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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed and disconcerting: an intriguing first episode
Unsettling and atmospheric, Annihilation sets a mysterious scene for the Southern Reach trilogy. It’s a sparse, short but self-contained story set in the near future, about one expedition into a quarantined zone where something… ‘other’ has established itself. All previous investigations have ended badly. Things don’t exactly go swimmingly...
Published 4 months ago by Rowena Hoseason

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many questions and not enough answers
Four unnamed female scientists set out on an expedition into Area X. This is the 12th expedition; members of previous expeditions have all died one way or another, so little is known about the area – or so the expedition members are told. The expedition starts to unravel almost as soon as they arrive at their base camp; the anthropologist disappears and,...
Published 3 months ago by H. Ashford


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed and disconcerting: an intriguing first episode, 29 Mar 2014
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy) (Hardcover)
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Unsettling and atmospheric, Annihilation sets a mysterious scene for the Southern Reach trilogy. It’s a sparse, short but self-contained story set in the near future, about one expedition into a quarantined zone where something… ‘other’ has established itself. All previous investigations have ended badly. Things don’t exactly go swimmingly this time, either.

There’s precious little exposition or traditional story-telling here and we’re deliberately distanced from the expedition team. We don’t learn their names – people are defined by their roles, The Geologist or The Psychologist – and as the story is told from the perspective of just one of them we only understand her increasingly warped point of view. And what a strange perspective it is: the creepy abandoned camp, the oppressive tower, the weird writing on the walls, the paranoia and the conflicts, the… things in the depths. It’s like Lovecraft meets Lost.
I was also distinctly reminded of the mystery of the lost colony of Roanoke; there’s even echoes of the mysterious ‘croatoan’ message in the bizarre writing in Annihilation. But author VanderMeer has built a much bigger universe than one which simply reflects old legends. In Annihilation he also examines the isolation of the loner and the gulf in communication between a couple – one which is only bridged by the most extremes circumstances which they separately encounter in the Southern Reach. This isn’t just spooky speculative fantasy: it’s all about the failure to engage. The protagonist endures an instant of mismatched communication with the ‘other’… after a lifetime of failing to communicate with the people around her. It’s chilling, in so many ways.

If you expect your stories to finish with a definitive conclusion and some firm answers, then you won’t find Annihilation to be a fulfilling read. It opens to door to unsettling oddness, almost painful ambiguity and plenty of unanswered questions. The writing is precise and accomplished – at the end I was pretty sure I’d experienced exactly what the author intended. But those feelings were far from pleasant.

8/10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious, surprising, imaginative, engrossing, 4 May 2014
I wasn't sure whether I would enjoy this, because it's been described as "Lovecraftian", and I'm not particularly a fan of Lovecraft (or of horror in general, for that matter).

But I really did like this novel. I personally wouldn't classify it as "horror". It's a great blend of mystery/ suspense/ thriller/ science fiction, and the author does a fantastic job of making this strange world come alive in the reader's imagination with his vividly-drawn descriptions and beautifully-lyrical prose.

And if you *are* a big fan of Lovecraft, I think you will enjoy this story very much.

My main disappointment with this book was that it is so short; however, each of the next two novels in the series (Authority and Acceptance) are twice as long. So I expect to get a lot more satisfaction as the series progresses.

Yes, there are a lot of questions left unanswered in this volume -- but I do feel that this one still makes a complete story unto itself. I am looking forward to the release of the sequels -- and fortunately, I won't have to wait very long.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many questions and not enough answers, 6 April 2014
By 
H. Ashford "hashford" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy) (Hardcover)
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Four unnamed female scientists set out on an expedition into Area X. This is the 12th expedition; members of previous expeditions have all died one way or another, so little is known about the area – or so the expedition members are told. The expedition starts to unravel almost as soon as they arrive at their base camp; the anthropologist disappears and, worryingly, the biologist realises that the psychiatrist can control them through hypnosis at any time.

As the story progresses through the biologist’s eyes, we realise more and more that the information she was given during training is incomplete and possibly deliberately misleading. Questions abound – what is this tunnel/tower that they have found? what is the significance of the lighthouse? and what really happened to previous expeditions?

What this book does have is loads of atmosphere. There is a definite, and growing, sense of something sinister at work. And, as other reviewers have said, is it reminiscent of Lovecraft in style.

However, for me it doesn't work. There are far too many questions, too many unknowns. Pretty well nothing is explained – which just leaves the reader wandering around in a fog. There’s not enough of a “hook” to keep you guessing – and hence rushing out to buy the second book in order to find out more.

I also agree with other reviewers that the book is too short, at 195 pages. It feels more like a taster designed to whet your appetite for the main story than a proper novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Misunderstood masterpiece, 29 May 2014
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This review is from: Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy) (Hardcover)
I loved this book and am currently reading the second part ("Authority") of this trilogy.
Those who have given it bad reviews are completly missing the point. The strange, disjointed, dreamlike quality of the story is precicely what makes it such a great read.
It's the first part of a trilogy and some answers are to be found in part two, but still more questions are raised. I don't think anybody can judge the story before all three novels are available.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 10 Pages of Story, 100 of Fill, 7 July 2014
the premise was good, the landscape intriguing and the mystery of The Tower promising BUT oh my god this is a dull book. im not joking with the headline - for every 1 page of story you get about 10 of pointless memories from the main character. i have no idea how i made it to the end. not recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beauty of Annihilation., 29 May 2014
This review is from: Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy) (Hardcover)
I'm always on the search for a book that will drag me into it's plot and eventually become part of it's environment. Annihilation certainly does this smoothly right from the start. Even before researching the location that it is based on, I had a colourful (or maybe dark) vision in my mind of The Southern Reach.

The deep exploration of the characters minds and the ever deeper plunge into the depths of the protagonist, is pretty mind blowing. The skill of stopping the story and taking snapshots of the histories and memories of our hero.

I could hear the creature howling from across the land, the face in the ground and the rotting notebooks so so vivid.

Deep, dark, eerie and surreal just what the doctor ordered.

I look forward to the next.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where lies the strangling fruit, 24 Feb 2014
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Jeff Vandermeer has always specialized in "weird," often stories centering on fantasy cities and/or steampunk. He's a chameleon who can shift into whatever genre he slips into.

And yet, I was still mildly surprised when I heard that he was writing a trilogy of science fiction books. Sci-fi has less scope for the weird. But Vandermeer brings his own darkly fantastical touch to "Annihilation," the first novel of the Southern Reach Trilogy -- it's a sort of a cross between Arthur C. Clarke and H.P. Lovecraft.

Area X is a place that has somehow been cut off from the rest of the world, and has changed completely. Eleven expeditions have been sent there, but they all die in bizarre ways -- cancer, suicide, attacking each other, and so on.

In defiance of logic, The Powers Wot Is decide to send a twelfth expedition, four women including an anthropologist, a shrink, a surveyor, and a biologist. They are alienated from each other, not even knowing each other's names, or anything except their jobs. So unsurprisingly, tensions are running high as they investigate both a lighthouse and an inverted Tower that goes DOWN.

The biologist (our protagonist of sorts) soon discovers that the psychologist is messing with their heads, even as the world around them becomes more and more disorienting. And as more strange things arise in Area X, the four women are slowly warped by the place, and the longer they stay in Area X, the further they descend into the maelstrom.

By standard definitions, "Annihilation" is not a very good book. It doesn't have a very definite beginning or end, it leaves large chunks of it backstory and characters unknown, the threat is unspecified, and it produces no solid answers or conclusions at the end. Think "Lost" if it were condensed down to a 200-page book, with all the strangeness intact.

But that isn't what "Annihilation" is meant to do. It is meant to slowly suck you in, drowning you in the murky, shadowy world that may be another dimension, another time, or simply a strange anomaly in our own. And once you're submerged in Area X, Vandermeer slowly pours in a sense of creeping horror that clings to you even when the book is over. It gets under your skin.

Perhaps the creepiest part is how we see everything through the biologist's eyes, watching as the edges of her story crumble into hints of possible madness.

And that is both the book's weakness and its strength. Vandermeer is unsurpassed at creating an atmosphere -- while his dense writing style takes a little while to get into, once you do, it will pull you in as few authors can. But it often feels like a nugget of pure, intense atmosphere rather than a true story -- shapeless but terrifying, unfocused yet fascinating.

And that makes it hard to judge, because it's genuinely hard to tell what kind of story Vandermeer meant to tell. Is this story meant to invoke emotions and atmosphere alone? Or, since it is only the first part of a trilogy, is it meant to be merely the first part of a larger story that will give you more narrative meat later on?

"Annihilation" is a novel like few others -- an experience rather than a narrative story, full of terror and unanswered questions. Only time -- and Vandermeer -- will tell if it is more than that.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars zone out, 19 Mar 2014
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Reminiscent of many other works and hauntingly familiar. But I am not happy with this trend of stretching works out over multiple publications. It didn't catch my attention enough and the strangeness was not contrasted so I did find it tedious even though it was not a long book. I will stick and not pursue the other sections.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A journey into the familiar, 11 Mar 2014
By 
J. H. Bretts "jerard1" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy) (Hardcover)
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I wish I could be more positive about Jeff VanderMeeer's Annihilation but unfortunately I found it rather slow going. One problem is that an old premise is not given that new a twist. The premise is that there is a part of the country that has been mysteriously transformed and those who go into it meet disaster in one form or another. The style and symbolism reminds me rather of Poe and Lovecraft in a derivative rather than a refreshing way. Also, the characters are not easy to sympathise with, being abstract types rather than real people. Much has been made about this being the first part of a trilogy, with all the parts being published within a few months of each other. The truth is Annihiliation is not that long and all three books could have been put into one volume comfortably.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Sense of Wonder Novel., 13 July 2014
By 
Willy Eckerslike (France) - See all my reviews
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I don't think that since reading `Rama' many years ago I've read anything which fired my imagination quite like `Annihilation'. I have read hundreds of sci-fi and fantasy novels in the intervening years and greatly enjoyed the vast majority (with some notable exceptions) but there is something fascinatingly different about this novel.

It is, nevertheless, hard to put my finger on exactly why. It is not a traditional SF novel with heroes, villains, spaceships, incomprehensible physics, magical technology, wormholes, post-human weirdness or galaxy spanning alien civilisations. In fact, it lacks any elements of any science fiction sub-genres I can immediately think of. Perhaps it's Fantasy...nah, definitely not. What it is somewhat reminiscent of, however, is Reynolds' excellent `Diamond Dogs' so I suppose that puts `Annihilation' firmly in the SF camp.

What we're presented with is a sparse narrative told from the first person viewpoint of an un-named biologist on the twelfth expedition into an enclosed yet expanding, uninhabited pristine wilderness where strange things happen as a consequence of the presence of an otherworldly entity. The tiny list of protagonists, identified only through their profession, dwindle rapidly as the expedition succumbs to the strange influence of the environment. We gradually learn of the biologist's history and motivations in flashback while she progresses through the environment, its history of expeditions and her own metamorphosis.

The only symbol of solidity is a distant lighthouse where dark secrets may be unveiled. This could be a bit of a cliché and a clumsy metaphor but perhaps it is an allusion to Virginia Wolf's `To the Lighthouse' whose major theme is:

"Reality, when conceived of as a collection of fleeting moments, seems as chaotic and fluid as ocean waves. Each of the main characters struggles with this realization, and they all grasp for symbols of permanence and stability despite their understanding of the transience of experience." (Ripped shamelessly from a study guide website as I've not actually read the book).

That, to some extent, sums-up the underlying message. This is only a small book of 195 pages but through the masterly, economic prose it feels like a much bigger book, not in the interminable tome sense but in the explosion of imagination in the head sense. Contrary to popular publisher policy, we don't even have to wait long for the next volumes. Volume two `Authority' was published in May and volume three `Acceptance' will be available in September. Excellent stuff.
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Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy)
Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer (Hardcover - 27 Feb 2014)
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