Book publishing is a long and arduous process that can take years; we’ve all been at the mercy of it, eagerly waiting many months or years for the next instalment of our favourite series such as Harry Potter or A Song of Ice and Fire. Jeff VanderMeer’s ‘Southern Reach Trilogy’ makes a welcome to change to the regular, tortuous release cycle of many series. The trilogy is comprised of three books: Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance respectively that were all published internationally between February and September 2014. This release cycle competes, even, with the speedily released Lord of the Rings trilogy released 29/7/1954, 11/11/1954, and 20/10/1955.
The first book of the trilogy, Annihilation, takes place within the confines of ‘Area X’- an area of ‘environmental contamination’ that has produced unbelievable evolutionary mutations and mysterious disturbances to the natural environment. In a world of extremes, the Southern Reach agency aims to research and classify life within Area X, with unexpected and devastating circumstances. The first book details the reality of the twelfth expedition; after the first eleven expeditions to the area have either returned with fatal diseases or not at all.
Treading a fine line between thriller and social commentary, Annihilation uses the luscious and disconcerting nature of Area X to shed light on the true nature of humankind. Posing insightful questions about the true power of the natural world, and our ability (or lack thereof) to control or adapt to it. Annihilation exudes mystery, and the sheer sense of dread I felt whilst reading made me, on several occasions, put down the book for a time to calm myself down.
Often referenced to as ‘Lovecraftian fiction’ or ‘Kubrickian horror’, the genre of this trilogy is hard to pin down with any reasonable degree of precision. This is not an easy book to read, and the true reward for the reader is in breaking it down and examining VanderMeer’s masterful use of language in depth. He uses vivid metaphors, beautiful scenic description, and deliberately unreliable narrators to great strength- to create an incredibly twisted and complex storyline, with regular heart-stopping plot twists.
Not one for the faint hearted, Annihilation, and indeed the whole Southern Reach trilogy are novels perfect for fans of descriptive sci-fi novels such as John Wyndham’s ‘Day of the Triffids’ or Phillip K Dick’s ‘Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep?’, with even Stephen King praising it as ‘creepy and fascinating.’ Highly descriptive and complex in nature, the Southern Reach Trilogy is a series that could very well shake up the sci-fi and fantasy landscape and VaderMeer could very well prove very influential in the coming years.