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October 1, 2013 / schulerbooks

Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer

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Call her the Biologist. She has a name, but we’re not meant to know what it is. Knowing her real name might complicate things, here in Area X, and it’s already complicated enough.

Complicated and dangerous.

What is it? No one’s really sure. Shortly after it erupted into being, the Government sent in an initial expedition, and they found it to be a strange but pristine landscape. But they couldn’t find an answer to what it was, or how it came to be.

And every subsequent expedition has died: sometimes by their own hands, sometimes each other’s, and sometimes by more gruesome and weird means.

So now we’re up to Expedition 12. There’s the Biologist, the Surveyor, the Anthropologist, and the Psychologist. They were meant to have a Linguist along, too, but something happened, before they left, and now it’s just the four of them, all following the Psychologist’s lead.

And they’ve got a lot of work to do. They need to record what they see, and examine what they find. They need to try and figure out the strange fate that befell the last expedition, and — if possible — learn what it is about this place that causes such tragic ends.

And they need to unravel the mystery of the tower, which could explain everything, or maybe just get them killed.

But that might not be the only danger, here. They aren’t supposed to share anything with one another, for reasons clear only to the folks back home. They have no idea about what drives their co-workers, or their hates or loves. They have no idea why they’re all there, what their personal goals might be, or what their true orders are.

And that lack of knowledge could kill them all…

The first book in a planned trilogy (all parts to be published in 2014) Annihilation is a true short, sharp shock. A tale told by the last survivor of a doomed expedition, who may or may not be imagining certain things after one senses-shattering encounter too many, its scientific detachment in the face of the weird evokes both H.P. Lovecraft and Mircea Eliade, and its prose is both gorgeous and ominous. It’s a testament to Vandermeer’s excellent sense of timing that not all mysteries are unraveled, here — leaving us shaken after the climax, and desiring, yet perhaps fearful of learning more.

A near-perfect melding of personal horror and cosmic discovery — and vice-versa — Annihilation will further cement FSG’s track record of offering unique and unsettling visions. Investigate this book as soon as it becomes available; I can promise that you’ll be eagerly awaiting the other two installments.

Annihilation drops Feb 4th of 2014. The other two volumes, Authority and Acceptance, will be out the following June and September, respectively.

– Jim Tremlett, Eastwood

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