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Southern Reach #1-3

Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy

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From Book 1:

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; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition 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 weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The 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, record all observations of their surroundings and of one anotioner, and, above all, 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.

595 pages, Hardcover

First published November 18, 2014

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About the author

Jeff VanderMeer

217 books12.8k followers
NYT bestselling writer Jeff VanderMeer has been called “the weird Thoreau” by the New Yorker for his engagement with ecological issues. His most recent novel, the national bestseller Borne, received wide-spread critical acclaim and his prior novels include the Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance). Annihilation won the Nebula and Shirley Jackson Awards, has been translated into 35 languages, and was made into a film from Paramount Pictures directed by Alex Garland. His nonfiction has appeared in New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, Slate, Salon, and the Washington Post. He has coedited several iconic anthologies with his wife, the Hugo Award winning editor. Other titles include Wonderbook, the world’s first fully illustrated creative writing guide. VanderMeer served as the 2016-2017 Trias Writer in Residence at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He has spoken at the Guggenheim, the Library of Congress, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination.

VanderMeer was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, but spent much of his childhood in the Fiji Islands, where his parents worked for the Peace Corps. This experience, and the resulting trip back to the United States through Asia, Africa, and Europe, deeply influenced him.

Jeff is married to Ann VanderMeer, who is currently an acquiring editor at Tor.com and has won the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award for her editing of magazines and anthologies. They live in Tallahassee, Florida, with two cats and thousands of books.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 969 reviews
Profile Image for Jack Foster.
Author 1 book7 followers
January 17, 2015
This book/series of books is extremely frustrating and unsatisfying. It's like listening to a person describe a very detailed but also very boring dream, with the logic of dreams that, if you are not the dreamer, appear only as gaps or blanks to the listener.

If you have heard good but vague praise about this book and are considering reading it, I would suggest passing. This book seems not to realise that we live in a Post-Lost world and on network TV (not even cable) everybody & their grandmother tuned in to watch about a spooky island, so the idea of a weird island is not particularly groundbreaking and this one isn't even very exciting as spooky islands go. Most of the pieces set in 'Area X' despite the urgings that everything seems off, or wrong, or unsettling, really seem to be no more than just hiking.

I have read another of Jeff VanderMeers' books, Finch, and I agree with the reviews that say he is a good writer, in the sense that his control of language is strong and he knows his way around a well-turned phrase. The effect that he is going for here, is the "Jaws"/"Alien" the-less-you-show-the-more-creepy-it-will-be gambit and while this works in movies, or when used skillfully, in this book it is just a cover for being deliberately vague. Characters are all referred to as 'the (insert noun here)' - the voice, the biologist, the director. etc. (also these are never more than generic placeholder names, it's not the MARINE biologist, it's just biologist). Characters are afflicted by an illness? infection? delusion? referred to only as a 'brightness,' (whether this is a radiance, or a brilliance, or a warmth, is not important enough to elucidate). The brightness grows, trembles, is sometimes symphonic, mumbles, (basically has every attribute other than being bright) and I guess causes (vague) transformations like maybe? turning into dolphins? or owls? or other things? the author is often too lazy to describe.
Again, it's highly frustrating, you know the author has the ability to be more concise in his use of language, he is even writes the first book in the first person from the POV of a person tasked with and smart enough to describe the interesting phenomena occurring around her and yet the best she can come up with is 'brightness'. And what are these phenomena? What makes area X so weird? Based on events related in the stories here it is no more dangerous than camping. We take it from the (vague) information about the expeditions prior that every expedition ends with the people dying, though it's never explained what from. A video from the first expedition is watched, none of the details need to be shared with us, the reader, (vaguely) described as 'carnage' (we're left to guess, what caused this carnage? Animals? Plants? the other expedition members?) The expedition we enter with, we're told the 12th, ends with most members killing each other for reasons that are vague and over what really amounts to nothing more than a camping trip. Also everyone is terrible at their jobs. The 'biologist' we follow never tags an animal (apart from an owl she befriends that she also thinks might be her dead husband, or might not) she takes a lot of samples but it's never explained to what end, I never hear her discuss control groups or take alkaline readings, the Anthropologist (kind of dead weight in the roster in my opinion since theirs no evidence of a culture to anthropologize) isn't particularly good at anything at all. The psychologist is really little more than a hypnotist. Sometimes they send a linguist! To an uninhabited area? To talk to whom? The whole premise is just so half-baked. It's a weird topographical anomaly, why not a botanist, why not a tracker. Why not a camera crew? Why not a SCUBA diver? Then there's the 'fixer' the interrogator who ends up getting some sort of weird Stockholm Syndrome and runs away with his subject.
I could go on: the book is nonsense, there's a (vague) shadowy government? organization that oversees the area and a kind of subplot with some scientist who seems to be living in the broom closet of said organization. The book is a glorious mess and not even a pleasurable one. By the end I was angry enough at the book for being so lousy that I looked up my goodreads password just so I could write the lousy review. Area X: Don't Go!!
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews101 followers
May 8, 2018
Huh, that was weird.

You're never on firm ground because reality is on a shift. There were twelve expeditions. Then someone talks about the first fifth expedition (it may have been the first eighth, I forget), so how many total?

It has the most compelling description of washing a mouse that I've ever read. Okay, yeah, the only one that I've ever read.

Parts reminded me of Blood Music and House of Leaves. Another reviewer said that it reminded him most of To the Lighthouse, so I'll move that up on my TBR.

I liked the middle the middle book best which is unusual in a trilogy. And, my favorite character is Saul Evans - the Lighthouse Keeper.

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https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cul...
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/bo...
ttps://www.npr.org/2014/09/02/343177566/acce...
https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/t...#!
Profile Image for Rob.
680 reviews84 followers
December 7, 2016
I would never, even on my best day, consider myself an optimist. But how else to explain the way I doggedly slogged my way through Jeff VanderMeer's Area X trilogy beyond all reason in the hope that it would eventually get better? 600 pages of tedium and nothing happening and all that nothing happening so slowly and yet I read on, thinking, "It'll get better, right?"

Nope.

It should've been better. Vaguely post-apocalyptic, focusing on a weird dimension that exists just one step to the side of our own and which may or may not be extraterrestrial in nature, the premise is what prompted me to buy the thing. And I kind've liked it at first. The first part of the trilogy, focusing on a team exploring the mysterious Area X, was creepy and ominous and fun. But the next two installments – and I freely admit that I might've liked this better if I'd read the three parts separately over time instead of in one lethargy-inducing three-week period – amounted to a whole lot of nothing. We learn about the director of the project exploring Area X and how Area X was (maybe) created and how . . .

Sorry. I can't. The act of reviewing this thing just reinforces how painful it was to read. I wanted more. I kept giving it a chance. More fool me. This is one of the biggest disappointments in my reading history.
Profile Image for Warwick.
809 reviews14.4k followers
April 27, 2018
Jeff VanderMeer's lush, eerie New-Weird trilogy combines the American cosmic horror of HP Lovecraft with the post-human fecundity of some of JG Ballard's apocalyptic visions. I am still not sure how successful it is – but it has ambition, and a clutch of great ideas, and an admirable reluctance to resolve too many of the mysteries it so deftly sets up.

The first book, Annihilation, has by far the tightest and most coherent plot. In it, we follow an unnamed biologist as she journeys into ‘Area X’, a patch of northern Florida that seems to have become disconnected from the rest of the world – in which time moves at a different pace, nature has taken over, and humans, if they come back at all, come back…different. Some would say this is not unlike the rest of Florida.

It's very successful in creating a tense, otherworldly atmosphere, with elements that are not entirely new, but not used in obvious ways either. It's also much shorter than the other two instalments – so much so that, in the context of this compendium volume, it feels almost like a virtuoso pre-credits sequence.

You finish Annihilation wishing desperately that you could eavesdrop on the offices of those in power who know more about what's going on – and Authority gives you exactly that by placing you in the head of Control, the director of the shadowy government agency which is responsible for investigating Area X. But – as in a nightmare – you find that you still can't understand anything: the files make no sense, your staff are uncooperative, and every answer you get only spawns a dozen more profound questions. This middle book contains some of the creepiest scenes in the series, their creepiness only enhanced by how they emerge from a setting of banal office politics.

If the first two books offer a thesis and antithesis, then Acceptance goes for the synthesis: combining characters and settings of the earlier stories, it tries to pull everything together and give some satisfying explanations without, however, giving so many answers that the mystery is killed stone dead. Some people may find that too much is left unexplained, but personally I would rather have too few answers than too many. As it is, VanderMeer has left a big space within which your own reactions to the book, or competing fan theories, or misunderstandings, are allowed (fittingly) to grow wild. I doubt whether the author himself knows all the answers.

But what's it all about, once you discard the mysteries of the plot? Much of what happens during these books has to do with coming to terms with death, a parallel journey from annihilation to acceptance (‘He did not want to leave the world, and yet he knew now that he was leaving it, or that it was leaving him’); and not just when it comes to our central characters, but the prospect of, as it were, the end of the anthropocene epoch.

Yet behind that fear is the notion, inflected by a Gaia-like sensibility, that the world would be better off without us in it. For all its horrors, Area X is a rich and thriving ecosystem, untouched by human pollution or interference. Sometimes you feel that this ecological richness is being held out by VanderMeer – however inadequately in the face of personal, or even civilisational, extinction – as a kind of comfort. Perhaps it is.
Profile Image for Dustin.
7 reviews3 followers
November 11, 2014
Literary in ambition and new weird in execution, the writing and ideas pull you along but ultimately lead you nowhere.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
978 reviews1,094 followers
February 25, 2018
3 and a half, rounded up. This was an intense book...

Jeff VanderMeer's books are always difficult to describe and review. I love where that man's brain goes: his weird and atmospheric stories have a way of sticking to my mind in the most haunting way. "The Southern Reach" trilogy had been on my shelf for a while, and I got so excited seeing the previews of the upcoming "Annihilation" movie adaptation (see thoughts about the movie at the end of the review) that I abandoned other books for this one's benefit.

Now let's try to make this simple. The Southern Reach is a clandestine government agency that studies the mysterious Area X; a section of the United-States which has been abandoned following an unexplained event, which has caused the entire region be reclaimed by nature. But the nature in Area X is not nature as we know and understand it.

"Annihilation" is the tale of the twelfth expedition sent to Area X: we read the journal entries of the biologist, one of the four women that makes up this team of explorers. They were instructed to share as little personal information as possible, so she only ever refers to her companions by their professions: the psychologist, the anthropologist and the surveyor. They are given a very minimal amount of information about where they are going, and what the ultimate purpose of their expedition is. They know that previous expedition members have killed each other, committed suicide... but some have mysteriously returned home, physically unharmed... but changed.

From the very first few pages, I was fascinated with the thick atmosphere of isolation, alienation and paranoia VanderMeer threw me into. The biologist quickly comes to realize that as nebulous as her expedition's mission seems to be, there is another hidden agenda at work, another layer of secrecy that she should not have been aware of.

“Authority” changes narrative gears to third-person and leads us inside the Southern Reach’s building, just on the edge of Area X, where we find out a bit more about this obscure agency through the eyes of John “Control” Rodriguez, its acting director. Despite his title (and nickname), Control doesn’t know the whole story of Area X either, and when members of the twelfth expedition return, he is determine to learn more from them, but that proves a lot harder than anticipated. Unlike the first book’s protagonist, Control is not interested in what is in Area X so much as he is interested by what kind of power he can get from it, or from the knowledge others have acquired about it. But just like the biologist, he has ties to Area X that run deeper than most people know. The sense of paranoia that was so well-crafted in “Annihilation” is maintained in this second part of the trilogy, and while we learn a few things that makes sense of some elements of “Annihilation”, VanderMeer also throws a few fresh mysteries in the mix.

Finally, “Acceptance” brings together the stories of Ghost Bird, Control, the lighthouse keeper and the original Southern Reach director. The chapter titles are important, because the POV and timelines change constantly, giving a insight as to what the region was like before it became Area X, and how it is still transforming as Ghost Bird and Control return beyond the border to seek some answers.

This whole trilogy is incredibly creative and ambitious, and VanderMeer uses the menacing idea of the unknown to perfection. I have always admired his prose and he didn’t let me down with “The Southern Reach”: he creates a dream-like setting that has the potential to become a nightmare in the blink of an eye and that is just awesome!

I completely understand why some people found it confusing and frustrating, but having read a bunch of VanderMeer books before, I knew what I was getting into: he will tease you with ambiguous explanations, unreliable narrators and his stories always seem to feature people who don’t perceive the world the way it is, or who are straight-up insane. And of course, mushrooms, spores and fruiting bodies are all over this! I'm glad I read the collected trilogy back to back; if I had read the books separately, with breaks in between, I might have gotten annoyed with it, so if you want to tackle it, I really suggest you think of "Annihilation", "Authority" and "Acceptance" as one big book, and not three. I'm not sure I'd read it again: it really is a lot to digest, but the again, I might discover more layers on a second read...

I found this trilogy to be mesmerizing, hard work and unforgettable… just like the novels of the Ambergris series. If you like slow-burn mysteries, idea novels, weird stuff that is truly alien and layered stories that could be analyzed many different ways, “The Southern Reach” trilogy is worth checking out. But don’t pick up a VanderMeer book expecting a light and breezy read; he’s going to make you work for it.

***

Thoughts about the movie "Annihilation": it's a VERY loose adaptation, and both works can almost be looked at independently, because there end up being more differences than similarities between them. The feelings of alienation, paranoia and isolation of the first book are very well captured in the film, and Alex Garland actually explains the origins of Area X (albeit, without VanderMeer's blessing, who knew Garland would just take his idea and run madly with it). The acting and photography is amazing, and the theme of self-destruction (which is not really a thing in the book) is emphasized alongside truly creepy yet fascinating moments. I enjoyed it!
Profile Image for 7jane.
671 reviews251 followers
January 6, 2018
Note: my spoilers are from all three parts
Another note: this series works the best if you chain-read all three parts (as this one book, or the three books available separately). I feel that all are needed to be read to see what the quality of the story is for the reader, thus for me this was 4 stars.

A little over 30 years ago, a part of (possibly, slightly) southeastern coast of US was cut off from rest of the world, today known as Area X. It has since been observed by government agency Southern Reach, whose building is near the border, and who send expeditions inside to know it better, but who find more questions than answers. Many of the expeditions have not ended successfully: some with all dead, some with one or two shocked survivors, and the latest - 11th - has been one where although the people have come back, they seem to be only shells of themselves, and they have soon died. But another expedition is planned after 2 years...

The story in three parts:
Annihilation (reason for this name appears eventually): where we follow the all-female quartet of 12th Expedition into Area X, where they find a mysterious tunnel/tower with ground entrace and strangeness inside, not on the map; and soon the behavior of all starts to change, as they explore it and other parts of Area X. From the POV of one of the members, the biologist, who has motives to be there (and isn't the only one).
Authority (at Southern Reach and the Central): where six weeks have passed and three of the members of the 12th exploring effort have come back, behaving/being much like the 11th did. The new director of Southern Reach, John "Control" Rodriguez, meets much passive resistance and elusiveness - partly at least because of being new there - but soon finds there's something really strange going on: something is threating Southern Reach!
Acceptance (well, it's the third part so...): where we follow three periods of time, two in the past - the last days of Area X before it was Area X, through the eyes of the lighthouse keeper; the point of time between 11th and 12th expeditions, where the director, Cynthia, is struggling with things and tries to figure out things past and present before making a choice to ; and finally we go straight from last events of the second book to exploring Area X after the newest change, through the eyes of two of the three people now there. This is the book that gives the most answers and wraps up nicely.

So, I really feel that I benefited from reading this as one book, though at first I thought it would be a disappointment. The Area X was interesting, though so dangerous that I'm glad it's only in the book (and the reason why it is what it is shows especially in the slight unraveling it shows in the third book - like, for example, in the night sky and how differently there).

I felt sorry for the lighthouse keeper and the people who suffered when the place became what it became - horrible scenes - and although I hated the psychologist at first, I did so less as I started to learn more about her. Nothing made me like Lowry, though; now there was one jerkass survivor there. Whitby I didn't know what to think about; he was so eerie, but the third book made me see his previous self better and mourn it...

The rabbits were cute though strange. at the lighthouse was a o.O moment. I was frustrated at the biologist being so extremely wrapped in herself that when , I cheered mentally. increasing confusion and passivity in the third part was both inevitable, sad, yet slightly feeling deserved - couldn't help feeling that.

Southern Reach's fate, it's gradual decay showing the decay of motivation, then its at the end was beautiful yet kind of sad-perfect ending to it all. And it did end perfectly, so sticking to reading it until the end paid off. Nature, even is a claiming thing :)

Edit: plus a cat named El Chorizo (Chorry)? Loved that <3
Profile Image for Carly.
456 reviews184 followers
July 13, 2015
**Note: if you're looking for a useful review that will provide cogent analysis of the book, please look elsewhere. This is my random, 10-minute, offhand reaction. I'm going to talk about themes. Depending on your definition, you may consider it spoilery. You've been warned.**

~3.5

In some ways, speculative fiction often balances precariously on the boundary between detective fiction and horror. Some books--hard scifi is a prime example--seek to make a world that they can explain. No matter how bewildering everything seems to be, somewhere, somehow, you just know it all makes sense. And then there's the horror flavour. At its core, horror comes from the unknown. So horror must play upon the unguessable, the nonsensical, the inexplicable.

Area X falls firmly into the latter category. It's the purest novelistic form of the Weird scifi subgenre that I've ever encountered. And from the very beginning, it's clear that the story itself will be a quest--a failed quest--to make the world make sense. The titles reflect the nature of the story arc. In the first part, Annhilation, the protagonists discover the effects of Area X upon their once-stable, sensible world. In the second, Authority, they try to take control and, as can be predicted by the outset, utterly fail to do so. In the third, Acceptance, the protagonists finally come to terms with the fact that Area X simply cannot be understood.

I'm a reader of detective fiction. I like order. I don't need to hear the explanations, but I need to know that somewhere, they're out there. The whole point of Area X, as is clear from the very beginning, is that it cannot be explained, and it doesn't make sense. This book, therefore, was something of a mismatch for me.

Even so, Area X is a fascinating book. It's practically constructed whole-cloth from metaphor and allusion. All of the names are meaningful, from the identity-stripping designation of "Biologist" and "Psychologist" to the man who designates himself as "Control" at the times when he has absolutely none to Saul the lighthousekeeper who is blinded by light. It is a thoughtful, complex book, and it will leave you still wondering about it long after you've finished.

Granted, if you're a detective-type reader, your primary question will probably be "What the hell?", but the book is multilayered enough to leave questions for everyone.
Profile Image for Darlington30.
19 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2015
Stunning and mesmerizing. A masterpiece of the weird fiction genre. Many readers will surely be drawn to the unique ecological setting and horror. But what I found most gripping were the linguistical and relative meanderings about the nature of meaning and knowing - - about how ever much we can know a thing and yet not know it at all; illusion and progress co-existing. Anyway, a unique and wonderful trilogy. Definitely recommended for newcomers to weird fiction.
Profile Image for Paul.
303 reviews72 followers
July 15, 2017
3.66 stars overall.

was a little underwhelmed with acceptance and not totally satisfied with the final entry in trilogy.
Profile Image for Chaunceton Bird.
Author 1 book92 followers
February 5, 2019
The first book in this trilogy, Annihilation, is a five-star home run. The writing is terse, focused, and lean. There is some properly frightening parts, and the story moves quickly enough to pull the reader through, speckling in necessary background information occasionally.

The second book, Authority, is a three-star meandering follow up. Everything that made the first books so incredible is missing in this installment. The writing is fluffy, aimless, and unnecessarily detailed. Where in the first book the reader was on class five rapids careening toward an exciting fate, the second was a lazy river crowded with snoozing tourists.

The third book, Acceptance, is a four-star conclusion. It leaves enough unanswered questions to leave mystery to the story, which makes it interesting and subtle, while still providing satisfying answers to many of the questions raised in the first two books. A satisfying conclusion to an epic trilogy.
Profile Image for Mark Rough.
50 reviews
February 17, 2015
I don't usually write reviews. But, I felt I needed to balance out the mostly glowing reviews here and around the internet. I really wanted to like these books. The premise is intriguing, there is an area in the southern United States that some mysterious force is trying to reclaim from humanity. Unfortunately, that's the best part.

The first book is just interesting enough to make me keep going to it's very unsatisfying end. Sadly, the writing is not unlike what you might encounter in a freshman English composition class, full of potential that is never realized. The characters are (purposefully) unnamed, flat and uninteresting (not purposefully). You know it's a bad sign when you wish a the main character would just get eaten by something big and ugly, already.

The second book also begins with just enough mystery that I felt I had to keep going. I was then treated to repetitive, over-written descriptions of rancid honey every few pages. I'm sure it couldn't have really been that often, but it seemed that way. Just FYI, Mr. VanderMeer, honey doesn't go bad. Look it up. The main character for this one reminded me a lot of Archer, the animated comedy/spy show, a whiny, wannabe tough guy with mommy issues. Great in a television comedy, for sure, but not a great image for the "hero" of this book.

The third book. . . well, I can't tell you much about it. It brings back most of the least appealing characters from the first two books. I only made it half way through in before I decided I just didn't care how it ended. Mr. VanderMeer, I want my time back.
Profile Image for Chiara.
240 reviews244 followers
May 11, 2018
"Suo figlio è intelligente ma non si applica"
Questo il miglior commento che mi viene in mente sull'Area x di VanderMeer. Che aveva un'idea più che buona, degli ottimi strumenti per trasporla su carta, e però... però manca qualcosa. E' tutto un gigantesco boh. E non mi si venga a dire che non ho capito la magia e la potenza di questo weird incalzante, dove tutto è introdotto e nulla è spiegato; l'ho capita, eccome. Solo che ci ho ravvisato anche un po' di furbizia.

L'unica aggiunta che mi sento di fare, è quella che mi rifiuto di pensare a questa lettura come ad una vera e propria trilogia. Che cosa sono, i tre libri presi singolarmente? Assolutamente niente, non hanno vita propria, valgono solo come pezzi di un puzzle più grosso, con l'unica eccezione, forse, di Annientamento, che combinando la curiosità iniziale con un ritmo gestito bene, riesce a piacere molto (complice anche il fatto che essendo il primo, non è tenuto a fornire chissà che risposte... e questo gioca molto a suo favore. Gli altri due purtroppo non possono avvalersi di questa scusante, ed infatti ne risentono in termini di gradimento).

Più nello specifico, mi è piaciuto Annientamento, l'ho trovato insolito e particolare, capace di trasmettere una lieve sensazione di disagio che fosse innovativa nel panorama del genere; sorprendentemente, mi è piaciuto anche Autorità, molto criticato per la sua lentezza. Sul finale, mi ha davvero catturata. Sull'ultima parte - Accettazione - mi vedo costretta a fare un quadro generale dell'intera lettura, anche perché ciò che era rimasto in sospeso non può essere più rimandato. E qui purtroppo emerge la nota dolente che vale nel complessivo, e rimarco il mio boh.

2 e mezzo totale, direi.
Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews257 followers
November 4, 2014
I purchased all three books as they appeared in the UK as hard covers, and I am glad that I did as I really enjoyed the series. Now imagine my surprise when I see this American Hardcover appear out of no where containing all three books. Well, I went ahead and purchased the book again.
Profile Image for Kristin.
325 reviews
May 18, 2017
So you know when your brain is fried, you're sleep deprived, and more info is slipping out than going in? Yeah, that's me. 13 hr days and weekends right now.



So when I started this audiobook and the narrator seemed rather dry and monotone, I considered giving this one up to a later date when I could be more with it. You know, when I wouldn't be lulled to sleep while I drive. But no, I trudged along. I'd been putting this 26 hr monstrosity off long enough. So when things didn't seem to improve and I felt like I had no idea what was happening, I assumed that I just wasn't mentally present enough to try this right now.


“Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives while from the dimlit halls of other places forms that never were and never could be writhe for the impatience of the few who never saw what could have been. In the black water with the sun shining at midnight, those fruit shall come ripe and in the darkness of that which is golden shall split open to reveal the revelation of the fatal softness in the earth. The shadows of the abyss are like the petals of a monstrous flower that shall blossom within the skull and expand the mind beyond what any man can bear, but whether it decays under the earth or above on green fields, or out to sea or in the very air, all shall come to revelation, and to revel, in the knowledge of the strangling fruit—and the hand of the sinner shall rejoice, for there is no sin in shadow or in light that the seeds of the dead cannot forgive. And there shall be in the planting in the shadows a grace and a mercy from which shall blossom dark flowers, and their teeth shall devour and sustain and herald the passing of an age. That which dies shall still know life in death for all that decays is not forgotten and reanimated it shall walk the world in the bliss of not-knowing. And then there shall be a fire that knows the naming of you, and in the presence of the strangling fruit, its dark flame shall acquire every part of you that remains.”




After reading some reviews of people who actually enjoyed Annihilation stating that book two wasn't near as good, but book three was just as amazing the first, I knew I just didn't have it in me to go on. I'm just so bored with this. I didn't enjoy any of the characters and as 2.0 pointed out, it really is just a bunch of gobbledygook wrapped up as pretty prose.

At only 25% it's a little deceiving but I actually made it through book one, Annihilation, of this audiobook trilogy and a little ways into book 2. I don't see the otehr 75% holding anything of value for me.

I surrender.
Profile Image for Brandon Baker.
Author 12 books2,426 followers
April 3, 2022
Minor spoilers (mostly in my blurb for book 3), but I’ll make a more in depth Tiktok or YouTube video filled with spoilers!!

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer focuses on an ecological hot zone sealed off from the rest of the world known as Area X. The Southern Reach is a government facility set up near the border to try to understand and contain the area.

Book 1 is Annihilation, and it focuses on a team of four women on an expedition into Area X. Our main character is a woman known only as The Biologist. Her husband survived an expedition into Area X only to die shortly after. There is a lot of world building and set up in this first book, but I do think it’s the most horror-centric story, and definitely the most thrilling/fast paced. I spent a lot of time reflecting on this book while reading the subsequent two books, and honestly wish I would have done a reread of this before finishing the series.

Book 2 is Authority. We follow a strange man who prefers to be called Control, he is the new director of Area X. This one deals very heavily on the inner workings of The Southern Reach, and is probably the most off-beat and bizarre book in the series. For most of the book I really didn’t know what was happening, but it was unnerving and weird enough to keep me hooked. There was also two pretty freaky scenes that I just absolutely loved, but honestly I felt like this book was mostly filler (not a bad thing really, just an observation).

Book 3 is Acceptance. There are 3 main timelines in this one; Control and Ghostbird in Area X, The Lighthouse Keeper prior to the making of A X, and the former Director. This is probably my favorite of the whole trilogy (maybe tied with Annihilation). It’s maintains the weirdness of Authority, but also has all the A X madness Annihilation had and I thought it was just amazing. I heard that Jeff is writing a fourth book, but I thought this one wrapped things up nicely for the most part.

As a whole, this series totally blew me away!!!! When I finished it, I immediately wanted to start rereading it so I could see what all I missed the first time around. I guess Jeff V wrote this based on a dream that he had (can’t remember where I read that), and it totally makes sense of that’s the case. This trilogy is weird as hell, open to interpretation, and just so unique. I wouldn’t really recommend it if you want all your questions answered and everything wrapped up in a bow, but if you enjoy scifi, weird fiction, horror, and some beautiful descriptions and imagery, I highly recommend The Southern Reach trilogy.

Oh, and I also highly recommend reading the books consecutively, without too much of a delay between books. My main issue is I read Annihilation like 4 years ago, so it did take me a bit for things to fall into place in both books 2 and 3. Things still made sense and worked eventually, but I feel like I would have enjoyed it a lot more had I had Annihilation fresh in my mind. That’s really my only complaint and it’s totally on me!!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for CKQ Malone.
46 reviews5 followers
January 6, 2015
Annihilation (book 1) still stands out as the strongest in the trilogy to me. It's crazy how quick and dry/painless of a read it is, until you get to the end and wish there were another couple hundred pages that might clue the reader in to whatever Area X has become (or becoming). A nameless expedition team sent into isolated territory to study the unnameable. It's pure discovery and reaction, like an episode of Lost that eschews character development in favor of building up the mystery and mythology of the island. Each new discovery leading to questions that never reveal anything too promising, but only serve to get the brain spinning out ideas as you try to gain footing with the plot. Only there are more bits and pieces that seem too out of place to make any kind of logical sense from.

Book 2, Authority, came across as the weakest and, while the premise of featuring a look inside the maw of Southern Reach felt promising, the whole thing seems to get mucked up in the endless glut of questions repeatedly considered by protagonist John Rodriguez (Control), as he takes over directorship of SR and tries to figure out what's happened/happening. Nearly double the size of Annihilation, it mostly read like a meandering squall of inner thoughts all bending back on each other while slowly moving things along.

Finally, there's Acceptance, which I'm now slowly realizing was more fulfilling than when I had first finished it. It's sort of a free for all in that it isn't confined to a singular character's viewpoint, but rather proceeds directly from Authority split between four core voices. I think the fact that there are more questions than answers is a non-issue (no matter how much it's bound to get under the skin of less patient readers) since it's practically inevitable in a sci-fi/dystopia story, and, most importantly, is thematically chained throughout the trilogy in a way that makes sense...without it making much sense, of course (however much of a copout others may feel it is). But that's mostly the point to all that's discovered by the time you reach the end...and I think it's spelled out about as clear as VanderMeer would allow. Which is more than good enough for me.
Profile Image for Bill.
407 reviews94 followers
November 29, 2014
A very unsatisfying, confused journey to an otherworld. The story has a number of flat characters whose thoughts and acts occur at various times and places. It seemed like every chapter was written, stapled and then when all was done they were thrown into the air, selected randomly and made into 3 books which should have been one. I ended up speed reading to get it over with.

I completely agree with Dustin's Review: "Literary in ambition and new weird in execution, the writing and ideas pull you along but ultimately lead you nowhere."

The terroir bores.
Profile Image for Sunyi Dean.
Author 10 books816 followers
June 19, 2021
I'm going to change my review. As I read it again I can't believe the flawlessness of the prose. The beauty and depth. Structure and horror like none other. Absolutely incredible. And the biologist is totally autistic.
Profile Image for Brandon Forsyth.
879 reviews143 followers
February 1, 2018
I don't know if I always understood it, but I was always fascinated by it. VanderMeer's brand of literary environmental dystopia feels fresh and exciting, and maybe even the start of something new.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 22 books277 followers
March 14, 2018
Area X is a monstrous contradiction: it's an epic that goes nowhere; a saga that resolves nothing. It introduces a world that can't be explicated and whose origins, even after 600 pages, are somehow murkier than its outcomes. It's a page turner that frustrates expectations, yet for all its attention to detail and gorgeous descriptions isn't particular well written. Its characters are multi-layered and compelling but for the most part are utterly without empathy. It's a hothouse of a book: overwrought, overwritten, fecund and miasmic. In spite of its flaws if Book 4 dropped on my doorstep tomorrow I'd likely cancel my plans and devour it (even though I was late to the party for the first three).

What can I say? I've been compromised by Area X.

As I read the final Ghost Bird section I wondered, why are they leaving? So they can be interrogated by whatever's left of the Southern Reach and stashed in some secret facility? I think I would want to stay, especially if I had nothing to go back to, because I love this world that VanderMeer has created. I would be very happy if he chose to write about nothing else and every year or so we got to go back to this weirdly beautiful alien botanical garden and wildlife preserve.

Ghost Bird is my favorite character, the one I find most relatable. (She reminds me of me when I arrived in boot camp, a place of premeditated trauma with its own secret language and logic, but being the son of a naval officer, I was preconditioned for it. Not only was I equipped to handle the radical transformation it sought to engender, I embraced its myriad cruelties and thrived. The proverbial square peg in a square hole. Sometimes, I miss that person. He was stronger, less fearful, but exuded meanness and equated caring with weakness.) There is a kind of nobility to Ghost Bird's indifference. She is a paragon of self-sufficiency. She requires nothing.

Gloria, the Director, is my second favorite. She comes across as such a devious person in Annihilation that it was surprising to see how fully fleshed out she is by the end. I loved knowing her connection to the lighthouse and its keeper. I think in many ways she's a stand in for VanderMeer. Her attempts to make sense of Area X through a series of notes jotted down on scraps of paper, napkins, even leaves reminds me of what the author has written about his own process and his dedication to capturing every idea. What he doesn't talk about is how he catalogs all that data. It must be overwhelming.

If the Director is the writer, Control is the reader. He's the new guy on the scene for whom everything must be explained. This is the water cooler... This is the secret lab where we keep the freaky shit... He's kind of clumsy and of course he's attracted to Ghost Bird. He is full of yearning but his life is packed with secrets so good luck with that.

All of the characters want to get to the bottom of the uncanny mystery that is Area X but the ceaseless obfuscations of the Southern Reach have strangled the flow of data. Everyone lies and hides things from each other so there's no knowledge sharing, no hope of ever reaching a conclusion, because if they did get together and hashed everything out, they'd find all the places where their memories had been tampered with, occluded and falsified thanks to Lowry, who sits in the center of an even shadowier organization. There's no way of ever truly knowing Area X without Lowry's input and we don't have that (yet, but apparently it's coming since VanderMeer has revealed he's going to write about Lowry and the first expedition to Area X, but I wouldn't hold your breath). The point being that the book mirrors the broken information system that exists between Central, the Southern Reach, Area X, and everyone who crosses its borders.

VanderMeer knows this so he keep dropping hints that the answers lie shrouded in the past along the Forgotten Coast pre-Area X. I love it when a good writer weaves family lore and local history into the fabric of a story, but here it all loops back to the same broken systems (Jackie Severance, Lowry, Central), which is frustrating. (That said, my biggest problem with Garland's adaptation is how a pair of scientists in the field figure out how "The Shimmer" works as a DNA prism or whatever after a couple days inside. Um, no. You can guess, you can speculate, but you can't arrive at such a farfetched conclusion with any degree of certainty. That's not how science works, nevermind alien science.)

When I love a book, it's typically because I'm enthralled by its language and I highlight the shit out of it. That's not the case here. The language and story seldom synced up in a way where something was expressed in a way that was elegant or profound. There are few worlds in contemporary fiction as thought provoking as Area X, but there's something about the way that VanderMeer avoids making his intentions clear that blunts the force of his language.

And that's okay. Where VanderMeer succeeds is creating an atmosphere that's unlike anything else in literature. The feeling of being in Area X is utterly unique and I can't wait to go back.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Magda.
35 reviews7 followers
October 19, 2017
This book was in turns horrifying (made me sleep with the lights on at least once) and intriguing – although I did skim some passages that were given to rambling descriptions and side plots chasing their own tails, doing little to further the overall plot; hence the four stars instead of five...

Other than that, this trilogy had all the things that I look for in a good book of this/these genre/s. The post-cataclysmic after-human milieu; the constant sense of mystery and mutability; the quasi-religious, evocative eloquence mixed in with an almost Lovecraftian brand of oddball biology. More than anything else, however, I appreciated this certain... vagueness? of the plot. Unlike many other mystery/horror/sci-fi/eco-thriller stories, this one seemed to avoid the logical carnage of a "Great Revelation at the End" that nearly always obliterates the sense of mystery in favour of a self-indulgent show of cleverness. And, because it left so many questions, this book is bound to stay in my mind for some time. I don't often pick up Science Fiction, but in this case I'm happy I did.
Profile Image for Ryan Bradford.
Author 9 books34 followers
February 19, 2015
Sheer ambition and outlandishness make it easy to look over the flaws of this series. Some of the language seems stubbornly pseudo-dense, and the end left me with more questions than when I started, but I have nothing but admiration for the Southern Reach Trilogy. Never have I read anything that has balanced terror, dry humor and suspense so deftly.

The format of a trilogy, I think, automatically conjures associations with an 'epic', but just the fact that he took the concept of an epic and made it about bureaucracy and identity is impressive—it seems like a huge zag when most writers would zig. As the books progress Vandermeer hones his focus rather than inflating it.

Love the hardcover format too. The cover is beautiful, and having all the books together makes it easy to double-back and look for details. I'm sure I'll be reading this again. I wouldn't be surprised if there were Southern Reach scholars in the future.
Profile Image for Brenda.
84 reviews24 followers
April 5, 2018
Ugh, ended up skimming the last 3/4 of this book. I just couldn't anymore.
The first book was decent, probably a 3 star rating.....but the rest was utter torture. I really really wanted to find out what was going on...so I pushed on...and on....and on. I have been forcing myself to read this book for way too long...3 weeks at least and I am SO over it.
Don't waste your time.
Profile Image for Luce.
514 reviews36 followers
January 21, 2019
Annihilation: 4 stars

Authority: 3.5 stars? I was interested in the story but it took so long to actually get through it. I read most of Annihilation in a single day but with Authority I’d sit down, prepared to read 100 pages, and struggle to get through 20. I think I’d have to read it again to truly appreciate it.

Acceptance: 4-ish stars. I still don’t understand but I think that’s the point. The beauty is in the mystery, and there are no answers because there can’t be answers. This is definitely a series to be re-read though, and I think it will be easier going next time, when I know what to expect.

Overall rating: 4 stars.

Rep:
Annihilation: the biologist is reportedly Asian (I don’t recall this ever being said explicitly but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t, I just can’t remember) and the psychologist, secondary in this one, is part Native American.
Authority: Control’s father is latinx I believe (his surname is Rodriguez), and there’s a secondary character named Grace who is a black queer (bisexual, I would say) woman who has a girlfriend on the page.
Acceptance: The biologist is present again in this one as a POV character, as are Control and the psychologist. Grace is in it as a secondary character. The remaining POV character is a gay man who has a boyfriend on the page.
Profile Image for Fabio.
425 reviews48 followers
April 12, 2019
Trilogia - maneggiare con cura
Voto complessivo alla trilogia come unicum, i primi due volumi sono anche vagamente accettabili. Annientamento è piacevolmente disturbante, a tratti. Straniante.

Ma le trilogie, com'è noto, sono materiale pericoloso. Qui siamo dalle parti di Star Wars, peggior versione, ovvero trilogia sequel-ma-prequel. Non per il tipo di sci-fi; non per l'importanza del setting (Villa Balbianello batte il faro e l'anomalia topografica); non ci sono le spade laser, spiegazioni arzigogolate sulla Forza. Però ci sono aspettative deluse ai massimi livelli, potenzialità buttate, supercazzole perché studiare una trama che regga è impegnativo, personaggi fastidiosi o al massimo estremamente noiosi (non in CG, fortunatamente). E Natalie Portman, l'unica che si salva sempre e comunque - perché è un'ottima attrice, che andate a pensare?



Più seriamente (se c'è qualcosa di più serio di Natalie Portman, naturalmente): lettura portata a termine con grande difficoltà, giusto per puntiglio. Credo che VanderMeer stia ancora ridendo per il bello scherzo propinato ai lettori - un terzo di Lovecraft, un pizzico di Kafka, due cucchiaiate di I've seen things you people wouldn't believe..., una sventagliata di ecologismo pro-forma (alberi si sono sacrificati per questi libri, e vieni a fare l'eco-friendly?), complottismo della peggior specie (la conosci quella dell'agenzia segreta, controllata da un'altra agenzia segreta, in cui due fazioni segrete si contendono un potere segreto per scopi segreti?).
Profile Image for robylegge.
275 reviews59 followers
March 24, 2021
Annientamento 5 stelle
Autorità 2 stelle
Accettazione 3 stelle

Ho scritto un commento approfondito nelle edizioni singole di ciascun libro.

Complessivamente la trilogia mi è piaciuta, anche se mi aspettavo molto di più.
Annientamento 5 stelleIl primo è bellissimo, insuperabile sotto molti punti di vista. Forse si potrebbe leggere come libro autoconclusivo perché molte delle domande non trovano risposta nei libri successivi. Non c'è chissà quanta azione, è molto introspettivo... a me ha dato le stesse sensazioni di Lost.
Autorità 2 stelle Il secondo è una noia mortale, con un personaggio anonimo a cui non mi sono affezionata per nulla.
Accettazione 3 stelle Il terzo è scritto in modo molto diverso, con diversi PoV e salti temporali. Anche questo è abbastanza introspettivo, qualche risposta ai misteri la abbiamo e si può dire che, più o meno, il cerchio si chiude.

Trilogia consigliata a chi vuole sperimentare il genere weird, a chi vuole leggere un romanzo che parli di ecologia e a chi ha amato Lost.

Profile Image for Shadowdenizen.
829 reviews33 followers
October 5, 2020
4.5 stars.
(And sorry if this is a bit of a short rambling review, but this book is really hard to analyze in a straightforward manner for me.)

"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." These immortal words were written by legendary horror guru HP Lovecraft. And they accurately sum up the entirety of this trilogy.

Everything about this trilogy is designed to make readers uncomfortable, and warp their expectations of what to expect, to lull them into a false sense of security about what to expect. (And the movie version of "Annihilation", while watchable, doesn't begin to cover the tone or concepts of the book.)

Right from the beginning, VanDeMeer creates a strong sense of distance and isolation that carries thru the entire series. (One of the most important aspects in creating that sense is the fact that no-one is addressed by their name, but rather referred to by their role [Biologist, Psychologist, Control, etc.])

Another element that skews reader perception is the use of the "Unreliable Narrator" (Gene Wolfe uses this trait extensively in his books, to great effect.), which makes the first book ("Annihilation") the true standout of the trilogy.
Profile Image for Paulo Limp.
176 reviews3 followers
February 20, 2015
The human mind craves for order. Ever since we started walking with two legs, we observed the world around us, trying to find explanation for the inexplicable things we witnessed. Why there are days, and nights, and why sometimes it rains... We even created Gods to explain what we could not understand, later replacing these explanations for others, as our understanding of the universe grew. In that aspect, something manmade that intentionally devised not to be explained is alien, and annoying to our own nature. I'd say it is borderline cruelty, but the result is just boring.

This review is based on the entire Area X Trilogy: Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance. I thought I was being clever when I bought all three for the price of one at the time... But we'll get to that.

In a place called Forgotten Coast, an event happened, and it created Area X. It is delimited by a "border", and the official story is that it was isolated due to an environmental disaster that will take several years to be cleared. Military patrol the borders to make sure no one comes near it, and an Agency has been created and placed near it, on the Southern Reach, to investigate the anomaly. The agency has sent several expeditions to Area X, but everyone ended with disastrous results.

In Annihilation, a team of four woman join the twelfth expedition into Area X. They do not have names, just roles: a Biologist, an Anthropologist, a Surveyor, and a Psychologist, the last one being the leader of the mission. We follow the viewpoint of the Biologist, and witness the strangeness of Area X from the first-person perspective.

Authority starts where Annihilation ends, with a new director being assigned to the Southern Reach agency. The director calls himself Control, and finds out that things outside Area X are as weird, if not more, than within. We follow only the viewpoint of Control in this book.

Finally, for Acceptance the timelines and viewpoints shift between several characters, including the protagonists of the first two books. Sometimes it shows events before the creation of Area X, events before the twelfth expedition, and events in the "present", after the action in Authority.

Now, at first the plot could remind you of the Lost series, and it does resemble a lot. But the point is that there's no explanation for what is going on in Area X. Instead, the author try to explore the anguish the characters have to live when facing the inexplicable. But the end result is terrible. It annoyed me a lot when I sensed that the Biologist was more concerned in the first book with her own existentialism questions than with the obvious mysteries in front of her. I was also annoyed by this approach of "not having to explain". I usually have a great admiration for the writers I read, but I felt that I too, would be able to create a mysterious land where strange things happened and throw a few people in it, since I wouldn't have to explain anything later. Hell, I'd be able to do that when I was 10 years old.

When I moved to the other books, my distaste for the narrative increased, because that "existentialism discussion" was in the mind of EVERY character - as if everyone was more interested on the dirt under their nails than on the monster around the corner. There were also other traits in the narrative that would annoy me more and more, like descriptions that didn't describe anything, and word repetition. For instance: "That little plant in the corner. It was so small, but it was also larger than the world. It was strange, yet familiar. The little plant. In the corner." BLARGH!!!

I was told this is a new genre: "Weird fiction". I was told things like "you must understand that the narrator is unreliable.", and that "the mystery is more important than the answer". This feels to me much like modern art, where someone would give three brush strokes at a canvas and tell people it is art. Please feel free to disagree.

If you want to read something weird, I recommend "The City and The City", by China Mieville. For some fiction with (good) existentialism discussion, please pick up "Hyperion", from Dan Simmons. If, despite my warnings, you insist on reading this book, prefer the written book over the audio version. The narrative is so bothering that I caught my mind wandering away from the story several times, and I had to concentrate on what I was listening, only to realize nothing important at all was being said.

Thanks God it is over! The real mystery is why I kept reading until the end...
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