I discovered this series by reading a National Public Radio review of the third volume, Acceptance, when it was released in September. Jason Sheehan, the NPR reviewer, had the same problem that I have…how to tell you enough about these books to want to read them without giving anything away. I know…that is a problem with every review, but it is a problem that usually has an easy work around. Not so with Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach series.
Something Strange is happening in the coastal wilderness of the United States’ Eastern seaboard. We are never given an exact location. I always thought it was South Carolina, but it could just as well be northern Florida or Georgia. These Strange Things started happening decades ago, and have caused the government to quarantine the area now known as Area X. The only people allowed into Area X are government research teams. The first book, Annihilation, begins with the insertion of the twelfth such team. After sending in eleven teams already…nobody still knows anything about Area X. The twelfth team is a party of four women; a psychologist, a biologist, an anthropologist, and a surveyor. Why all women?
And that’s about all I can give you. (Ain’t I a tease? 😉 )
OK…I can tell you the story involves a mysterious lighthouse. And a tower. Or is it a tunnel? And who wrote those words on the walls of the tower/tunnel?
OK. That’s all I can give you. Honest.
One reviewer said that this series is ‘genre-blending’. That is true. Is it an espionage thriller? A horror story? Science fiction? All of the above. And each book has a slightly different tone and perspective.
I think Jason Sheehan summed it up exactly in that first NPR review that I read when he said “If the guys who wrote Lost had brought H.P. Lovecraft into the room as a script doctor in the first season, the Southern Reach trilogy is what they would have come up with.”
If this book series had been a role playing game, then several of the player characters had to make sanity rolls…and failed. Or did they?
This series is so-o-o-o-o delicious! And that is why The Southern Reach Trilogy is my favorite book series of 2014.