SciFi and Fantasy eBook Club discussion

Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)
This topic is about Annihilation
May Discussions > Annihilation by Jeff VanDerMeer - May 2014

Comments Showing 1-27 of 27 (27 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I just finished this book last night. I have mixed feelings about it. In part, I was surprised that it's only a novella - 2400+ locations - but listed as 209 pages. That was surprising.

The book itself I found interesting but ultimately underwhelming. Only the main character, the biologist, was fleshed out at all and then she wasn't fully formed. The story moved quickly from the beginning of the expedition to giving the reader some answers before giving any real back ground or a chance to really invest in this world or really even care why these 4 women were sent out to explore this area.

I didn't hate the book, but I won't be reading the rest of the series. I'm just not interested enough to know more about this world.

John (johnred) I think you've nailed the main problems with the book -- it really seems like an extended setup, rather than the main story itself. The trilogy probably should have been split up differently and made into 2 books instead of 3.

That said, it did hook me enough that I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Maggie K I agree with your assessment Geoffrey. I was hoping it would be similar to Roadside Picnic. It was, but in kind of a non-suspenseful way. Interesting idea that just didn't get very exciting.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I had high hopes for the book - and the comparisons and reviews helped to keep those hopes pretty high. Maybe I was expecting something more than what it was. I think, in part, it felt rushed; so much was covered so fast that the sense of exploration and discovery one would expect in a story about exploration and discovery just wasn't there.

Donna (donnahr) I finished it this morning. I was intrigued at the beginning but ultimately I never really engaged with the book. I need to care about the characters to enjoy a book and as you said, Geoffrey, only the biologist was fleshed out at all and I never connected with her. It's an interesting premise and the book wasn't bad, but I have no desire to continue with the series.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I think I liked it more than the rest of you. The biologist was deliberately holding back details that she didn't want to reveal - and she didn't know - or want to know - the other members of her team. That makes for an opaque narrative; and I should admit a love for unreliable narrators.

I also liked the style and pace of the story - scientists exploring the unknown - without having to fight their way out of a tough corner every other chapter. I actually prefer this to elaborate fight scenes.

It some ways it reminds me of Eden by Stanislaw Lem with the character called by jobs rather than names.

I'm not going to say this was a great novel - though I liked it more than Terminal World. Where it gets weak is the scientific explanation for Area X. I'm not sure if this is because it's only a third of the story or if the author is - after all is said and done - writing science fiction in a fantasy mode.

In any case, I think it's worth 4 stars and I do plan on reading the second book when it comes out.

Michael I finished this today. Like some of the others in the group this never really clicked for me. On paper the kind of thing I should really enjoy, but something about the detachment of some of the writing made it very hard for me to get into this. I'm probably not going to carry on with the trilogy, although I understand that the next book goes in a very different direction.

message 8: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Rowe (benwickens) I loved it.

I think the book is very much set in the context of other weird fiction, you can enjoy it without reading or being familiar with other works but even with the few I have read I felt it added to the experience.

I came very close to giving it 5 stars and it has long stuck with me since reading it.

I thought the sense of place and atmosphere was really strong as well as the sense of impending dread and well ... strangeness that built up in the book.

Donna (donnahr) It's interesting how as a group we're all over the board on this one.

Maggie K I see #2 in the series is released today...seriously considering stopping by the bookstore at lunch hour....

message 11: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Rowe (benwickens) I am in two minds though about the 2nd book because I do not think it left anything unanswered that needed to be answered. Ambiguity in weird fiction is part of its appeal and charm and this book leaves open lots of possibilities that a follow on book might well reduce in to a more limited sense of explanations and interpretations.

I will still read the second book but I might wait a month or two to enjoy further how i feel about the first one, unaffected by the follow up.

message 12: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (johnred) I just grabbed the second book! I've got to finish up another book first but it's next in line now.

From a quick page through the second book, it looks like it is significantly different from the first. Much longer, written in the 3rd person, completely different setting.

Angélique (MapleBooks) (maplebooks) I came to have a look at what you think about the book because I'm just passed two third of the book and seriously, I don't enjoy it at all. It's not *bad*, it's not even boring, it's just I'm not interested at all.
At first, I thought it was because everything/everyone is cold. The language is so scientific-cold that, even if it is intentional, I find it keeps the reader at a distance. I can't sympathise with the main character. I just find everyone very not-nice. I mean they don't have to love each other, but I don't understand why they have to be so defiant/aggressive towards each other.
I'm still going to finish it because I want to know where this is going. I feel there might be somethings interesting about the whole idea (Area X) but the way the story is told really left me behind.

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I think the distrust between characters heightened the sense of dread and doom of the mission - it's not only Area X you have to worry about, you can't turn your back on anybody lest you give someone the chance to stick a knife in you. Paranoia - justified or not - creates good tension, IMHO. Of course the downside is character likability goes down. And likability for some readers - especially Americans if a review of Koch's The Dinner should be believed - is highly important. I kind of enjoy unlikable or untruthful character, so it was a non event with me here.

Angélique (MapleBooks) (maplebooks) Now I'm thinking that I just don't get it :D
You're talking about 'dread', 'doom', and 'paranoia' and I also just noticed a lot of people put this book in the "horror" genre.
I just finished "The troop" by Nick Cutter and although it was not the best horror novel ever, I was at least a bit tensed. With Annihilation, I actually didn't notice that I was supposed to be worried. :/

message 16: by John (last edited May 09, 2014 10:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (johnred) Angélique wrote: "I don't understand why they have to be so defiant/aggressive towards each other."

Well, right in the beginning, one of the women disappears under suspicious circumstances. The main character is immediately infected and tries to hide it, then finds out about the hypnotic control...Seems like some pretty good reasons to be paranoid IMO :)

Also, the Biologist is exploring the area that mysteriously ended her marriage and her husband's life. Not exactly happy fun time, I would imagine.

That said, I do agree that the tone was cold; It just didn't bother me.

message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

I wouldn't tag the book as horror myself, though it uses some of the same techniques as the better horror stories.

But the book does have an atypical atmosphere for science fiction - and it clearly doesn't reside well with a lot of readers. The story has an underlaying sense of hopelessness and helplessness: all other missions to Area X have ended badly and the general feeling is that the fate of this mission will be no different. I suppose the author could have taken the path more travelled and given the reader a super character that would overcome the impossible odds to crack the secrets of Area X .

I want to see the author will go with it.

Angélique (MapleBooks) (maplebooks) [Beware: potential spoiler]
Actually, don't you think this book has a Lovecraft feeling about it? The isolation of the main character and her disenchantment about things, the unknown but probably supernatural threat, the empty but human-shaped decor (the village, the lighthouse...), the weird partially-human monsters (especially, the human-eyed dolphins).
It reminds me of the very classic Lovecraft novels in which the protagonist arrives in a village where everyone is turning into sea monsters and the main character only slowly realizes what is actually happening.

message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Yeah, there are Lovecraft elements here. But not the pure horror like The Outsider or Rats in the Walls. This would be more like The Shadow of Time where the cosmic horrors aren't supernatural monsters but aliens so unfathomable and different from humans our minds can't comprehend them. Some critics have argued that some Lovecraft stories are more creepy science fiction than horror.

I'm still on the fence if this book will eventually fall to fantasy or science fiction side.

Donna (donnahr) John Scalzi's blog has a regular feature called "The Big Idea" where other authors talk about their books. Yesterday's post is Jeff VanderMeer talking about Authority: A Novel.

message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for the link, Donna.

Maggie K I have been reading Authority and it's extremely different, but sheds a lot of light on some of these characters.
As states in the blurb, the main character is the 'new' head of Southern Reach, and his first task is to (view spoiler)
Quite interesting! I think it adds a lot to the first book

Angélique (MapleBooks) (maplebooks) I finished the book yesterday night and I'm glad I did: I found the last quarter much, much more interesting. I finally could feel some atmosphere raising and could somewhat connect with the main character. I really, really liked the ending.
I still rated the book pretty low (sorry!) because during 2/3 of the book, I was utterly bored and felt disconnected with whatever was happening. But I'm definitely curious with "Authority" and since the library has it as an eBook (lucky me), I put an hold on it.

message 24: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Rowe (benwickens) For those not familiar with Vandermeer's other work it is worth noting that together with his wife he has edited at least two of the most important weird related anthologies of recent times including the 2000 page The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. I felt all this knowledge and understanding of the weird infused this book.

For me it was a compelling mix of classical tropes and new invention.

However I did not particularly like or find the romance element of the book compelling. I know for some other reviewers it was part of the novel that they liked most but not so for me.

I hope to start Authority soon. Just got a few other books I want to get through first.

message 25: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (johnred) Ben wrote: "However I did not particularly like or find the romance element of the book compelling."

I'm not sure "romance element" is the term I would use for the story of a marriage deteriorating into obsession and isolation.

message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

I don't recall a romance element. There were details about the biologists marriage - not Romantic in any way - and that was important to show way she went on this mission.

Angélique (MapleBooks) (maplebooks) Ohhh you guys... I think what Ben meant by "romance element" is the "love story" between the protagonist and her husband. Even if it's a total wreckage, it is still a love story (you know all love stories don't end happily, don't you? :D ).
I mean, the whole expedition makes the main character reach to him, understand what was wrong between them two, and eventually, she symbolically tries to go find him! (with not much hope, but still, she chooses to follow his route). If this ending is not romantic, I don't know what is... ***awww***

back to top