Magnolia Reads Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
By: Irene Lo
Last November, we kicked off Book Club 2.0 with Annihilation, the first volume of the Southern Reach Trilogy, a fictional series created by Jeff VanderMeer, an author associated with ecofiction and the New Weird, a revival of classic weird fiction that pays homage but also plays with science fiction, horror and fantasy elements a la H.P. Lovecraft.
Paramount Pictures, at the time, had recently released its tantalizing dramatic trailer for its film adaptation of Annihilation starring Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac (yes!). It was perfect timing and I knew we had to read this book.
For a commercial product, Area X also boasts one of the most artistic book covers in recent years, one to grace the bookshelf with its minimalistic binding and simple type and illustration. And don’t let’s get started on the book trim! The well-known Rodrigo Corral designed the book cover, where it was recognized as one of the Best Book Covers in 2014 by the New York Times and it’s not hard to see why with its eye-catching design that manages to preserve the secrets of the contents inside.
Annihilation introduces us to Area X, a coastal region cut off from the rest of the world, explored in a series of expeditions dispatched by a secret government agency called the Southern Reach. These expeditions have returned – when they have returned – with more questions than answers. We enter Area X through a journal recorded by one of the members of the Twelfth Expedition, the Scientist. Let the world-building begin.
We all read the first volume, the length of a short novella, while some of us raced on to the second and third volumes of the trilogy. The majority felt the ending was abrupt and that there were too many unanswered questions, but we enjoyed speculating on what happened. We had many theories about the Tower, the creatures hidden in the lush foliage, what happens to you if you ingest the spores, and what happened to the Scientist’s husband.
Personally, I thought that Annihilation was the most gripping of all the volumes, because it exposed us to new mysteries and shockers without ever explaining anything, what a scary and stimulating read (That is, until you get to volumes two and three, which are equally fine in their own rights but also progressively weirder).
Highly recommendable read for those looking for a sci-fi thriller!