Friday, 10 October 2014

Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation

I've come to the conclusion that science fiction might not be for me. I'm in favour of the genre's close cousins, dystopian, fantasy and speculative, but what I regard as proper science fiction - futurist technology and extraterrestrials, is a big nope. Though I quite like film and tv about this sort of thing, it doesn't appeal to me in literature.

Therefore, I'm in some ways the wrong person to review Annihilation, as I don't have have an appreciation of this sort of thing, but I always strive to be honest and document my personal response to a book. So take my feelings towards science fiction as a caveat, if you are a fan of science fiction Annihilation maybe right for you, but as a tentative foray into the genre, it left me cold. 

Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer, Science Fiction, novella, Southern Reach, trilogy, book one, review, hardback, book cover, UK edition

The Plot: A biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist have been sent by Southern Reach to explore Area X. This is the 10th expedition, the others have failed, former participants have vanished completely or returned mentally disturbed and terminally ill. Written as journal entries by the unnamed biologist, it soon becomes clear that Area X has a swift and deadly effect on the group, and few, if any, will be leaving alive. 

Rating: 2/5 (like I said this is a personal reflection, I'm sure many science fiction fans will love this).
*warning contains spoilers*
Annihilation is a slim book, a novella really. It is the first in the Southern Reach trilogy and acts as an introduction. As I have no intention to read the other two, I'm going to have to base my opinion on just on what I've just read- and part of the problem with this book is it's size. It feels incomplete.  

The characters are unnamed, and the entire story takes place in a time-frame of  under a week (though there are also some brief flashbacks) this all added to the feeling that Annihilation doesn't really work as a stand alone book. To be quite honest, I would have given up, but my new rule is perverse with a book for 100 pages and then make a judgement, this book is only 195 pages, so I felt like I had to see it through. So if you are thinking of buying this novel, bare in mind it's pretty poor value for money - though of course it should be the quality of the content not the length that is important. Still, £10 for  3 hours of reading is a pretty poor return. Sorry- getting sidetracked!

Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer, Science Fiction, novella, Southern Reach, trilogy, book one, review, hardback, book cover, UK edition

The opening of Annihilation is the strongest part, it is unnerving and intriguing. It reminds me of Cormac McCarthy with it's sort of sparse bleakness. The psychologist is threatening and interesting, but she promptly disappears. Actually, all the characters quickly bugger off, and it's back to my original problem about the novel being to brief. 

The thing that is causing the disturbances in Area X is a let down. Maybe I'm not imagining it as the author intended. but in my opinion a large, green, slug-like creature that writes on walls using mushrooms didn't really scare me. It was a disappointment. I did however feel the tension between the expedition members, and their paranoia and suspicions was well-written and interesting.  That is until, this too fizzled out to an anti-climax as again, the shortness of the novel again preventing again sustainable tension or drama. 

So yes, I'm still resistant to science-fiction and this hasn't won me over. If anyone has got any sci-fi recommendations that'll persuade me otherwise, please let me know in the comments below.    


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