Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer

Southern Reach Trilogy

First Impressions
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.

Drive-by Summary
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.”

Recommended For
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!

Final Say
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!

You can find all three books in the Southern Reach Trilogy at the Bellingham Public Library.


Short, Scary Reads

Scary Short Stories

Who remembers this inexplicably terrifying read?

How do you get prepared for Halloween?  Design costumes?  Decorate?  Watch a million scary movies?

I prefer, not surprisingly, to read – because there is nothing like a really scary book to keep you up all night with the lights on.  But it is sometimes hard to devote yourself to a full-length Stephen King thriller when you are working, partaking in Doctober or Fire Drink with Me,  and working on your way-rad Halloween costume.  This is why story stories are the bomb.  They give you a quick, powerful punch of horror that will keep you thinking (and worrying!) for days.

So, I was totally going to make my own list of favorite scary short stories for you, but Flavorwire has beaten me to the punch.  They have a list of the 50 Scariest Short Stories that includes some classic favorites (Lovecraft, Bradbury) and some new talent (Russell, Gaitskill) that are sure to get your blood pumping.  It is a comprehensive, frightening list despite the fact that my two all-time favorites, All Summer in a Day and The End of the Party, were not included.

What is your favorite scary story?  Leave a comment below!

Night Film By: Marisha Pessl

Night Film Book CoverFirst Impressions
When I started reading Night Film, by Marisha Pessl, it seemed to be a mystery including elements of suspense.  I recommend sitting in an armchair while reading this, you will need something to clutch during this thrill ride.  I also love the fact that there are photos, personal notes, and even pages resembling websites within the pages of this book.  I felt I was right in the midst of the action, and experienced everything the characters did first hand.  Journalist, Scott McGrath, is our guide, as well as partner, through the dark world of Night Film.

Drive-By Summary
McGrath is investigating the apparent suicide of Ashley Cordova, famous pianist prodigy, and daughter of famous horror film director, Stanislas Cordova.  After being pummeled, career-wise, by Cordova for reporting seemingly false testimony against the director, Scott McGrath is trying to get his life back–mainly his career.  Ashley Cordova’s suicide opened the window for him to dive back in to Cordova’s world of horror.  Desperate, he will stop at nothing to find the truth, even if it means risking his life and delicate relationship with his daughter.  With the help of Nora, wannabe actress, and Hopper, a drug dealer who knows more about Ashley than he’s letting on; Scott will find much more than just the truth about Ashley, he will find the truth about himself.

My Favorite Character
My favorite character is Nora.  She is smart, observant, and is more of a partner to McGrath, than an assistant.  I love the banter she has with protagonist McGrath, and secondary character, Hopper, who is just as equal in skills as McGrath; making this trio a real joy to travel with.  All three characters are so fun and relatable, but I feel Nora, is the glue that holds the three of them together.  She is a special person.

Words to Live By
“I was following in their footsteps, sending myself to the outer reaches of the world.  Was I fleeing something or had I been set free?” ~ Scott McGrath

Recommended For
Mystery, suspense, with a dollop of horror, and a dash of romance.  If these sound like your kind of ingredients, then this story is for you.  Character development and relationship growth is also demonstrated beautifully.

Final Say
Pessl explore the idea of movies being more than just pieces of fiction we can escape into for our enjoyment.  They reflect our own inner psyches, the good and the bad.  Join Scott, Nora, and Hopper as they explore the labyrinth of Night FilmWith all the twists and turns, horror and relief, you may never look at horror films the same way again.

Uncover Night Film today at the Bellingham Public Library!

— Laura