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Annihilation
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2015 Reads > Ann: First impression: this book is short

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Ulmer Ian (eean) | 341 comments Publishers have a lot of say about how long books are and for some reason they all seem to say ~350 pages. So I think it's nice to see this shorter book.


message 2: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tassie Dave | 3535 comments Mod
Good if it's bad. Bad if it's good.

Though if it's good at least there are 2 more.


Paul  Perry (pezski) | 490 comments But perfectly formed


xGvJx | 22 comments I'm joining (for the first time) because the book is so short, so for me it's a good thing. I've promised myself not to start any long books (unless they are very quick and easy despite the page count) until I've finished the ones that I started reading in 2009 ... My library has ordered it, and it looks like I'm first in line, so hopefully I'll get it soon! :)


Daniel K | 164 comments At first i thought that in February, during presumable Sword pick, i'd read my own picks. But when i knew that February pick wasn't a fantasy book and that it was short i decided to give it a try. Despite that i don't like horror at all, this one i plan to finish, at least to be tuned in to discussions on forums/podcast. So for me it's short format is for better.


message 6: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3951 comments Back a few decades ago, 200 pages was standard length for an SF book. You had to really have something to say to go longer. These days people like them longer so writers accommodate, but there's no particular reason a book can't be 200 or so pages.


Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments As Roger Ebert once said, "No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough."


Brendan (mistershine) | 930 comments I actually don't agree with this. I can think of a number of good books that might be great if they were shorter, Life of Pi for example.

SF fans love their long books with all the mysteries explained and knowing the life story of every background character but I prefer when most of that is left unsaid.


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1861 comments Okay, which one of us is going to make the 'size isn't everything' comment...oh, I guess I just did! :P


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

I definitely think for different books, different lengths have worked out for me. I found the later Harry Potter books extremely engaging and was happy for the extra page padding of world building.

With Jonathan Strange similarly. (Though since it's a book that lacks plot, its length doesn't work for others.)

Likewise, as much as I love them, I don't think Discworld novels would work as well if they were longer. They're short and sweet. Or some Asimov short stories are meant to be small insights and not long sprawls of story. And they're both lovely in their own way.

But yes. For some other novels, I found that the length was ... unnecessary and sometimes a mark of poor editing. If a book needs more than 300 pages to grab me, I tend to stop reading.


Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments It's not long, but it's not easy either. You need to do a lot of thinking about it, so it takes as much brain time as many longer books.


Kevin Ashby | 119 comments I read this back before Christmas and really did not enjoy it. The characters are more cardboard cutouts than real people and the storyline was very difficult to parse. Was really happy when I finished and I had zero desire to read the rest of the trilogy.


Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments Started, couldn't put it down, finished. It really is the perfect length. There isn't a wasted word, and it doesn't feel at all like it was cut off too early (which at first was a worry of mine, since it's a very short book at the start of a trilogy).

If people are worried about starting it because they don't want to be left hanging and forced to read two more books, don't be. If this were a stand alone novel, and VanderMeer never published anything else in this universe, it would still be an amazing book, and it would still be on its way to attaining classic status.


message 14: by Garrett (new)

Garrett Publishers don't say that novels are about 350 pages, I don't think. The definition of a novella generally tops out around 60,000 words. There's no hard standard, though. Some books as short as 40,000 words are sold as novels, but you're typically looking at something bigger than that. In Mass Market Paperback, 100 pages are worth about 25,000 words, with a lot of wiggle room depending on quantity of dialogue, etc. So the low-end you'll usually see for a novel is probably a hair over 200 pages.


Wayne McCoy (geekwayne) | 44 comments I think the story length was perfect for the story told. I'm intrigued and want to read the rest.


message 16: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3951 comments I'm about halfway through and from what I can tell, I'll want a break between the first and any of the sequels. Not because it's bad, but because it's a lot to think about and absorb.


message 17: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tassie Dave | 3535 comments Mod
I'm about 40% of the way through and I am struggling to keep track of who's who.

No names and no real physical descriptions (apart from their job titles) makes it hard to pin down each of the 4 main characters.

I'm finding that makes me not care what happens to any of them.


message 18: by Geir (new) - rated it 4 stars

Geir (makmende) I'm the opposite, I found the functional titles helped me keep track of who was who, and what their agendas were. If there were more characters maybe it'd be a problem.


message 19: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tassie Dave | 3535 comments Mod
I think it has to do with the way my brain works (or doesn't work) ;-)

If I can't get a firm grasp on a character's personality, I find it hard to connect with them or even keep track of them.

Spoiler up to 50% point (view spoiler)


message 20: by Dara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dara (cmdrdara) | 2693 comments I also found it easier to keep track of them by their title. I also have specific casting. The biologist is Jessica Chastain. The surveyor is Evangeline Lilly. Psychologist is Viola Davis. Anthropologist is Archie Panjabi. It made thing easier for me.


message 21: by Daniel (last edited Feb 01, 2015 07:41AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Daniel K | 164 comments I use light spoilers for the first half of the book.

I found characters repelling. Its hard to feel empathetic towards them because of their weird (view spoiler) I find difficult to understand their motivation in the first place, especially for biologist who knows what happened to (view spoiler) I just find it dumb and cannot feel big sympathy for them because of that. Maybe being on ~ 45 % of the book i somewhat feel sorry for (view spoiler). But anyway the novel style prevents me to feel it as my own adventure. Its as some fuzzy unrealistic dream that transfers the story through first-person perception of the unpleasant character. Not the best combination.


David Coulson | 15 comments I think some of the comments hear are missing the point. The character who is telling us the story doesn't care about her companions and their personalities or motivations, so she doesn't talk about them. As far as the characters motivations that we do get by the end of the book (view spoiler) The narrator is both highly unreliable and very disconnected from both her own and others emotions, which is an important part in how the story is portrayed.

As far as feeling like you're missing out on something... That's kind of the point. The characters don't understand what's going on either. Area X is so far beyond our ability to comprehend that it can't be explained to us to our satisfaction. This is a world that we will never understand and we are never going to have all the answers to. Once I realized that I wasn't going to get explanations I learned to just sit back and enjoy the weirdness of this world.


Daniel K | 164 comments David Coulson wrote: "The narrator is both highly unreliable and very disconnected from both her own and others emotions, which is an important part in how the story is portrayed."

Then its a bad choice of a main character. I don't want to be put inside some ugly person's skin to feel the story. Its not a great emotion set when you think "no, no, don't do this, you stupid delusional freak, turn around and get the hell out of there!" all the time through the book.

David Coulson wrote: "Area X is so far beyond our ability to comprehend that it can't be explained to us to our satisfaction. This is a world that we will never understand and we are never going to have all the answers to."

Definitely not my favorite concept in fiction.


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

Rich Boulton (rich_boulton) As a general rule of thumb, I prefer shorter books and seek them out on purpose. Too many long books, or series of books, outstay their welcome. Shorter books tend to be tighter, with less redundancy, and better writing as a result.

Loved this book though. The only characters that matter are our protagonist and Area X itself. That's partly reflective of the biologist, who spends a good deal of time discussing her lack of interest in other people. It also works perfectly with the book's attempts to deal with our relationship to nature, here a nature that confounds humanity's drive to analyse and control it.

Also liked the fact that the team is comprised of four women, and it affects the book in only subtle ways. For the most part their genders are not an issue. Most books would have had a team of all men and not really thought about it, or a token woman or two, probably clichéd in some way.


message 25: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3951 comments Daniel, did you read the original Rendezvous with Rama? Kind of the same idea in an SF setting.


message 26: by Rich (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rich Boulton (rich_boulton) Daniel wrote: "Then its a bad choice of a main character. I don't want to be put inside some ugly person's skin to feel the story."

But the ugly characters are always the best ones! We all have our ugly sides, and by taking one ugly aspect to its extreme in a character, it allows the author to fully explore concepts that people can relate to. That's why characters like Dexter work so well, it's engaging to relate to a serial killer because it puts us on edge and hopefully makes us think about what exactly we're relating to.


David Coulson | 15 comments Daniel wrote: "David Coulson wrote: "The narrator is both highly unreliable and very disconnected from both her own and others emotions, which is an important part in how the story is portrayed."

Then its a bad ..."


It's not an "ugly" person. It's a person who is much more comfortable dealing nature and her relationship with it than people and her relationship with them. As far as screaming at the character for stupid decisions... it's highly questionable whether she's actually in control of herself for most of the novel. Area X warps and manipulates peoples minds, and she was directly influenced very early on.


message 28: by Sean (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Daniel wrote: "Then its a bad choice of a main character. I don't want to be put inside some ugly person's skin to feel the story. Its not a great emotion set when you think "no, no, don't do this, you stupid delusional freak, turn around and get the hell out of there!" all the time through the book."

That's not a bad choice; it's a choice you don't like. Some of us enjoy books about psychologically perverse characters.


message 29: by Nati (new)

Nati (reader, sometimes law student) (pagesofnati) I'm still unsure it I'm going to join this group read or not. The book is not my style,but it's short and that would be good for a first group read.


message 30: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3951 comments TLI, give it a shot. I'm more of a "rockets and aliens" kind of reader, but I found it interesting. It's along the lines of some of the creepier Ray Bradbury. You can whip through the book pretty fast if you want, although the text does reward close reading.


message 31: by Geir (new) - rated it 4 stars

Geir (makmende) Looks like the reactions are a split between love and hate, as was foretold.

I found the biologist a bit fascinating. It's pretty rare to read things from the POV of such an introverted character.


Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments I'm kind of shocked by this thread, not because people don't like it, but because I expected the negative reactions to be the exact opposite. Something like "all this character study stuff and delving into her life, relationships, history, motivations, etc, is really slowing down the story." I expected people to complain it was too character focused, not that the characters were one dimensional.


Robyn | 115 comments Dara wrote: "I also found it easier to keep track of them by their title. I also have specific casting. The biologist is Jessica Chastain. The surveyor is Evangeline Lilly. Psychologist is Viola Davis. Anthropo..."

That's seriously awesome.


message 34: by Daniel (last edited Feb 01, 2015 03:09PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Daniel K | 164 comments John (Taloni) wrote: "Daniel, did you read the original Rendezvous with Rama? Kind of the same idea in an SF setting."

Unfortunately didn't read it, though i considered it as a well-known classic sci-fi. But i'm somewhat repelled by religious suggestion in the title. Maybe i'm wrong by doing this assumption and will read it in future. I just don't like this "incomprehensible something" idea.

Rich wrote: "That's why characters like Dexter work so well"

Dexter at least had a justification of killing serial killers only.

David Coulson wrote: "It's not an "ugly" person. It's a person who is much more comfortable dealing nature and her relationship with it than people and her relationship with them."

She's definitely non-pleasant person which wants to (view spoiler) Also she doesn't value her own life. Totally not my kind of person.

Sean wrote: "That's not a bad choice; it's a choice you don't like."

Agreed here.

Sean wrote: "Some of us enjoy books about psychologically perverse characters. "

But not here. At least there should be something to like in a character.

Geir wrote: "Looks like the reactions are a split between love and hate, as was foretold."

I'm not hating it. It still intrigues me but not in a very strong way. Want to know where it leads. But the characters aren't great and also i'm afraid to be left without logical explanation in the end.

Geir wrote: "It's pretty rare to read things from the POV of such an introverted character. "

I'd say sociopathic character.


David H. (farrakut) Daniel wrote: "Unfortunately didn't read it, though i considered it as a well-known classic sci-fi. But i'm somewhat repelled by religious suggestion in the title."

Um, maybe read more about the book before being turned off by the title, just because it has a religious name. Rama is just what the object in space was named (like many objects in space are named after Greco-Roman gods and other figures of mythology). I consider it a science fiction story, not religious fiction. Talk about judging a book by its title...


Daniel K | 164 comments David wrote: "I consider it a science fiction story, not religious fiction. Talk about judging a book by its title... "

I understand that its silly, i just described my first impression of the title. Nevertheless John (Taloni) suggested it when i was complaining about "you never will comprehend this" stuff in Annihilation as a book with similar property.


message 37: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3951 comments To spoil a forty year old book, yes, there aren't many answers in Rama. That was a courageous decision back in the 70s and I appreciated that Clarke had the courage to do that.

Rama is worth reading. If you have an inkling to check out the sequels, just get Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker for free on gutenberg.org. It's where Clarke gets his ending from after three long winded books. Actually, I'd more blame Gentry Lee for that pile o' tripe, having seen him talk about the sequels at a convention and his role in convincing Clarke to do them. But yeah. Just the first one.


Sean Lookielook Sandulak (seansandulak) | 431 comments I checked out the audiobook from my library. It came on CD.
One CD.

I like that ebooks are allowing more novellas to hit the market. Our current ideas about novel length are just an artifact of traditional publishing. I personally think a story should be as long as it needs to be and no longer.


message 39: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3951 comments Used to be "novella" was 40K words or less. Looks like that is changing. I still remember reading many SF books at 200 pages give or take. Some of the longer works today seem like they have sections added solely for the reason of going longer. As in, "let's have a quest in the middle and add sections as needed." Even saw that in Alastair Reynolds several times - ships endlessly chasing each other at near lightspeed, in Redemption Ark, or the long grind of the caravan plus the churches in Absolution Gap.


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