AREA X: The Southern Reach Trilogy
Those who know me realise my reviews are less a blow by blow account of a book (I don't like giving things away), and more a consideration of my own thoughts on having finished a piece. Today I'm doing Sci-Fi - an unusual event for me, usually sticking to weird literary and classics, some fantasy in there too. But Sci-Fi? It's a rare occurance, and I'd certainly never read VanderMeer before. In fact I'd never even heard of him before picking up 'Annihilation' on a whim in the library, being a sucker for covers that are a different; I know... Marketeer's dream.
Anyway, I'm glad I did. It was an inspired choice that led me down a rabbit-hole of all three books in the Southern Reach Trilogy. They being 'Annihilation', 'Authority' and 'Acceptance'. I will tackle each book on it's own merits, and consider how it bent my mind and left me dangling just so.
A small team of government backed experts in different disciplines enter Area X. Why? To better understand an invasive element that is transforming a polluted landscape into pristine wilderness at the expense of mankind. They are not the first to try. Other teams have entered and been lost. What will be their fate? I loved VanderMeer's ironic concept - the danger of an unknown making things 'better' - and the impersonalisation of characters, they having no name. It's certainly highly original and quite claustrophobic, but none the less for being so. At times, as the reader, it becomes difficult to breathe with a press of a strange places suffocating senses. I really enjoyed it, and even though part of a trilogy, you could quite happily read Annihilation as a standalone piece and leave it at that.
I though wanted to know more.
On to book two. Intrigued! 4 out of 5 stars from me.
What a change. From the unknown to the very much known, albeit unknown in its own way. The blind workings of a man tasked to cut through office politics in Authority, is tasked to understand why there is no progress being made in understanding and combatting an invader that heals Area X. Faced with understanding the strange people who have made it back across the border from previous expeditions, I have read reviews that call the second book boring - 'it being nothing but office politics'. Although I sympathise with the reader, I have to disagree. It was indeed a difficult read at times, not understanding where VanderMeer was taking me; the mundanity of it all. The daily grind and dull slog, but that was the point. One becomes so engrossed in the pointless day, that the coming of 'the end' was unseen, unnoticed, and sudden, despite the slow passage of time, and I feel, made all the more scary for it. Personally, I loved the last two sections of the novel; the whole story moving up into a different gear, and although the ending was not so original (I've read similar in other novels and short stories) it was apt and no less enjoyable for it. That said; I think when you finish and take time to let it settle, it has a lot of layers that work themselves into the cracks in retrospect.
A very different piece and story to book 1, but a complimentary dish nonetheless.
I enjoyed it.
Again, 4 out of 5 stars for me and looking forward now to reading Book 3 - which isn't in the library.
I have it on order!
After the first two books, I had no real idea where this trilogy was going. I still don't. I've been thinking on it for three days now on how to review it, which I always think is the mark of a good tale. I'm none the wiser for having thoroughly enjoyed the writing.
And VanderMeer's writing is good.
It flows and I'm a sucker for good narrative. His writing is beautiful. It bobs along with the sea and the tide, ignores leviathans that splash and takes you with it. Only I'm not really sure what happened. I think maybe the 'It' got in the way of the characters. I loved Saul and Gloria, felt sympathy for the director, but felt pretty much nothing for Control and Ghost Bird. And the problem with the 'It' is that no one really understood it, hence me being none the wiser. I'm glad the trilogy is over, and I'm glad I read it. Indeed, I'd love to know what the remaining characters find on their return to the normal. Perhaps more books will follow. If they do I will read them, and so I guess that means I enjoyed the Trilogy, even though I still don't really know what happened (not in its entirety).
But that's okay.
Confused and confussled?
You will be if you read it, and yet I still give it 4 out of 5 stars - the last book and the whole trilogy.
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