Annihilation: The Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 1, by Jeff Vandermeer

This is truly the kind of book and writing that first attracted me to science fiction in the first place. Writers like Bradbury, Delany, LeGuin, Ellison, Jackson who can craft a book that is mysterious and dreamlike and still draw the reader through to the other end.

This book by Jeff Vandermeer has an almost surreal quality, bringing us into contact with a team of four women, one of whom is the narrator, sent on a mission to explore a place known simply as Area X. Where Area X is, other than near a lighthouse, isn’t disclosed. Neither are the names of the four women, known only by their area of speciality. The narrator is a biologist and the closest we get to a name is the nickname “Ghostbird” given her by her husband. Whatever group has initiated this exploration believes this is for the best as names and personalities would only distract from the mission. We know that there have been at least eleven missions before these women and the biologist’s husband was part of the last mission. When he returned he and the other members were radically changed, unable to remember how they returned and all dying of cancer a short time later. The biologist has volunteered, in part, to find out what happened.

Vandermeer constantly pushes at the surreal aspects of Area X. There is a hole or tunnel nearby, despite that the biologist senses it as a tower of some kind. They feel drawn to explore here first and within they find organic material that is writing cryptic phrases in the walls: “Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives while from the dim lit halls of other places forms that never were and never could be writhe for the impatience of the few who never saw what could have been.”

What they discover is that the danger isn’t Area X but the changes that overcome their small group.

It’s a brilliant fever dream of a book and I have no idea where he can take it into two more volumes but I’ll be working to find out myself before the end of the month.