Saturday, May 16, 2015

Book Review: Annihilation

Dale over at Downtown Books nailed it: H.P. Lovecraft crossed with Jack Rudloe.  Something or someone has produced a forbidden zone – Area X – which has walled off a chunk of the Florida panhandle coast around the town of St. Marks.  Not only has Area X been walled off from the outside world, something weird is going on inside there, something disgustingly biological and distinctly mind-warping.  Is it aliens?  Military research gone awry?  We never learn.  Expedition after expedition have been sent into Area X to probe its secrets, only to finish in mass suicide or worse.  Annihilation documents the twelfth such expedition, which of course ends in disaster and the inevitable journal left by the last survivor.

Having grown up somewhere on what would be the western fringes of Area X and being at least somewhat a Lovecraft fan, this book was irresistible going in.  Mid-way through I was still enjoying it despite the lingering pace, and toward the end there were several Reveals to spike the punch, though there was never the hoped-for jackpot Big Reveal.  But then, that's how sequels are sold, right?  And I was all ready to rocket off into the next two books.  Reading the reviews on Amazon of these sequels however, the payoff never comes. Which is really a shame, because as an atmospheric, tantalizing first book in a trilogy, Annihilation had me hooked.  At least we learn unambiguously where the title comes in, that is one small consolation.

It was a fun read, and time well spent.  The author's meandering was a little maddening at times, but in some ways it added to the atmosphere.  Having read a few reviews though, it sounds like the meandering takes over and the satisfying conclusion is never delivered.  Time to clip back in and make tracks north up the St. Marks Rail Trail out of Area X and back into the real world.

For what it's worth, the cover art was really nice, in that biologically-overbusy way of things:
The inside cover art is in the same style, without the words but with the drawings much, much more densely packed – a doodler's nightmare of frogs and flowers and dragonflies and damp hangy plant-things.

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