How to begin with Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer? It’s science fiction, mixed with horror and dystopian undertones. Its an awesome psychological thriller, that despite having almost nothing obviously to do with our daily lives winds up feeling somehow very relevant – even important. It’s atmospheric, haunting: Lovecraft meets The Hunger Games.

Actually, what this book most closely follows is the basic ideas that Andrei Tarkovsky explored in Solaris, the 1972 Soviet science fiction masterpiece, and Stalker, the 1979 philosophical film which depicts a journey through a mysterious, magical land where there is a Room which grants each person’s most secret desire. Solaris tackles the idea of how would we, as individuals and as a society, deal with an object – or a something – that is beyond our understanding? Something that will simply not make sense in any way. It also depicts the idea of how our “sanity” is based deeply on society/and others. Stalker actually provided the basic inspiration (I’m guessing) for the Souther Reach Trilogy because of its overarching plot and context.

Vandermeer’s writing is excellent. This is really some of the most gripping writing of come across in a long time, definably in the “I can’t put this down” category. He’s a master at suspense; even as the reader gets more and more clues, the essential mystery remains – and even grows. He carefully picks words and phrases that manage to fuel different interpretations of the text. Is this a recounting of supernatural events? An encounter with extraterrestrials? A separate dimension or different world? An exploration of our own inner psyche? A dystopian parable about social and individual manipulation?  A meditation on the limits of science and human knowledge in the context of social norms?  Vandermeer expertly gives fuel to all above hypothesises.

I intend to get the other books in the trilogy – and watch Stalker – ASAP.


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