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Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy) Paperback – February 4, 2014

3.7 out of 5 stars 756 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, February 2014: There is a comfort in familiarity, a foundation from which to definitively identify and label. But Jeff VanderMeer is not interested in putting his readers at ease. With Annihilation--the first volume of The Southern Reach Trilogy--he carefully creates a yearning for answers, then boldly denies them, reminding us that being too eager to know too much can be dangerous. The story follows an expedition of four women who are known only by their professions: the Psychologist, the Surveyor, the Anthropologist, and the Biologist--nameless pawns tasked with exploring, discovering, and (hopefully) delivering data about a portentous coastal territory called Area X. We are a bit like fifth members of that team (perhaps "the Reader"), learning at the same pace, guided by the observations of our narrator, the Biologist. Still the context remains blurry as VanderMeer twists each discovery into a deeper mystery. Through potent description and unrelenting tension, he achieves a level of emotional manipulation that should appeal to anyone who embraced the paranormal phenomena and maddening uncertainties of Lost. --Robin A. Rothman

From Booklist

*Starred Review* An expedition of four women is sent into an unknown region called Area X, beyond the borders of humanity: a psychologist, a surveyor, an anthropologist, and our narrator, a biologist. The purpose of the mission is to collect data about Area X and report back to the government, the Southern Reach, but circumstances begin to change when the group discovers a tower (or tunnel) that was previously unmarked on the map. Inside the structure, strange writing scrawls across the walls, and a spiral staircase descends downward, beckoning the members to follow. Previous expeditions ended badly, with group members disappearing or returning as shells of their former selves, but little is known about what actually occurred on those trips to Area X. A gripping fantasy thriller, Annihilation is thoroughly suspenseful. In a manner similar to H. G. Wells’ in The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), VanderMeer weaves together an otherworldly tale of the supernatural and the half-human. Delightfully, this page-turner is the first in a trilogy. --Heather Paulson
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Product Details

  • Series: The Southern Reach Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Originals; First Edition edition (February 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374104093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374104092
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (756 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 23, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I tried to read Jeff Vandermeer's Finch, which I checked out of the library. I gave up after a few tens of pages.

Jeff Vandermeer's stories are like dreams. They have elements of reality, but they don't completely make sense. Dreams abstract reality and facts are inconsistent. For me this style didn't work in Finch. At least not then. After Annihilation I may give Vandermeer's work another try.

Annihilation also has a dreamscape property to it. But unlike Finch, the suspense of the novel grabbed me in the first pages. The force of the plot was enough to get me through the dream like quality of the story that I found frustrating in Finch.

The problems that some may encounter with Vandermeer's writing have to do with the structure of the story, not the quality of the writing. Vandermeer's writing is vivid in his descriptions of place and scene. This can make the nightmare quality of he writing more difficult to deal with, because of it's haunting immediacy.

Annihilation is an account of a twelfth expedition into Area X. The other expeditions have come to bad ends. The four members of the expedition are all women, who are known only by their profession: the psychologist, the anthropologist, the surveyor and the narrator of the story, the biologist (there was a linguist who either dropped out). The intimate nature of first person narration gives the reader a window into the biologist and her past, resulting in a deeply drawn character.

Considering that the previous eleven expeditions have come to bad, sometimes violent ends, it is unclear why anyone would volunteer for such an expedition.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
God, I wish I had the hours back that I spent reading this series. You will get no more answers over the course of reading all three books than you do in the first chapter. If you love the first chapter, and want that sense of confusion and hopelessness to recur over and over again chapter after chapter, by all means proceed through the whole series. If you would rather read a book with a progressive plot, with characters who have some sort of future, or where you occasionally laugh or smile, read something else. I took one for the team and finished the whole thing so you won't have to waste your time finding out if just maybe it will all be worth it to get the brilliant insight at the ending- there is no such insight.
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Remember the good old days, when you could buy a book and get a complete story in that one volume? Apparently that approach has gone out of vogue with publishers, in favor of stretching everything out into a series to sell more books.

Some reviewers led me to believe that while this is the first book in a trilogy, each volume can stand alone. So I was very annoyed to reach the end of the book and find that most of the 'big questions' the book introduces are not answered and you really have to buy and read the second and third volumes to get a complete story.

It's like the literary equivalent of LOST in many ways, with the action taking place in abandoned isolation, where lots of bizarre things happen, odd creatures are glimpsed but (mostly) never revealed in full, there are hints of some kind of government conspiracy (but that plot thread remains unexplored by the end of this first book), and it's broadcast to the reader over and over again that nothing is as it seems.

But this book is just a teaser. Virtually none of the questions raised by the author are answered by the end, which is irritating enough. But more annoying still is the narrator's constant re-thinking and questioning of events that have already happened, as well as her frequent interior monologues that are filled with rhetorical questions (e.g., "but what if the blah blah blah *really* means blah blah blah," "it's possible the Psychologist's *true* assignment was blah blah blah," "what if [character who's now dead] was *actually* trying to blah blah blah," et cetera).

These are questions that neither the narrator nor reader can possibly answer, so why put them in there to begin with? These passages are so repetitive and add so little to plot or character that they come across as nothing more than filler, to drag things out to an appropriate book length for a novel.

I hated LOST for all the same reasons I do not much care for this book.
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