Coffee, Literature & Life: Jeff VanderMeer Trilogy Review

Alright, did it. Finished the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. Enjoyed the heck out of it. Couldn’t put it down. Riveting.

And to be totally frank with you, I’m not sure what it was about.

Not that it matters much. Following the Biologist until she became…well, don’t want to spoil it for you, Ghost Bird until she was revealed as…nah, can’t go there, either. And Control until he, well, huh?

But this is a book that’s all about the journey, not the destination.

Not sure about the moral of the story, either. If we’re lucky, we’ll get assimilated by an alien or preternatural force…before we destroy ourselves at our own hand? Huh?

For all that, I can’t say I was disappointed in where this amazing tale didn’t take us, or where it did…my frustration was one of reaction, not profound philosophic expectation of a better ending.

Can’t even say that a more ‘satisfying’ ending would have been better or less disappointing, and that is VanderMeer’s brilliance. He’s verbose, rambling, hung up on details that shouldn’t matter…and creates an intricate web you don’t want to extricate yourself from before the spider comes and sucks all your juices out, leaving you spent and drained.

At the end, even the titles of each book make total sense…sort of.

All I can say for sure is that as I brought each book home, I HAD to keep reading until every word was devoured.

Check out this little collection of hardcore science fiction by Randolph S. Stewart.

Annihilation opens with a team from the Southern Reach, a secret government agency run by a higher intelligence group, sending an expedition into Area X.

“Area X” sounds like something out of a B-movie ’50s sci fi flick, or a kid’s space movie, or a spoof. It is not, nor does it come across as such, testament to VanderMeer’s ability to ensnare you in his wordcraft.

Something, or someone, has placed a barrier between Area X and the rest of the world. No one could get in, no one inside ever escaped. And finally, a passageway appeared into Area X.

Several expeditions were sent in. Some escaped, but the survivors were changed. Most simply disappeared. The last expedition returned, some of them, but they were hollow shells of who they had been. Then they dies horrible deaths by cancer.

The Biologist lost her husband to Area X.

If there was a way she was getting in, she wanted to find out what she had lost her husband to. What was Area X? Was it part of an alien world, accessible on earth? A distortion of time or space? An organism in its own right, assimilating whatever it came across in the primeval wilderness dubbed Area X?

To be honest, seldom have I seen a work answer so many pertinent questions so thoroughly…while really answering so little.

That in itself is testament to VanderMeer’s ability to drag you in (or under,) and pull you along.

There’s a movie based on Annihilation. It was signed before Annihilation was published. Can’t say that happens often.

Hope I’m not too disappointed if I end up watching it.

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