Annihilation

Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 1
Narrated by: Carolyn McCormick
Series: Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 1
Length: 6 hrs
4 out of 5 stars (5,431 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Nebula Award Winner, Novel, 2014

If J. J. Abrams, Margaret Atwood, and Alan Weisman collaborated on a novel…it might be this awesome.

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: An anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist - the de facto leader - and a biologist, who is our narrator. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers - they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding - but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

Cover artwork ©Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

©2014 Jeff VanderMeer (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Editor's Pick

Perfect if you want something weird
"This is my one pick that I feel I need to stand up for, because if you check the title page you’ll see some mixed reviews. Annihilation is profound literary sci-fi that doesn’t fit any formula. So a lot of people looking for the same old story might not find it here, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t an amazing series. It will blur your sense of reality and make you question the alien nature of language itself."
Michael D., Audible Editor

What listeners say about Annihilation

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great story, bad narrator

See title. Mispronounced homographs, odd inflection, and no perceivable differentiation where there ought to be (quotations, italics, narration, etc.)

114 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Narrator Ruined it for me.

Maybe she has done well with other books, but I thought my ears were going to bleed after listening to her drone. Her strange phrasing made it seem like she was reading the book for the first time. If she was trying to sound clinical, she missed the mark. The story itself was interesting and I would have enjoyed it with any other narrator. I only bought the second book when I made sure she wasn't the narrator.

116 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Tough Listen with No Pay-Off

I wanted to want this book more. It took weeks for me to finish it - because the story is so . . . . odd. Perhaps in print I could have better made sense of Area X - but as an audio experience, I could never fully grasp much of anything. I felt only that I (living vicariously through "The Biologist") was swallowed up by a never-fully-revealed organism. The long passages of clinical description were only interrupted by recollections of an unhappy marriage. These recollections became more and more intrusive as the plot continued.

In the last hour, I finally felt like I there might be hope that the story would take me somewhere, that The Biologist might actually do something other than observe, that her motivation might move her to strive for a conclusion. Then - repeatedly - The Biologist tells us that she (and by extension we) will never understand this place, her experiences - or basically anything we have spent the last several hours exploring. Really?? After all this, the author has chosen not to fully reveal this strange world or its mysteries. Why else were we invited into this story if not to at least make sense of it in some way?

It felt very much like a cheat. And in the end I found the story to be an utter waste of time.

33 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Much Ado About . . .

Soooo much could have been done with this idea. Horror, adventure, fantasy, or dam, well nothing. I kept waiting. The main charter talked. Threw her journal. Very little suspense. She was never frightened, weary a couple of times, angry a lot. The end, no real ending.

5 stars for what the story could have been.

Good idea. No meaning.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Down the rabbit hole into Heironymus' Garden

Cheers for the new sub-genre of Weird Fiction: Fungal Fiction (although John Wyndham may have planted the seeds in 1951 with The Day of the Triffids). Lost, down the rabbit hole, through the mountains of madness, into the Garden of Earthly Delights where you might find H.P. Lovecraft tending the plants with a potion mixed by the likes of Ambrose Bierce and the Strugatsky brothers. You've only to go to the novel cover artist's site (Eric Nayquist) and see the animated cover to get your first chilling warning that the primordial lush beauty of the environment belies what lurks beneath the expanding Area X -- the mysterious target area of the *Southern Reach* program, controlled by a cloaked branch of the government. This is the 12th expedition sent into the *contaminated* area, a team comprised of 4 unnamed female scientists, with a vague protocol: a surveyor, a psychologist, an anthropologist, and our narrator, the biologist.

"Our mission was simple: to continue the government's investigation into the mysteries of Area X, slowly working our way out from base camp."

The story unfolds in a series of objective journal entries by the biologist beginning at the point of entry into Area X. The rusted remains of equipment and the husks of tents left by the previous 11 expeditions appear deceivingly untroubled. Listening is experiential, a bit like trekking by way of helmet cam... your field of vision limited to each step of your boots as you proceed into the terrain, all senses dependent on the observations of the biologist. Personal observations begin to seep into the narrative: her husband was a member of the ill-fated 11th expedition; there was a fifth member, a linguist that pulled out of the mission for reasons known only to the psychologist; there is a prominent tunnel/tower that is not on their map. The narrative seems to slant and erode the listener's confidence in the biologist. Even in the carefully chosen words to be recorded, you can hear the unraveling.

VanderMeer excels in rationing out this story with tortuous control, intensifying the doubt, dread, and sense of impending doom by degrees, as much as he does in spinning a fantastical tale with some real merit. The sense of an unearthly foreboding reminded me of Algernon Blackwood's The Willows (Lovecraft's favorite). So often the story span of a trilogy is dependent on its parts, but this may be the exception, as well as exceptional. Annihilation is a strong independent read, definitely one of those exciting and rare species that you race through and want more. With the release of the second installment expected in June, the third in September, this coming summer already has a bright spot. This was a great choice -- just way too short.
*Some of the power of this novel is in the unfurling of the events -- knowing too much could be a spoiler.

51 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Alien subversion, deliverance style

Annihilation is the 1st book in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy. Time and place remain obscure, but a section of the "continent" has been off limits for some time due to some ill-defined overlay. Explained away as some sort of environmental catastrophe, this regional anomaly has been extant for some time. The story begins with the supposed "12th" expedition to venture inside. The story is related by the biologist on the team and some of the backstory is slowly revealed during the expedition.

The sci-fi elements are muted throughout. Alien influence is undeniable, but much of the scope, intent, and meaning remains murky, although bizarre bio-engineering seems likely. Hi-tech gear has problems in the area and earlier teams either killed each other, committed suicide, or returned mysteriously and died of cancers. There is also much information that has been withheld from the team and hypnotic suggestions are used influence behaviors. In then end, it's unclear whether the biologist should be more afraid of Area X or her superiors.

The narration is well done with a good range of character distinction. While definitely within the genre of sci-fi, the tale leans toward horror in tone.

30 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Great!! And Narrator is not as bad as other reviewers led me to believe.

I held off getting this book on 3-4 separate occasions due only to the other reviews citing the narrator as terrible. I know a narrator can make a huge difference.

I didn’t think there was anything wrong with this narration at all. I think the narrator was playing to the otherworldly and somewhat oneiric aspects of this book. She sounds a like a dazed scientist that’s almost wholly lost her sense of self. That is exactly what’s called for! Perhaps if those folks had spent time with high-level scientists out of touch with normal interpersonal nuances, they would appreciate this performance more.

A couple other points in defense of this performance:
1) The experts that enter Area X shed their personal identities and only refer to each other as ‘the psychologist’, ‘the anthropologist’, ‘the linguist’, etc.
2) The biologist and other experts undergo a lot of change even before they enter Area X. Then they must negotiate a great deal of change in a very strange environment.

All in all, don’t let those reviews stop you from getting and enjoying this book as much as I did.

34 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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boring. goes nowhere.

Tries to be profound but just blathers on and on. more annoying than interesting. after finishing I still don't get it. skip.

3 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Don't know how I finished this

Have you ever seen the 1991 movie adaptation of the book Naked Lunch? Annihilation transported me back in time to when I watched that movie, back in my artsy/cult classic days. As I watched that movie I thought, to understand this movie one needs to have a decent amount of recreational substances in you system. Given the life of William S. Burroughs, the Naked Lunch's author, that makes absolute sense. In the same way, once again my sober, feeble mind could not deduce the meaning, plot or purpose of Annihilation. I wasn't about to invest in mind altering elements for the sake of this book. Put it this way, there's just a lot of weird, vividly depicted stuff growing, evolving, molting and killing but no viable, coherent explanations. It’s loaded with mind games and potential government cover-ups but the book is more about one person on a funk-a-delic mission. And then, I start the nit picking.

1) Pet peeve - excessive internal monologue. Amount in this book 99%. It all pretty much takes place in the mind of the Biologist. Spoiler: No character has a first name.

2) Honey doesn't spoil, however, the Biologist describes, more than once, the smell of rotten honey. Although I've known this bit of trivia, I fact checked it just in case. Yup, it doesn't spoil, i.e. doesn't rot, albeit it can develop a bacteria that can be harmful to those with sensitive stomachs. Agreed, facts about honey may be trivial and I shouldn’t hold the author accountable and allow poetic license…but if we go hardcore on this one, it’s the Biologist who refers to it rotting. The Bi-OL-O-GIST.

3) Banal and golem. Great words. Used too much?

4) Our heroine. I’ve met life size, cardboard cut outs of the Geico Gecko with more emotions and depth of personality. Seriously, you have to buy that she had a rough childhood, issues with her husband, lonely memories, but her retelling is flat and devoid of love. You don’t feel the implied regret and sorrow that is part of her character’s motivation.

The premise is great but it didn’t deliver as described. If you like trippy stories you’ll enjoy this one. I will not continue the series.

15 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Bored

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

I found the entire story to be far too winding and I never felt like it got anywhere. And when it finally did get somewhere I really didn't care.

What could Jeff VanderMeer have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

The main character did nothing for me. Her ultimate fate meant nothing to me. I don't have to like the character but I should at least about what happens to them.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Very monotone. I was board.

What character would you cut from Annihilation?

Any of them, frankly.

7 people found this helpful