Sunday, September 28, 2014
Annihilation: A Novel by Jeff Vandermeer
“The effect of this cannot be understood without being there. The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.”
Annihilation tells the story of the twelfth expedition sent in to explore and hopefully answer the mysteries of Area X. The story is told through one of the members, the biologist: our characters' names are that of their profession.
Area X, what an ominous name, but what is Area X? I can't answer that, but what I can tell you that it is a place-out-of-time and out-of-space. Area X is an island that's been overrun by nature. There's an Edenic and pristine look To Area X's nature to the point where it's too pristine. Its's pristineness is almost blinding the viewer; it's as if everything in Area X is hyper-real, but behind that hyper-realness is something insidious; something that will swallow you whole and regurgitate you and if you survive, you're drastically changed. This swallowing, regurgitating and changing isn't just something that occurs to the characters: it occurs to the reader as well.
Since reading Annihilation, it's buried itself in my subconscious, making me feel out-of-place whenever it pops up from its hiding place. There's a something in the book: a virus within the words that Vandermeer writes; I don't know what it is, but it infects you and changes you and you see the world around you slowly change. You go through the changes the characters go through and you come out the end a different person.
Then again, I could be feeling like this because I read Annihilation in the perfect conditions: feeling alienated during a dreary, rainy, overcast day.
It took me two days to read--it's a one day book, but I wanted to make it last--Annihilation, during which there was heavy raining and overcast when it wasn't it. I love rainy, overcast days, but those two days were different: there was a sense of dread and oppression in the air; I felt out-of-place and out-of-time; it was as if I was being rejected by the universe and there was nothing I could do but accept the conditions that were handed to me and slowly slip away. Just when things couldn't get any weirder, I picked up Annihilation and started reading it: it only exacerbated my feelings.
After I got done, the world around me felt dreamlike: as if I was drifting through a waking dream. The edges of my vision were becoming wavy and distorted and I could feel myself slipping into another place, a place like Area X. These alterations lingered days after I got done with the book, I think this is due to Vandermeer's dreamlike prose and the dreamlike structure and logic of Annihilation. Vandermeer also has an amazing ability to vividly describe the place in which the twelfth expedition are in: Vandermeer can make it seem lived it, that there's a history behind the landscape and in an instant, change the dreamlike landscape into a nightmare. There's a feverish immediacy when we enter that nightmarish landscape that haunts you.
Annihilation is nothing like I've read before. Its weirdness and refusal to answer questions are its strength and in that adds the reading experience. Come into this book for the experience than for a cohesive narrative. And be prepared to have Area X invade you and forever change you.