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Annihilation
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2015 Reads > Ann: The door (spoilers and speculation for near the end of the book)

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Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1861 comments So, I finished the book a few nights ago, and there is one thing that I keep wondering about.

There are spoilers ahead, so if you want to avoid them, stop reading NOW!







At the bottom of the tower there is a door, and the biologist does not go through it. And now I cannot help wondering...what was on the other side of that door???

I couldn't help feeling like it was an exit, that she would emerge from it into the normal world again, and I kept urging her on, sure that if she only made it through she would be free...though I'm not entirely sure how this would help her. What did you think, and was she right to turn back?


Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments As I understood the various hints, both the ordinary and tower "exits" are traps that are somehow involved in destroying expeditioners. They can't just cross a border, they require "extraction." If she had crossed it, my assumption was she might escape but only as a mindwiped, vacant version of herself, ala her husband.


Joel | 235 comments I had tons of questions when I reached the end of the book. But I honestly never gave the doorway at the end of the tower much thought. I guess I was so puzzled by other things.

It's been a while since I read the book, but didn't the husband's account say that he saw people emerging from the tower that had already died? I always assumed that the husband that returned to the biologist was one of these dopplegangers that was spat out by the tower. Maybe if she had gone through the door, a clone of her would have been made?


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Art | 190 comments My assumption was also that it was a way out of area x. I seam to remember that her husband had seen clones of his expedition entering the tower, which lead me to think that if you continued further down you might find a way out, even before coming across the door. Also, because of the "tower" idea and the lighthouse parallels I can't help thinking that the door had to lead out to somewhere. like the door out of a tower, rather than further into the earth.

But I am sure that even if it was a way out of area x, crossing it still wouldn't be as simple as stepping through a door. I would have loved to know more about the boarders and exactly how they entered area x


Lindsay | 593 comments What makes you think that the biologist even wants out of Area X by the time the door is revealed?


Rich Boulton (rich_boulton) My best guess was that it is a way out of Area X, though as some have said, it presumably wouldn't be that simple. I'd guess that's why she doesn't want to go down to it, because Area X is preventing her leaving.

There were also references back to their entry into Area X. Describing the door at the end she says:

"I remember the sensation in that moment of turning away that something was now peering out at me from the door below, but when I glanced over my shoulder, only the familiar hazy white brilliance greeted me."

And in the beginning she talks about crossing the border into Area X:

"We had been told not to look back upon arrival, but I snuck a glance anyway, while the psychologist’s attention was elsewhere. I don’t know quite what I saw. It was hazy, indistinct, and already far behind us—perhaps a gate, perhaps a trick of the eye. Just a sudden impression of a fizzing block of light, fast fading."

Both times she glances at something hazy. Maybe this is an effect of the border, or maybe they actually entered through the tower somehow. I'm also really curious what/who was 'peering' at her from the door - is the Southern Reach on the other side?


Dara (cmdrdara) | 2693 comments Lindsay wrote: "What makes you think that the biologist even wants out of Area X by the time the door is revealed?"

That's my thought as well. I get the feeling that she doesn't want to leave. She likes being in Area X. She enjoys the solitude and being able to explore on her own. It's like the pool from her childhood only much larger.


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1861 comments Yeah, I'm not entirely sure she wants to leave either, but at the same time, she seems to want to escape somehow, so I would describe her as conflicted. Certainly, she loves something about Area X.

But I desperately wanted her to leave. I really wanted her to be home and safe, even though I'm not sure there was be anything there for her, assuming she could survive at all given her transformations.

Eleanor wrote: "But I am sure that even if it was a way out of area x, crossing it still wouldn't be as simple as stepping through a door. I would have loved to know more about the boarders and exactly how they entered area x "

I got the impression that the oppressive feeling that kept her away from the door was the same when she crossed the border, and that it was the hypnosis that kept this from preventing her passage. But then I wondered how the Psychologist made it across.

Rich wrote: "I'm also really curious what/who was 'peering' at her from the door - is the Southern Reach on the other side? "

Interesting. Perhaps the tower serves as some kind of observation centre for the Southern Reach? But then, if they were waiting on the other side, wouldn't they have seen the members of 11 leaving, if the tower was, indeed, an exit?

Perhaps the door wasn't an exit at all, but led into a deeper kind of Area X?


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Art | 190 comments I actually felt a real sense of piece about her deciding to stay in area x and heading up the coast after her husband (not that I think it matters if she ever found him). I just felt like she connected with the world and how nature was sort of claiming her and the other people. It felt very organic.


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1861 comments Hmmmm, I agree, Eleanor, AFTER the door. I think maybe I just didn't want her to have to go past that creeper thing again! But yeah, there was a nice peaceful feeling about her continued exploration of Area X.


message 11: by Lindsay (last edited Feb 03, 2015 03:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lindsay | 593 comments Eleanor, that's exactly how I thought about the end as well. The flashbacks to the pre-expedition biologist's life shows that she lived a life of quiet isolation and alienation. It makes absolute sense that someone like that would feel at home in Area X. And perhaps she's in a personal place where she's ready for a change, even the sort of change that Area X brings.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2858 comments Yes, definitely the doppelgänger concept is important. She doesn't want to leave because she suspects she might find her husband again. Real or not, that's better than nothing. And maybe she's not sure she is even herself.

If they aren't the original people, who are they? How? Why? Ha.


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Gina (gmjackson) | 6 comments I also feel like the door was most likely an exit or something more sinister, but as she wandered down toward it and noticed that the stairs matched those in the lighthouse, I started to wonder if by going through the door she would end up in the lighthouse.


Daniel K | 164 comments When she had decided to turn away from the door and return to the surface i definitely didn't agree with her. First reason - that could be an exit and it was worth checking. Second reason - crawler thing looked far more dangerous and scary then some white light. Third reason - perspective of being totally assimilated and maybe even being transformed into some slime or human-eyed-dolphin is totally insane thing (that is if you aren't mad as biologist of course).

I think the only reason of her returning is that she realized she was most of all afraid to return to the real world, to abandon her beloved even if lethal wilderness of Area X. She had come to such state of mind, that sinking in her madness (which is Area X itself IMO) was her only desire. You can consider spore contamination literally or you could say that "nature has embraced the biologist and its orderly chaos became her caring mother's hands" and blah blah. She probably just has realized that she found her place in this fantastic setting. Why would she need our dull real world?

As per lighthouse and tower they are definitely opposing things to each other. Vandermeer wanted to tell us something by using this contrast, but its hard to say what exactly because all this is too confused and its complexity feels fictitious. Maybe he wanted to demonstrate how something so encouraging by its nature as a lighthouse could be transformed into residence of evil and fear when you start experiencing existential fears and do not stop while its not too late. And the crawler having lighthouse keeper's face reassures this idea.


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Gina (gmjackson) | 6 comments I've been thinking about how when she looked at the door in the tower, it has the same blurry look as when she looked behind her on the way into Area X. I wonder now if it's an effect of the hypnotism. Maybe she was hypnotised not to be able to clearly see or get near that door for whatever reason.


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Buzz Park (buzzpark) | 345 comments Ruth wrote: "At the bottom of the tower there is a door, and the biologist does not go through it. And now I cannot help wondering...what was on the other side of that door???...What did you think, and was she right to turn back? "

Yeah, I'm with you. I couldn't understand why she didn't go through. Maybe because she instinctively was trying to resist whatever impulses her brightness was giving her. She was prone to resist any external or authority to do something, so she resisted to pull of the door as well?


M Lewis Hansen (matthewlewis) | 3 comments I just finished the book, and that door at the bottom of the tower is bugging me. The fact that her husband's journal says he saw dopplegangers enter the tower makes me think that whatever came home to her wasn't really her husband, and I feel like going through the door would have been the answer.

But I also want to know what crossing through the barrier without hypnosis would do to her. The psychologist's suggestion that she could remove the veil on her mind from their initial crossing makes me wonder why it needed to be hidden from the expedition members in the first place.


Trike | 8462 comments The more I think about it, the more solid my impression that this story is told from the POV of someone who is institutionalized.

She had some sort of mental break and all of her experiences are filtered through her delusions. The repeated instances of "whiteness" could be that of the institution and the people who work there. Doctor's lab coats, the white clothing of attendants, the white straitjackets of other patients... or even herself.

In that scenario, the doors are actual doors of the institution, and she eventually becomes acclimatized to both her situation and her delusion, so she weaves everything together into a cohesive (if crazy) whole.

Of course, this will probably be completely disproven by the first chapter of the second book, but this one wasn't compelling enough for me to continue.


Brendan (mistershine) | 930 comments Interesting review, Trike. Your tastes are so opposite to mine I could start using your 1-star reviews as recommendations. I chuckled at "weird for weirdness's sake", Annihilation being VanderMeer's most restrained and least weird book. How would your interpretation of the book change if you assume the narrator is sane and reporting the truth as she sees it?


Trike | 8462 comments Brendan wrote: "How would your interpretation of the book change if you assume the narrator is sane and reporting the truth as she sees it? "

I would suggest Vandermeer read Varley and Wilson to see how it's really done. The weirdness never took flight and the scariness had no fight.

If this is meant to be a straight story then I feel a bit like Abraham Lincoln, "If this is tea, please bring me coffee. If this is coffee, please bring me tea."


Andrew J. | 54 comments Ruth wrote: "So, I finished the book a few nights ago, and there is one thing that I keep wondering about.

There are spoilers ahead, so if you want to avoid them, stop reading NOW!

Desmond from LOST is on the other side of the hatch.





At the bottom of the ..."



Andrew J. | 54 comments Lindsay wrote: "What makes you think that the biologist even wants out of Area X by the time the door is revealed?"

I agree. The Biologist didn't seem to have much to live for besides uncovering the mysteries of Area X by the end. Her whole party was killed off, and her husband died from a strange cancer. She obviously didn't trust the people that sent her and her husband's parties, especially after seeing the pile of journals. They had all been lied to.

She only ever cared about learning more about the place. Her work was her love. Discovery. Many parts of the book refer back to the tidal pool she used to study.


Nicholaus Patnaude | 8 comments Trike wrote: "The more I think about it, the more solid my impression that this story is told from the POV of someone who is institutionalized.

She had some sort of mental break and all of her experiences are f..."


very interesting hypothesis, Trike. The entire hazy experience in Area X and the constant flashbacks serve to disconnect The Biologist from her immediate reality on numerous occasions.


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