Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

My friend Bill Sundstrom recommended it. Quite interesting to read. The style is different from the usual science fiction. Deeply moody and elliptical. The strange Area X the narrator finds herself in is like her “pool gone wild” that she “studied” as a child. As her grownups inadvertently created the ecosystem of the wild pool through their neglect, so “something” has created the ecosystem of Area X. Like a child who might suddenly find one morning that her parents have decided to move, so too does the now-grown biologist find a capricious and inexplicable force, seemingly moving her from camp to tower to lighthouse. There are borders that must be crossed, and when people cross borders, they are different. Is the whole thing a lyrical exploration of how we pass from childhood to the catatonic “grave” of adulthood? Don’t we all want to be back in that meadow where we spent what seems like ages observing a line of ants? Didn’t it seem like one moment it was the ants, then suddenly we were eating some carrots, and then it was dark and the covers were a fortress?  The narrator reminded me of Encyclopedia Brown… searching for clues, but easily distracted.

But in the end as a reader I got… well… bored.  Sorry Bill.  I think it is hard (for me at least) to get fully vested in a novel when characters don’t have names or motives (except for the heroine).  Definitely biological material for thought.  Bill likes lichens etc. so for him to have a slime mold be the alien I am sure was a wow moment.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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