Monday, February 10, 2014

ARC Review: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
Publishing Date: February 11th, 2013
Genre: Adult, Science Fiction
Pages: 200 pgs
ISBN: 9781443428392
Source: Received for honest review from publishers

Summary from Goodreads:
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

My Review: 

In November, I was in Toronto for a blogger meet-up and before the Ottawa Blogettes headed over to the event we were lucky enough to enjoy a coffee with the gals from Harper Collins.  Kaiti and Suman are down to earth and very easy to talk to.  Many of the Ottawa gals read predominantly YA so it was nice to get a chance to chat about upcoming adult books with Kaiti. There were a few books that were coming out in 2014 that she recommended and among them was Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer. I was quite excited when it showed up in my mailbox a few short months later. 
This novel has already been optioned for a movie and I can certainly see why.  It focuses on an expedition to Area X.  Little is known about Area X and all previous expeditions have not garnered much information.  The book focuses on the 12 expedition which is comprised of four women. There is an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist and a biologist. The narrator of this story is the biologist and she describes a world that is intricate and interesting. 
The best part of this fairly short story is the incredible world building that Vandermeer does. We get to explore Area X as the narrator is exploring it and thus we are always kept in suspense about things.  If the narrator is unaware of what creature lurks behind the creepy noises being made during the middle of the night, then we too are kept in the dark. Area X seems to be very organic and seems to have grown all on it's own. While the author does an amazing job at describing the creatures and seemingly intelligent plants in this novel, I think this would be an awesome thing to see in video format. 
The book is full of description but there is also quite a bit going on within a short period of time. It keeps the reader engaged and wanting to know more. This book is part of a trilogy and all books will be released in 2014.  I must say that I am glad that I won't have to wait too long to figure out what's going on in this world.  I would hate to have to wait for a year for the next installment of this story. 
My only dislike of the book was that it was difficult to connect with the narrator.  You learn snippets about her life before Area X and you get to know her personality a bit while reading but it was difficult to really feel for her. Things tended to be very surface with this character. That being said, the narrator does have difficult making connections with those around her so this more than likely done intentionally. Regardless of that, I think I would have liked this novel even more if I could have felt empathy for this character.
Overall, I  quite enjoyed this book and I will definitely be reading the rest of this series. 

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