have all-too-human motives working themselves out in shockingly inhuman contexts. VanderMeer's prose is less writerly than Harrison's, but it is efficient and engaging, and both manage the sort of impressionistic feat of bringing the reader to identify with the crucial ignorance of the characters, who are themselves not terribly sympathetic in their traits and histories.

I enjoyed this book and its two sequels.

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MickWF Apr 09, 2020

That’s how the madness of the world tries to colonize you: from the outside in, forcing you to live in its reality.


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