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Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, creativity at its peak

Even the damn artwork is amazing.
Even the damn artwork is amazing.

Jeff VanderMeer could have stopped writing a year ago before he finished his Southern Reach trilogy and I would still have called him one of the most interesting and original authors of our time. He’s an amazing world builder, and he’s my go to guy when I teach workshops and tell students to “be like this guy when creating your worlds.”

I’ll send them out to buy Annihilation and challenge them top that.

Yes, I like sending students on fool’s errands.

Even his nonfiction books overflow with originality. Have you checked out Wonderbook? Or what about Booklife? Two tomes about the craft of writing you can’t top in terms of knowledge AND entertainment.

His work with Hugo Award-winning editor and spouse Ann VanderMeer has been outstanding. He and Ann make a powerful editorial combination. The New Weird is considered by many the definitive bible of weird/interstitial short fiction. Another definitive anthology, Steampunk, edited by Ann and Jeff is required reading for authors considering trying their hand at the sub-genre.

Now, it seems, Jeff VanderMeer has taken a step into mainstream acceptance based on the strength of his work. Stephen King has been quoted as loving the Southern Reach trilogy. Short of James Patterson assigning one of his lackeys to write a version of ‘Southern Reach’ under the Patterson byline, you can’t get more mainstream than Stephen King.

Annihilation is the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy. It’s a short novel, perhaps 200 pages, maybe 40,000 words. The book is about the twelfth expedition into the mysterious Area X by four explorers: a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist. They seek to discover the truth about Area X that eluded the previous eleven expeditions (all of which ended in tragedy).

The book reminds me in some ways of the television show Lost. Weird shit is happening on an odd area of land. There are bizarre structures, strange ‘monsters’, and at least, in this first book, no answers. What is provided is a fascinating world, an interesting and fully-formed character in the biologist, and some haunting imagery.

There is something about Area X that does not like humanity. In fact, Area X has a bad habit of removing all traces of humanity within its boundaries.

The book gives few hints and no answers to the oddities occurring. I’m certain this will cause plenty of one star reviews on Goodreads/Amazon from impatient readers, but Annihilation is setting the reader up with an eye on books two and three.

Get yourself out to the bookstore and get Annihilation. Witness one of science fiction’s most imaginative writers in peak form.

(PS: The second book of the trilogy titled Authority is out now.)

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