I just started reading Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, as it is the pick of the month for the Sword and Laser Goodreads group that I have been a part of (but not an always active participator) for years. I didn’t even recognize the author’s name when I started reading, but he’s the same person who wrote Wonderbook, which is a book about how to write imaginative fiction that I have been reading a few pages of every night for some time.
My Read-a-long’s are going to be filled with spoilers for the specific chapters I read, so feel free to read with me and comment. That’s what their meant for after all, but please do not spoil anything further in the story.
Chapter 1 introduces us to our four main characters, who are all female, all unnamed and only referred to by their professions. There is our POV character, the biologist. The surveyor who is a bit bad-tempered but easy to relate to. The anthropologist, who is a bit fearful and weak-minded. Lastly, the psychologist, who is older than the others and is the leader of the group. It also seems that she may have some secret that the others don’t know about. Her job seems to be to keep the others from going crazy in this trip.
The trip is to a place called Area X, which for some reason has been quarantined from the rest of the world. There is some sort of barrier between this area and the rest of the world and scouting teams are sent in regularly to research. They are all instructed to keep journals to record their thoughts and findings, but not to share those journals with each other as to avoid bias.
During this trip, they find a tower sunken down into the ground. Inside, there is some strange writing written in some sort of moss on the walls. Our POV character, the biologist, examines this writing and spores are released into her face. The others do not see this infection, and the biologist does not tell them. They decide to explore the rest of the tower later, when they have breathing masks.
Later, the biologist discovers that the spores have made her immune to the hypnotic suggestions of the psychologist, but she pretends to go along with it when the psychologist hypnotizes them that night in order to keep them calm.
Throughout the journey thus far, each of them have been feeling an unease that remains unexplainable. Like them, we don’t know what is happening in this place, but we know that previous expeditions have ended badly.
So far, I’m liking the story a lot. VanderMeer’s writing is filled with a foreboding tone that makes everything feel unsettling. It feels like a mix between the TV show Lost and H.P. Lovecraft. I’m looking forward to reading more later.