I love a good dystopian story, and that’s what drew me to the Southern Reach (Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance) trilogy initially. The writing is unlike any I’ve read before. Extremely descriptive, but intentionally void of any solid information – I found myself drawn in to a story that made no sense but that had wormed its way into my head and couldn’t be purged.
Confusion, chaos, and collapse abound in this series about the exploration of “Area X”. No one knows exactly what’s happened within the boundaries of Area X, a lush tropical jungle filled with strange (imaginary?) flora and fauna. And though numerous expeditions have been sent across the border year after year to observe and record, very little information returns with the survivors who make it back out. It’s a strange tale of some sort of unidentified weirdness. Alien invasion; chemical leak and subsequent mutation; mass hallucination? It’s a dream/nightmare world of hallucinatory images and ideas, place history and geography, human behavior, creeping horror, superstition, religion and linguistics. Has everyone in this story gone insane?
My Favorite Character
The biologist. The way she relates to the natural world more easily than the human one resonates with me. She’s simultaneously a very curious person and a very guarded one. Intelligent, observant, and yet lonely and disconnected. Does this give her an advantage in Area X?
Words to Live By
“But there is a limit to thinking about even a small piece of something monumental. You still see the shadow of the whole rearing up behind you, and you become lost in your thoughts in part from the panic of realizing the size of that imagined leviathan.”
Anyone who can’t wait to fall asleep at night to dream and to wander the weird alleyways of the mind. Interested in human behavior, science, conspiracy theory, and religion as seen through a psychedelic lens? This book is for you!
I can easily see the fantastic imagery of this series reinterpreted as a graphic novel. Reading it, I found myself under a strange spell, compelled to continue with the journey while growing exceedingly frustrated by the bizarre lack of information. What does it all mean? I don’t know, but the fact that I couldn’t put it down is a tribute to Jeff Vandermeer’s writing style and perhaps a little of my own relentless curiosity. In the end, I’m left wondering if a few spores from Area X might taint the pages of these books, as I’ve never found myself so strangely drawn to a story that provides so few answers about anything or anyone in it. It shifts, slides and slips away and leaves you finally with more questions than answers. If you make it through to the other side, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the adventure!