the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘new weird’ Category

vandermeer annihilationAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

published in February, 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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If you’re familiar with the works of Jeff Vandermeer, you know he enjoys playing with the theme of infection. How we’re infected by physical things, how we’re infected by ideas, how by the time we noticed we’ve changed, it’s far too late.  The word infection itself, it has negative connotations, but it doesn’t have to.  No, not infected, that’s not quite right for what’s happening here. The word I’m looking for is colonized.

Near the beginning of Vandermeer’s Shriek: An Afterword, when Duncan returns to the surface, covered in barnacle looking fungi, he’s glittering, glowing, changed forever, infected, colonized. It’s around page 50 I think, and I still remember the beauty of those paragraphs. Duncan was infected, his insides were possibly being changed against his will, but he was fascinated and curious by what was happening. The reader was, perhaps supposed to be disgusted. But instead, I found it completely beautiful, I was fascinated, I was curious, I wanted to go deeper into the caverns. Later, In Finch, characters are also changed, are infected. Finch is horrified by it, so the reader picks up on that disgust and physical horror too.

And now, in Annihilation, our protagonist, known only as the Biologist, becomes infected with something.  She has no way of knowing how exactly it is changing her, and she teeters on the triple razor’s edge of curiosity, disgust, and terror of what’s happening.  She is not the only one in the story to be infected/colonized.

So, how do you feel about being infected? Will you grab the antibacterial soap, or open your mouth wide? The answer lies in how you react to Annihilation.  Maybe you’ll see this as a horror novel, a nightmarish, unfathomable moaning thing to run from. Or maybe you’ll see it as something beautiful, something to explore further, a place not to be feared, or at least not much. Maybe you’ll feel like you’ve finally come home.

No characters are ever named in Annihilation, the characters are only known by their occupations: the psychologist, the anthropologist, the linguist, and our narrator, the biologist.  The only things that are ever named are within the context of Area X, a nameless place itself. There’s something telling in the fact that the only proper nouns are distinct places in Area X, the base camp, the lighthouse, the ruins of a village. As if only things that we believe won’t ever change deserve to be named and put on map. When someone asks the biologist what her name is, her response is to ask why that matters.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.