‘Annihilation’ by Jeff Vandermeer Review #TheTravellingBookClub

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The Travelling Book Club pick for April was ‘Annihilation’ by Jeff Vandermeer, which has just been adapted into a film by Netflix.

This book is part of a trilogy, all published in 2014. ‘Annihilation’ was published in February, ‘Authority’ in May, and ‘Acceptance’ in September. It’s very interesting having a whole trilogy published in the same year, we liked ‘Annihilation’ so much that we decided to read the whole series together in the book club . The first books is very short, the audio-book for ‘Annihilation’ was only 6 hours.

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I really enjoyed this book. I don’t normally read science fiction or horror, but I really did like this book despite the fact that it’s not a genre in my comfort zone.

The one thing that I absolutely loved about this book is that it’s based mainly on female characters. I’ve been researching more feminist/ female inclusive books, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book was one. This book focused on a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor.

Our Narrator is the biologist, we are never given her name. In fact, none of the characters are given names. I really liked this aspect of the book. Our narrator really struggles to connect with people, and I think the fact there are no names, makes her interactions with the other women easier, she doesn’t have to try and be personal with them.

Having no names also adds to the mystery of this book, they don’t really know who each other are, and being in Area X, this hostile/alien environment, not being as connected to each other makes them not trust each other, as you would expect people in this situation to trust each other. It makes this expedition feel like it’s everyone for themselves. Also,not knowing each other names makes it easier for them to kill each other if necessary, which from what we get to know about the past expeditions, it is what happened, it literally turned many times into the Hunger Games arena.

This book really scared me, I tend to stay away from horror books or horror things of all kinds, and while this book didn’t have the usual/stereotypical horror aspect to it, the unknown aspect in it was so present that it was very frightening for me. The characters were literally walking towards the unknown, and it felt very unnatural. If it was me I would be running away as fast and as far as I could. Throughout this whole book I was on edge. The unknown aspect of this book makes you feel like anything/something is going to jump out at any moment.

Every time that she went into the Lighthouse, I was absolutely terrified. The Lighthouse is the whole mystery of this book, to find out what’s inside it. At first the women’s mission is to find out how Area X came to be, but very quickly the their whole mission becomes about the Lighthouse. Our five characters are all walking towards this place that no one has come back from. This expedition is pretty much a suicide mission, and the only person that who sort of knew what happened in Area X is the psychologist, who we found out that she has control over the others because they have been brainwashed during their training, and she knows the trigger words to make everyone to obey her. Our narrator breathed in something inside the lighthouse that made her immune to the mind control.

One by one Area X killed the women on this expedition, from the ambiguous ending I’m assuming that our narrator is also dead. At the end she was the last one alive, and yet she didn’t figure out what the Crawler was or how did Area X came to be. At the end we don’t really know more about Area X than we did at the beginning. At first I didn’t know that this book was part of a trilogy, so I found that this book didn’t have much point because nothing is really resolved, but now I think that this could be the point of. I think it’s human nature to have a beginning, middle and end to everything, and the unknown is hard for us to accept.

This whole book is about the unknown, and that’s what makes it this book so horrifying. We can’t control the unknown so were terrified of it. So even thought this book doesn’t have a concrete ending, it still human nature to be curious, so as readers we need to decide for ourselves what the ending could mean. Do we fear what we don’t know or do we question it? Do we seek it out or do we run away from it? Personally, I want to run away from it and fear it, but at the same I want to know what’s behind it, thought to tell the truth I’m not sure if my curiosity will win over my fear.

What put me even more on edge in this book was the language that the author used, it was so gentle. I listened to the audio book and at times the narrator would be describing the scenery and then all of a sudden something was just there, but you knew that not because the narrator told you, but you looked at the deeper meaning of what she was saying. The narrator was just do matter of fact when talking about an alien (probably an alien, we don’t really know what the ‘Crawler’ is) being in front of her, that you felt calm about it but you were so scared at the same time. I got the feeling that the narrator was very numb to everything that was happening around her, and for that reason I was too, but as I was listening, I heard what she was saying but it tool me a while to truly understand her meaning, and when I did, I was absolutely terrified.

When I found out that all the main characters were either scientist or some sort of professionals, I thought that the vocabulary was going to be very technical, but it wasn’t. The register that the author uses was never too heavy/high, there was never a moment that you don’t understand what the narrator is saying.

This book is written as a journal. The writer of this journal is addressing the reader directly most of the time. I got the feeling that she was writing it to keep her self sane and to whoever come after her, probably because she’s dead.

I’m really looking forwards to reading ‘Authority’ and ‘Acceptance’, and maybe after reading the whole trilogy there will be more meaning about this whole trilogy and Area X.

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📖 This month of May were are reading ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ by Tomi Adeyemi

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