Far worse, though, was a low, powerful moaning at dusk. The wind off the sea and the odd interior stillness dulled our ability to gauge direction, so that the sound seemed to infiltrate the black water that soaked the cypress trees. This water was so dark we could see our faces in it, and it never stirred, set like glass, reflecting the beards of gray moss that smothered the cypress trees. If you looked out through these areas, toward the ocean, all you saw was the black water, the gray of the cypress trunks, and the constant, motionless rain of moss flowing down. All you heard was the low moaning. 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.
The “low, powerful moaning” the narrator speaks of is in a lush but dangerous place called Area X, and this place is described in great detail by author Jeff Vandermeer. In Annihilation, the first in the Southern Reach trilogy, a biologist (none of the character’s names are revealed) is part of an expedition to an area that has been overrun by something mysterious. No one is really sure what it is or what it is happening. The biologist, along with four other women, make their way through Area X, which goes from a simple research expedition to a living nightmare.
Annihilation took a few chapters to really get going but it was worth the wait. The author takes his sweet time getting to the good stuff by describing pretty much everything the biologist is thinking, feeling and experiencing. It is a little tedious at first until stuff starts to hit the fan. The story is told through the biologist’s journal entries and she doesn’t leave much out. The greenery, the creatures, the fear, anger and confusion while in Area X are all there. While reading Annihilation I felt a bit panicked because it always seemed like something was about to happen at any moment, and nothing good. I also felt frustration because I wanted to know more about Area X and how it came to be. Hopefully, I’ll learn Area X’s secrets when I read Authority and Acceptance (Books 2 and 3, respectively) because I need to know everything about this strange, beautiful place.
Before I finish the trilogy, I plan to see the film of the same name, which is in theaters now and stars Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson and my man (in my head), Oscar Isaac. I really want to see how this very short book is brought to life on screen and I especially want to see if Area X is recreated to my expectations, and also if the constant sense of foreboding I felt while reading the story is as palpable when I see the film. I’ll post a review about the movie once I see it. In the meantime, pick up a copy of Annihilation. I definitely recommend it.