Annihilation

For the 2017 book challenge, I needed a book with an unreliable narrator. This was challenging simply because you don’t know if a character is reliable or not unless you have actually read the book. I didn’t want to wade through dozens of reliable narrators wasting my time, so I turned to Goodreads to help find one. And, of course, I had this book is my back pocket all along!

I read Annihilation when it first came out a couple of years ago. Jeff VanderMeer published the Southern Reach trilogy all within several months, so the wait time in between books wasn’t too terrible. I read the first two (Annihilation and Authority) over the summer and, in the fall, Acceptance. I had pre-ordered it on my Kindle and spent the entire day reading. This is how much I love the series. The Annihilation movie comes out in 2018, so I recommend reading the series before then.

This is a book that is really hard to capture because it’s just so damn weird. And I mean that in the best way possible. Four people are sent into a place called Area X to investigate its mysteries. They are not the first group sent in, either. Our narrator, simply called the biologist, tells the story of what they find while in Area X. To avoid major spoilers, lets just say that your imagination will never predict what exactly they find. Within Area X is a lighthouse, plenty of flora and fauna, some abandoned residences, and a structure that seems to pull the explorers in. And yes, the narrator is completely unreliable, for reasons I won’t name here.

This book threw me completely out of my ability to comprehend just what in the hell was happening. And I loved every minute of it. Never have I gotten so sucked into a series like I did this one. Partly because it’s so crazy, but partly because VanderMeer expertly crafts the mysteries and leads you down a path you don’t expect. His newest book, Borne, my review here, is getting rave reviews, but nothing tops this series for me. It’s creepy and terrifying and mysterious and amazing. The second book in the series is my favorite, actually, and I put this series in my top 10 of all time books.

 

Black Mad Wheel

Bird Box is one of the creepiest books I’ve read in years. I read it in one day then barely slept that night. It’s a book I recommend to everyone. So when I heard the author, Josh Malerman, had a new book coming out, I immediately requested my library buy it. And, although it isn’t as good as Bird Box, it was still really enjoyable, creepy, and worth the read.

The format of the book isn’t exactly chronological. The perspective shifts from past to present in alternating chapters. In the past (1950sish period), we meet Philip Tonka and his band mates, The Danes who have been recruited by the US Government to investigate a sound that has been heard in Africa. The sound is debilitating and renders all weapons useless. The government wants the Danes to go in and investigate, partly because they all have war experience and because, with their musical backgrounds, they know sounds.

Present day (still 1950s, but happening currently to the characters) Philip is in a hospital room, nearly every bone in his body broken, The Danes’ whereabouts unknown, waking up from a 6 month long coma. We meet his doctors and nurses and see the speed in which Philip is recovering, so clearly there is something mysterious going on.

I am a fan of this storytelling format. Malerman used the same thing in Bird Box, and it worked great. The suspense build up absolutely works. Two stories paralleling into their climax makes for a double hit of terror. The only downfall of this book (and this is simply personal preference) is that this story didn’t scare me like Bird Box did. That book is easily the third scariest book I’ve ever read (The Shining and Let the Right One In being the other two). That is the only reason why I say I liked Bird Box better. (totally unrelated side note, but if anyone important happens to stumble upon this and if there is a Bird Box movie made, PLEASE PLEASE PLEEEEEAAAAASE, for the love of Pete, don’t show the creatures. It would be so much better that way.)

Malerman is an author I look forward to reading. He has another book, published between these two, that I need to get my hands on! If it’s anything like the other two, I know I will love it.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

A friend recommended this book to me a few years ago. And, immediately, I was turned off,  simply because of the title. But they, he proceeded to tell me about the plot: a guy and his girlfriend movie to a tiny, barely inhabited island in the Pacific and try to survive for a few years. What all this has to do with sex lives and cannibals, even after reading the book, I still have no idea. However, don’t judge this book by the title. It is entirely worth reading.

Maarten and his girlfriend, Sylvia, move to Tarawa, which is near the equator, nearly a third world country where water must be boiled before drinking, where people (literally) shit in the ocean only to have it washed back up to shore, where dogs are such a nuisance that they are either eaten or aren’t even braked for when driving, where fish is eaten at every meal, where canned goods are flown in, sporadically, from Australia, where this is no hospital or medicine, and where the live expectancy is just over 50 years old. So, yea. Given all that, this book is really funny. Maarten’s experience, harrowing and hilarious, is not one I would ever embark on. Ever. But I’m glad he did, and survived, to tell us this story. And, of course, in the back of your mind, you will realize just how wonderful we have it with food, water, medicine, and shit free oceans.

He has written other books about his travel, but my friend says this is his best work. Between vignettes of his situation, he tells us about the history of the island and its surrounding neighbors. This was much less interesting to me, but for no reason other than I’m just not interested in it. It was still well researched and well written. I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but I’m very glad I picked it up.