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on 20 October 2016
I chose this book because it was described as "if J.J.Abrams and Margaret Attwood wrote a book together..." from that I was sold!

It did read a little like Oryx and Crake and it did have many similarities to the TV show Lost. I found that I was very drawn into the narrative even though part of the style I did not enjoy - the characters were purposefully vague. The female characters were a little too stereotypically masculine but also highly interesting.
It was a good sci-fi read and I finished it in a few days (despite long days at work). I am not frantically purchasing the next one as I can bear not knowing what happens next but I would certainly give the second book a try sometime.
It was a very easy and fast read and despite not loving it 100% I did thoroughly enjoy it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 February 2015
A stunning psychological fantasy/sci-fi thriller, this book is almost mesmerising. Don't start reading if you need to get something else done in a hurry. It's not a long novel, but you won't want to stop reading until you get to the end. There are two sequels planned for this year and it'll be one of those rare occasions where I shell out to buy it at full price rather than wait. It is narrated by 'the biologist' (none of the characters are named more than by their job title), a member of a four woman expedition to explore the mysterious 'area X'. This is a tropical region on earth that has somehow become cut off as a result of an unnamed 'event', probably linked to a nearby military installation. Previous expeditions have come to sticky ends.

The novel describes the journey of the team through Area X and what they find there. It's one of those atmospheric novels that gets right under your skin and makes you jump at loud noises. It is very well paced and ratchets up the tension at a good rate, gradually releasing more and more information, but leaving plenty of mystery for the sequels. That said, it's not one of those frustrating books that gives you so few answers you feel cheated - whilst there are plenty of unknowns, you feel like you've been rewarded for your reading effort with some more facts. I would have described some elements - the tropical setting and the bizarre, hallucinatory episodes - as reminding me of the TV show 'Lost'. However this is a much more cohesive story than that and has a tighter narrative arc. 'Lost' did leave me frustrated when I felt that the story stopped making sense and perhaps there weren't any answers out there to begin with, but I didn't find that with 'Annihilation'. I happened to read it in the tropics, on my own in a jungle, which definitely added to its impact but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it! It made me a bit too jumpy in real life!

If you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, thrillers or action novels, this should be top of your to-read list. It's a very fine example of all four genres. It's also of such high quality that I hope more general readers will give it go too - it's a strong work of literature, so don't be put off by any 'labels' assigned to it. The most important label to read is that it's good!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 May 2016
Four women, a biologist, anthropologist, surveyor and psychologist, are sent to investigate a mysterious island. Area X. An island of an apparently beautiful nature, which has unusual effects on adventurers. Scientists before our four ladies have ventured into the depths of Area X before. They are all dead. Some turned on each other and murdered their team, some committed suicide and others died of aggressive cancers shortly after their return. The mystery of Area X still manages to intrigue scientists willing to take a risk and investigate and so we follow them, through the eyes of the biologist, as they trek across the island.

This author world builds fantastically. I was sucked into the story straight away and immediately I became as curious as the scientists about the nature of X and the crazy things happening there.

I also think the concept is brilliant. A mysterious island, crazy changes to the environment, unknown creatures and nature within and some potential for unusual personality changes in the group - it's easy to sell to a curious reader.

Sadly, the things I liked stopped there. The characters are so superficial. The main character is conveyed as a very clinical thinker, and the writing translates as such. Rather than having a quirky nature or way of speaking this makes for a systematic, boring read without any emotional depth. I'm not looking for a book full of feelings, not at all, but the narrating biologist has no personality or opinions whatsoever that aren't fact based. Very dull.

The author tries to combat the one dimensional characters by providing a possible villain. But this character was equally unexciting to read about because she was so transparent - this is meant to be a mysterious island, it would have been better if the characters were complex enough to carry this off and keep the reader hooked.

This could have been a fantastic novel; the concept is so exciting. But a dull execution through boring characters with no connection for me just made it fall flat; this definitely became one of those difficult reads whereby you find yourself measuring how far you have left to get through because you're too stubborn to quit!
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on 2 November 2016
It took me awhile to get hooked into this book- as it is written from a character's point of view, as an observation in a scientific study. (Hence, intriguing.)
Weird situations happen, one right after the other, once the scientific group get started, which we (characters&audience alike) are told to expect. Mysteries about the leader of this group, about area X and the main character's personal story unfold and create a gravitational pull of my imagination.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes sci fi, mystery, and well-developed main character.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 November 2014
This is an eerie, enticing and intelligent book that uses an SF structure, plot and idiom to probe questions about the nature of mysteries, and man’s relationship to the world we increasingly think we know, understand and, to some extent, control.

Like some other reviewers here, I was reminded of both HP Lovecraft for his evocations of the weird, grotesque and uncanny, and Solaris for its extension of the concept of sentient ‘beings’.

Other reviewers have discussed the plot: suffice it to say that this is tight and tense, but packs more thought into 200 pages than many novels of twice the size. Dare I say it, this is SF for those of us who don’t read SF.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.

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on 30 December 2016
This is absolutely the opposite of the type of writing that I normally enjoy. Long dense descriptions, with little actual action. However the emotional intensity and the sense of peril and mystery is what hooked me and drew me through. There is something very intimate and very intense about this book. I will be thinking about it for a long time after I finish reading it.
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on 3 February 2016
One of the best science fiction books I've ever read. Everything about it is intriguing and poetic - the way the characters have no real names, the way the world is like ours but weirdly different, the hinted at mysteries. It reminds me of the TV show Lost, but way better and if it had some kind of rough intercourse with HP Lovecraft. The next two books in the series are just as captivating. I was dawdling over finishing the trilogy, because I didn't want to leave that world. It's one of those books that affects the way you experience the world whilst you are reading it. I felt disorientated. In a very good way. If you're hesitating - don't!!
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on 18 February 2015
Jeff VanderMeer offers readers vivid, hallucinatory prose in "Annihilation", the first volume of his "Area X: The Southern Reach" trilogy, which promises to be a sterling example of what he has dubbed as "weird fiction". "Annihilation" reads like H. P. Lovecraft meets J. G. Ballard, in chronicling how the latest expedition into Area X has culminated into mayhem, tragedy and disaster, following the dismal fates of its predecessors. VanderMeer's prose is not merely hallucinatory, but is also unsettling in its uncanny ability into transforming the mundane into something mysterious and horrific, and as such, offers readers something so unexpectedly out of the ordinary that it will leave them spellbound. Twelve expeditions have sought to conquer the terra incognito that is "Area X", especially after the first reported it possessed an "Edenic" landscape. The second ended in mass suicide; the third in mass murder as its participants unleashed gunfire at each other, and the eleventh in the cancer deaths of its members soon after its return. Our protagonist, the biologist - whose late husband participated in the 11th expedition - is part of the 12th expedition comprising of four women; herself, an anthropologist, a surveyor and a psychologist. They venture into Area X expecting the unexpected and receive it, ensnared not only within the terrifyingly familiar, but different, wilderness of the region itself, but by their personal secrets, threatening to bestow calamity upon yet another "Area X" expedition. VanderMeer has written a psychologically intense thriller replete in horror and science fiction tropes that will remind readers of Lovecraft, Ballard and Arthur C. Clarke, and one that will dazzle readers by the somber, almost macabre, atmosphere he projects within his beautifully wrought, almost poetic, prose. Without a doubt "Annihilation" and its "Area X: Southern Reach Trilogy" sequels are among the most notable works of fiction published in 2014, and ones destined to be remembered as a major literary landmark of contemporary Anglo-American speculative fiction.
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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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