Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Review by: Noelle Simonson
Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Annihilation is truly that: annihilating. But in a good way. It blew me out of the water. After watching the movie, which is usually a no-no for me as I like to read the books first, I decided that I absolutely had to read it. After waiting for three months, due to extremely long waits at the library, I finally got the book. Or rather, the audiobook. Listening to this story was unbelievably enthralling. Catherine McCormack, the narrator, did a better job at narrating than I could have ever imagined. Her voice helped carry the biologist’s story. Though the book was definitely very different from the movie, I find myself looking at them as two separate entities. I usually like the movie to follow the book to the detail but this was so different that it can hardly be seen as the same story and I actually didn’t mind this time. Both stories were strong in their own right and both had complicated characters that I enjoyed learning about and following. The biologist in the book was much more complicated than Natalie Portman’s version of her. She was almost inhuman. She had so many qualities about her that were cold and distant, which made for an unreliable narrator. Those are, of course, my favorite kinds of narrators. Because she hardly knew what was going on inside of Area X, that means we hardly knew. We learned with her. We speculated with her. We tried to sympathize and understand her thoughts and actions no matter what she did. The biologist is a character that I would like to dissect. Her many different facets are what make her so unique to any other character I’ve seen. I can’t imagine how hard it was to create her.
Though the biologist is one of the main reasons I enjoyed Annihilation so much, I was also entranced by the writing itself. Because I was mostly listening to the words and not reading them, they were just powerful enough to keep my attention. I’m usually not great at listening to audiobooks because I get distracted but this was such an animated and interesting read that I didn’t want to stop listening even when I had to. There are so many phrases that shook me to my core because of the beauty of the words themselves. For example, “The effect of this cannot be understood without being there. The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.” Desolation colonizes you! I’ve never heard such a beautiful and destructive phrase all at once.
To anyone on the edge, wondering if they should spend their time reading this, the answer is yes. Annihilation will sink its teeth into you and not let go until you’ve read every last word. You won’t regret it.
You can purchase Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation here.