Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Review: "Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy" by Jeff Vandermeer

Reading through the three books that make up Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy, I couldn’t help but think of a few other works of fiction. The first piece of fiction that it reminded me of, or at least its initial premise reminded me of, was of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, a movie I have not seen, so I won’t comment on much on it. People who have read both this book and have seen that movie can let me know what the two stories share besides lot similarities, if anything beyond that at all. Beyond that, I found myself thinking of Lovecraft, and the handful of stories of his I have read. This long book seems to have the same problems those stories have, which is why I tend to avoid Sci-Fi most of the time: their settings and atmosphere are brilliantly rendered by competent writers who are comfortable in their knowledge. But for me, that comes at the cost of characterization and ultimately my emotional attachment to the story, which for something that clocks in at 592 pages, is very important. The three books, Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance all center on the aforementioned Area X, a cordoned-off section of the country that houses exotic animals and other powers. Expeditions to this sight have all ended violently, and in Annihilation, the twelfth expedition is underway with an all-female crew. This is the best book: contained, tight and full of mystery. The other two books, which move away from Area X in dull and ultimately confusing fashion, left a poor taste in my mouth. It tries to create a history worth caring about, but without many people to latch onto in the madness (Control comes close), it will flat, and the reader is left with cool ideas, beautifully rendered, without any substance. 
Rating: 3/5

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