My very favorite trilogy is His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. See reviews here: The Golden Compass and here: The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. And when I first read the Southern Reach trilogy, I had found my second favorite. A friend recommended the first book to me, but I was skeptical. I had read so many dystopian novels that finding any that were good and well-written just seemed like an impossible task. But I gave it a go. And I devoured the first book in days. It was terrifying. And it was brilliant. It was just as much science fiction as it was horror, and it was a perfect blend of the two. So, with the new movie coming out, trailer, I decided to give the books a reread. Here’s a link to the review of the first book, Annihilation, that I wrote a few months ago.
After the first reading of the trilogy, the second book, Authority, was my favorite. Book one takes place in Area X and book two takes place in the Southern Reach, which oversees Area X and the expeditions sent there. The third book combines the two areas and books, sort of. This time around, I think the third book is my favorite because so many crazy things happen that you just can’t see coming. There are horrifying events that happen in every book, but there’s scene that stands out in the second one that absolutely made shivers run down my spine, though.
There are many questions presented in the first book that are definitively answered in the second and third, but not everything is tied up for us. And I was okay with that, even after the first reading. After this second time around, I feel like I uncovered even more answers, since I knew where the story was ultimately heading. I know others who read the trilogy that were disappointed, and I get that, but I felt like I got more answers than I was expecting. The author, Jeff VanderMeer has written another, unrelated book Borne that has been also well-reviewed. He’s an author that I can guarantee I will read everything he publishes.
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.
Having read only three of his books, I’m a Jeff VanderMeer fan and will read everything he writes, this I vow! Because he wrote the superb Southern Reach trilogy (AKA Area X books) which was easily one of the best trilogies I’ve ever read, I will be a loyal reader. They were in my top 5 of 2014 and I will be rereading them again in 2016. I NEVER reread this quickly. Usually, 5+ years go by before I am ready to revisit a book, and even then, I think the number of books I have actually reread is 10-12 out of the hundreds and hundreds. But I cannot wait to read these again.
I’ve been meaning to get to his other works, but like usual, other stuff gets pushed to the top, so I made this one a priority. I knew absolutely nothing about this book other than the author and a friend (who also read Area X) telling me this series is better. Not possible!! But we shall see….
The book is set up in short segments, all which, as far as I can tell, revolve around a city. So when you come across characters within this city, your mind automatically tries to categorize them into either “saints” or “madmen.” Most characters don’t fit into just one or the other, but like good characters should, have a little bit of both sides existing within.
This blog isn’t about regurgitating plot, so sorry if that’s what you’re looking for. I’d much rather discuss what I’m thinking as I read, or when I am done. So, what struck me from this first segment, Dradin, In Love, was the use of the name Dvorak. I wonder why VanderMeer chose this name. If there is any significance at all. Maybe he just likes the sound of it. Maybe he is a fan of the composer. Or maybe there are similarities between the character and the composer that the reader is supposed to uncover. Having read the Area X books, knowing what I know about how VanderMeer loves to create a nice mystery, I’m leaning toward the latter of the maybes.