Friday, July 8, 2016

Book Review: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Paperback, 195 pages

Published February 4th 2014 by FSG Originals

Nebula Award for Best Novel (2015), Locus Award Nominee for Best Science Fiction Novel (2015), Shirley Jackson Award for Novel (2014), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Science Fiction (2014)

This might come off as a negative review, compared to the massive list out all the awards and nominations for this novel, and then factor all my friends who hyped this book as the greatest thing since sliced bread. I had many friends tell me of the genius of Vandermeer's book long before I actually read it. I admit one of the things that actually got me to crack it open was the looming film. I have great respect for the film work of Alex Garland. Not just Ex-Machina and Sunshine, but I actually love his Dredd movie. I knew I would be in the theater opening weekend, so I had to read the book and get Vandermeer's vision before seeing the movie.

This may seem strange but as much as I think this is a fantastic novel, and deserving of all the awards it won I didn't connect to it personally. Vandermeer has constructed a fantasy mystery in the deepest sense. I felt he has constructed a smarter more literate take on LOST. I have not read books two and three So I could be wrong, and it could go in a totally different direction. I don't think the answers are as simple and explainable as the mystery of Lost turned out to be. This becomes both a strength and weakness of the novel for me.

Area X is pure mystery and defies sense often, this makes narrative feel so other worldly as times that you can't help but be impressed. The story is about the 12th team to head to the area to research it. The Characters don't have names just titles. The landscape changes like a drawing being tinkered with by the artist. Quickly you figure out that while Vandermeer is storyteller you should trust his narrators and their perceptions are unreliable to say the least.

For me as plotting and structure geek...Well it just wasn't my favorite type of story. How novels reveal story is very important to me, I like the feeling of a author guiding me carefully up a ladder to reveal what is in the attic. This novel reveals story more like being pushed in a white river raft and trying to make sense of a world that is spinning. Not a bad thing at all. Infact I often like novels like that, it may just be that I was not in mood for it, I think I was looking for a straighter narrative. That's on me.

Infact much like Paul Trembley's Head Full of Ghosts, the more I thought about the book long after I closed it for the last time did I respect what I had read. I certainly think fans of weird intelligent science fiction and horror should read this short and effective book. It sure looks like this is a classic in the making. See it before the movie for sure.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Oh, LOST - good analogy. This was my first VanderMeer. Just finished and I really enjoyed it.
Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review
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