Yesterday, I finished one of the weirdest trio of modern books I’ve ever read.
Bound up in this handsomely designed anthology, Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy compiles sci-fi writer Jeff VanderMeer‘s 2014 novels Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance. As Joshua Rothman puts it in his review for The New Yorker:
“Broadly speaking, the novels, Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance, are eco-sci-fi: they’re about researchers exploring a mysterious, deadly, and unaccountable wilderness called Area X. But they’re also experiments in psychedelic nature writing, in the tradition of Thoreau, and meditations on the theme of epistemic pessimism, in the tradition of Kafka.”
Rothman goes on to admire VanderMeer’s ability to keep the reader on his or her toes, avoiding the common pitfall of speculative fiction of, once arriving at the crux of the fictive/sci-fi element, becoming predictable and/or trite.
But through each of these three novels, as soon as you feel you’ve got something figured out, the author flips the story on its head, adding some other, larger element that encompasses what you thought you knew in a newly complex way, switching narrative perspective, and, in general, keeping the story-telling excitingly ahead of the imagination of the reader…in my case, at least.
At times, it left me wheeling and kind of clueless, but it never left me bored. And even if I had some problems with Area X as a literary series, the fact that Paramount Pictures has bought the rights to produce all three books (with Ex Machina + 28 Days Later writer Alex Garland set to direct the first film) has me excited about the story’s translation to the big screen. Done well, it’ll be sure to be a visually stunning thriller that, likewise, keeps its audience excitedly on its toes.
Plus neon Pantone printing, man. Best.