Annihilation – Book review of a science fiction novel that stretches the boundaries of strangeness

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Namo Namaha friends, as I mentioned earlier I am still laboring on with my 21 books 21 days challenge though the 21 days lockdown is long past and we are currently in lockdown 2.0 till May 3rd. Yeah, not very inspiring or happy but a girl has to cope and thrive and that’s exactly what I am trying to do. The next book that I picked up for the challenge is Annihilation, a science fiction novel. This post is my review of the same. Let’s move on with the review then, shall we?

Book Name – Annihilation
Author – Jeff Vandermeer
Genre – Fantasy fiction
Category – Science fiction
Type – Southern Reach series
Book Number in Series – One
Year of publication – 2014
Goodreads rating – 3.69

Buy your copy here.

Synopsis

Area X is a mysterious location cut off from the rest of the world. A secret organization called the Southern Reach is the only entity that knows something about this Area X if anything. It periodically sends expeditions into Area X with disastrous results. The latest expedition, the twelfth expedition consists of four women – A biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist. How successful will this expedition be? Will they find what Area X really is? or will Area X claim them as it did with people from other expeditions, forms the crux of the story.

Ruminations

Ok, I DID know, going into this book, that, this was a strange one. No kidding! Honestly, I cannot elucidate more on the point of reading this book. I did not gain any new story, perspective or information.

I feel like I have no memory of what I knew before reading this book and what I learned after reading this book. There’s nothing in between, no change before and after reading this book.

Every book is an experience. Even a thrashy romance novel gives us experience. What exactly did this book give? Honestly, I have no clue. I read it for the sake of reading it and strangely enough, I didn’t want to DNF it. Does that say something about me or the book?

I really want to talk to people who liked or disliked this book. Because as I said, I didn’t feel a thing. The first book that made me feel a sense of detachment was this. I could honestly not feel any emotions. Even boredom felt like an emotion wasted on this book.

For starters, there is not much of a story. Most of the book felt like a philosophical rambling of a broken, seriously delusional and damaged mind.

Guess that’s the thin line between an enlightened being and the delusional ones. People who come in contact with them most certainly think of them as crazy.

I am from India so philosophical, deep ramblings are nothing new to me. Even an average person has this sense of real & unreal. Illusion and reality. People are aware of these concepts. But this book felt incomplete and seeking in every sense.

It looked like the Author turned his personal diary into a novel. Like I got a discrete look into somebody’s seeking. It was jarring, unreal and honestly, I felt like a person who got caught reading somebody’s diary.

What do you do if you do read a person’s diary? I probably might ignore it and that’s what I am going to do with this book and it’s contents. I have no idea what else to do with it. I have no way of compartmentalizing this book into the obvious shelves of my mind. So I dump it in a corner and hope to forget it over time. 

Sometimes people write books for the sake of sounding deep with not much value addition. I couldn’t place the genre of the book nor its intent. The only word I can commit to this book is: Strange. This book was strange. Neither was it useful nor useless. Neither was it filled with information nor devoid of it. Neither was it entertaining nor unentertaining. It was a book that could have very well existed and not existed. It wouldn’t have made a difference either way.

Would I recommend this book? Yes and No. Yes, if you want to get your brain jerked off from your usual routine and dropped off into an alternate crazy universe for a few hours. Read it to experience the state of not understanding and understanding at the same time.

I confer that writing a book that balances the dualities delicately is an art but I am not mature or intelligent enough to comment on if this author has done that.

I do consume my share of “strange/weird” fiction/non-fiction books, but I guess I too have my limits. This book was one such. It was not too much in any sense but I felt like it didn’t serve me any purpose at any level, be it at an intellectual/emotional/spiritual level. I didn’t even get a simple sense of fulfillment that you might get reading, say, a chick-lit or a cool high fantasy.

I liked the font & size, it made reading so effortless and easy. The language too was quite unassuming and it let me focus on the plot and story instead of on the writing &/or its flaws. The description of the scenes was too good, they were quite visual and I was instantly transported to whatever hell/heaven he was describing.

There was a feeling of hopelessness, not fear, not terror, but a feeling of hopelessness throughout the book.

I liked the way the protagonist saw and observed the habitats. The belief that there are multiple universes gained some validity here. For the organisms living in the habitat that’s their universe, a universe within a universe. Your universe is only as much as your awareness stretches isn’t it? That was profound and I loved reading about it.

This book is the first book of the Southern Reach series and I am not sure if I’ll continue with the series. I will let you know if I do.

Conclusion

Read it if you want to mess with your brain and perception a bit, not much, but a little. It might not give you the satisfaction of reading a good story or of learning more about characters and their idiosyncrasies. But, you may experience a different kind of world and you may experience a sense of hopelessness and pointlessness like never before. This is most certainly a different read. Give it a try if such books are your cup of chai.

Review, recommendation, and rating

Freebie – book worth reading if it’s received as a freebie or gift

This is a Freebie-grade book, a book worth reading if you receive it as a freebie, giveaway or as a gift.

GoodReads rating – 3 stars.

So, friends, that’s all from my end on this book. I hope everybody and their families are doing well in these locked-down times. Stay blessed and Om Shanti.

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