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3.8 out of 5 stars148
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 29 March 2016
The sample made it sound like an interesting mystery, but the full book was a major let down, where not much happened, and what did was fairly dull and rambling. It was just all prose for the sake of it, and the journal style of writing would have worked well if anything had actually happened in the story. If you like that sort of thing, you will love this book, but its not for me.
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on 19 October 2014
Gripping and enjoyable, with interesting characters in a vividly imagined and satisfyingly strange environment: my initial scepticism of yet another government-concealment plotline was overcome by the quality of what followed. I am certainly hooked for part 2 of the Trilogy, even if I must echo another reviewer's gripe at the high cost of this relatively short first instalment.
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on 3 July 2014
It's a great unique storyline. The description of Area X is great. It's a beautiful but cruel and dangerous place, but I'd still want to see it.
I like the characters, especially the Biologist, and I hope she'll feature in the other books.
The book leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Some, only a few, are answered in the next installment, but many are still open.
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on 19 March 2016
Within the context of the southern reach trilogy this sets up the story and outlines the peculiarity of area X. It is difficult to comment without revealing too much of the story other than to say that character development and the building of the "set" creates an intriguing premise. I enjoyed this book, as I did the whole trilogy. I would recommend it to all.
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on 30 December 2015
Other reviews from people suggest that they thought it turned into plotless ramblings by the end, missing the point that that's exactly what it's supposed to feel like. These people are going mad, and nothing makes sense here. It's a chilling, haunting, WTF read that asks many more questions than it answers, but that's all part of the fun. And sheer terror.
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on 7 December 2015
This is an engrossing and absorbing tale, part adventure, part mystery (both to the protagonist and the reader). The narrator's voice is clear and personal and immediate and she carried me quickly and easily into her world and with her on her journey.

I enjoyed this immensely and am looking forward to the next installment.
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VINE VOICEon 21 June 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've read some of Jeff VanderMeer's other stuff, but this is a slightly different kettle of fish. It is a winning blend of Lovecraftian horror, X-Files mystery and Tarkovskian existentialism which really whets the appetite for what's to come. It might be SF, it might be body horror, it might be psychological terror. Read on, reader!
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VINE VOICEon 6 April 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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VINE VOICEon 27 December 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Striking a distinctly Lovecraftian chord, VanderMeer treats us to a terrifying slog through an area that lures with its familiarity yet haunts with its strangeness.
It's a slim book with big ideas, referencing a vague Event that has sealed off an area (rather stereotypically referred to as "X") from the rest of the world by means of an enigmatic "border".
Into this area a secret branch of the government (known as the Southern Reach) has thrown and continues to throw expeditions ostensibly to understand more about it. But intentions, like everything in this book, are obfuscated at best.
As well as Lovecraft overtones I felt a distinct kinship with Daniwelski's House of Leaves and more than a few nods to VandeerMeer's canon.

I loved the story, and will eagerly await the not too distant second & third parts.
However, it wasn't love at first chapter for me.
Initially I found the story contrived. The rather frivolous explanation for the expedition not being allowed any "high-tech items" grated my sense of belief slightly. I thought it better, if you want to tell a story sans the trappings of digital magery, to set an appropriate time-frame. Failing that there's always Steampunk! However, later explanations present a more plausible reasoning for a government that would deny an expeditionary force every means to achieve & survive its main objective...

The lack of using names bugged me as well. Instead everyone refers to everyone else by their chosen scientific field: the anthropologist; the surveyor; the biologist.
I got tired with this quickly as again it felt contrived, lazy even. It's a clumsy device to sustain for an entire novel and certainly makes empathy with its characters a little harder; the narrative a tad more cold.
However, these are small gripes, and I found the novel to have a turning point that laid all these concerns aside.
Indeed, as the novel progressed I found its deliberate oddness began to endear me toward the larger story; it really does get under your skin (pun definitely intended).

This is a creepy story that simmers with uncertainties and builds tension like few other books I've read. Fans of VanderMeer will be expecting strangeness and Strange with a capital is what you get.
A lot is intimated and it's down to the reader to finish the (more often than not) completely distressing implications of action and intent, on both sides of the border.
Its stark and unusual setting unnerves and the imagery is certain to live with you, as will the final thoughts presented in the weighty and uncanny dénouement.

If you're a VanderMeer fan you'll love it - fungus and all!
If you've never read VanderMeer here is as good a place to begin as any: It's accessible, compelling and does nothing to stale the newness of its Weird.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 September 2014
`Annihilation' is the tantalising, ambiguous curtain-raiser to Jeff VanderMeer's 'Southern Reach' trilogy. It functions - almost - as a stand-alone novel in its own right. However, it's really just the appetiser in a much larger three-course-meal. It certainly left this reader hungry for the main course.

`Annihilation' introduces us to the trilogy's topographic core: the mysterious, menacing Area X. What exactly Area X is, and how it got there, never becomes fully clear. The only thing we know for certain about it is that for thirty years, all eleven of the previous sorties into this pristine wilderness have gone catastrophically awry. We soon begin to see why, as we find ourselves from the get-go inside Area X alongside the newly arrived twelfth mission.

The four-woman team quickly realises that, inside Area X, their own perceptions can't be trusted. Not only is 'something' they can't quite apprehend somehow warping their senses, but it also becomes evident that they have all been hypnotically conditioned by the Southern Reach to allow them to cope with the Class-A levels of weirdness that prevail inside Area X's invisible boundaries. The mission rapidly descends into horror and madness, although our narrator by the end of the novel has become so compromised and unreliable that it's impossible to fathom from her narrative exactly what has happened to them all.

On one level, `Annihiliation' works well as a creepy, `Alien'-style action adventure, with the uncanny eeriness of Area X convincingly realised. And some of the surreal, logic-defying phenomena the mission encounters reminded me of a darker, more threatening take on `Alice in Wonderland' - complete with transformative rabbit-hole! But the real literary touchstone here is Stanislaw Lem's `Solaris'. Like `Solaris', `Annihilation' uses an encounter with an obscure alien Other as a launch-pad for a metaphysical exploration of our own sense of selfhood, and how easily this can be dissolved. Dislocation, disorientation, isolation and transformation are all recurrent themes. Once the limits of our perception are bent and breached and remade, how can we be sure who we really are? In which case, who were we in the first place, and where did that identity come from? By confronting us with our existential helplessness against the implacable, indifferent unknown of Area X, `Annihilation' is as uncomfortable and unsettling a book as you could possibly wish for.

Not quite the full five stars, though. It's such an open-ended book that I found it ultimately rather frustrating in leaving so many of its questions unanswered. I dare say volumes two and three will either scratch that itch or aggravate it all the more. It's also a book that's much more ambitious than genre science fiction, but which nevertheless sometimes reads like it, thanks to VanderMeer's occasionally clumsy, thrillerish style. All in all, though, 'Annihilation' is an entertaining first volume, with the promise of much more to come.
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