Paperback - 2014
Average Rating:
Rate this:


The Southern Reach Trilogy begins with this Nebula Award-winning novel that "reads as if Verne or Wellsian adventurers exploring a mysterious island had warped through into a Kafkaesque nightmare world" (Kim Stanley Robinson).

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation , the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers--they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding--but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.
Edition: First Edition.
ISBN: 9780374104092
Characteristics: 195 pages ; 19 cm.


From Library Staff

The premise of VanderMeer’s suspenseful and creepy story is simple: four women are dispatched on an expedition to Area X by The Southern Reach, an organization that seems to call all the shots but which you somehow feel you shouldn’t trust. The women are known only by their professions: the biolo... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Oct 16, 2020

Jeff VanderMeer’s novel “Annihilation” bears little resemblance to the movie. If you were a fan of the movie, you may not like the book. The book is a slow burn cerebral experience that never really catches fire. Yes, there are many interesting things, but the story never ignites my imagination. It is just not my taste, though it may be yours. I’m glad I read it and believe there are many who will love it. I have no interest in reading the rest of the series.

May 15, 2020

This book is an excellent, atmospheric and unsettling spin on the science-fiction genre. A group of scientists, all of them women, are tasked with venturing into Area X: a coastal area that has been abandoned for 30 years which has produced a scientific phenomenon known as The Shimmer. The Shimmer appears as a strange glow that seems to change and morph the DNA of all organisms within it. The Shimmer is growing steadily in size, and the group of women are required to record any and all information they encounter, as well as trying to find clues about all of the previous expeditions. They are then required to return with their findings. These women are the 12th expedition into Area X; all previous expeditions have been fraught with lapses in communication, suicides, death, and mysterious disappearances.

The group of women are comprised of a biologist, a surveyor, a psychologist, and an anthropologist. The story unfolds as a series of observations from the biologist's field journal. We learn that the biologist's husband was one of the people in a previous expedition, and we see that this mission takes on a personal meaning for her as she tries to learn what happened to her husband. As readers, we also learn that the narrator, the biologist, is highly unreliable. She quickly lies to her teammates in order to venture further into Area X, despite one of the women disappearing and a series of mysterious incidents occurring. Vandermeer is excellent at slowly building tension and horror, and as the women venture deeper into Area X, the events that unfolds become even more mysterious and eventually, horrifying.

Many readers were frustrated that the end of the book left many questions unanswered, but I appreciated it; sometimes I feel that works of art that leave you with questions are often more powerful and impactful than those works that tie up all loose ends. This book is the first in a trilogy, and I will definitely be reading the next in the series to continue with this strange and fascinating journey. I also really loved that all of the main characters in this work were women; that is very uncommon in a genre such as science fiction. Overall, I found this work fascinating and there were times where I could not put the book down because I wanted to find out what happens next. I highly recommend this book.

RyanR_KCMO May 07, 2020

This book is another perfect example of science fiction at its best. Instead of using shockingly alien and bizarre situations for some effect, VanderMeer puts his characters into situations predicated by an anomaly but focuses on their very human and regular interactions. VanderMeer also respects the reader by not turning over all the stones and giving away the mystery. There are still so many questions at the end of the book. These blatant omissions are tools to focus the story not on the things being uncovered in “Area X,” but instead on the people sent to do the uncovering.

MickWF Apr 09, 2020

Unlike any book I’ve ever read. A perfectly strange blend unsettling beauty, slow burning tension and environmental cosmic horror. At less than 200 pages, this quick read stuck with me longer than any other book. It’s the first part of a trilogy, so make sure you have the other two on hand by the time you finish this one!

HCL_staff_reviews Mar 23, 2020

I was listening to NPR last year and heard a review of "Annihilation," and was intrigued. I put it on my Goodreads to-read list and finally got around to reading it this winter. I couldn't put it down. It chronicles an expedition to Area X, a quarantined area on a coast in an unidentified part of (an alternative, future?) United States. This is the first book of the Southern Reach trilogy, part of a genre called weird fiction. The main character in the book is "The Biologist," one of an expedition of the team of four into Area X from an organization called the Southern Reach. The team does not use their names and is composed of all females because they are trying to avoid problems that came up with the previous 11 expeditions. High jinks ensue, with the Biologist being simultaneously affected by and accepting the strange powers of Area X while also trying to keep a scientific mind. I had to read the sequel, "Authority," immediately after I finished the book. A great introduction to weird fiction. — Ian S., Communication

Tigard_AdrianneD Feb 23, 2020

Our detached and possibly unreliable narrator, a biologist, takes us through Area X, a pristine wilderness blocked off by mysterious forces filled with unusual animals. The biologist is part of the 12th expedition into Area X, feeling the urge to go there after her husband came back from the previous expedition a shell of who he was. VanderMeer has created an interesting space filled with lots of unknowns, and you don't get many answers in this book, and maybe not even in the trilogy. Still, the mystery is enough to hold you, and being left with questions only makes the mind wonder, and the work that much engaging.

OPL_AnnaW Dec 20, 2019

The first book in VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, this is sci-fi for folks that may not label themselves sci-fi readers. Mysterious things are happening in Area X, and a select group of professionals are tasked with figuring out why.

Sep 19, 2019

Numerous expeditions have been dispatched to explore the newly-discovered and bewildering Area X, but participants always come back altered or die prematurely (when they return at all). An unnamed biologist, whose husband participated in a previous expedition and has since died of cancer, joins the newest team setting out, and things get pretty creepy right away.

I guess I was expecting this to be a thriller of some kind, maybe even psychological. It was overall...unexciting, with no real climax of "aha" moment. Even the mysterious creatures were rather dull. I found I didn't really care what happened to the protagonist, and certainly not enough to read any further into the series.

Jul 17, 2019

Though most would consider it horror, Annihilation reads more like science fiction that unsettles the reader with its oddities and warped distance from reality. The narration is engaging and kept me enveloped for its entirety. I've never read another book quite like it, and I'm glad for it.

Jul 15, 2019

I stopped reading the Southern Reach Trilogy after the 2nd book. "Annihilation" was okay but purposefully and frustratingly hard to read. But it was a LOT better than the 2nd book "Authority" in which almost nothing of real interest or note occurred until the end, which of course being a trilogy resolved nothing. I'm serious - half the sentences in "Authority" were questions the 3rd person John Rodriguez (new director of the Area X research facility) was asking HIMSELF! And there was so much clutter in the story, about who wore what, back histories that were irrelevant and detailed descriptions of people coming and going. I couldn't believe this series was actually liked. I have just finished a collection of all of H.P. Lovecraft's works and his best stories do not compatre at all - at least he eventually resolved the plot. And to boot, Jeff decides to make the lighthouse keeper gay, as if to check a political correctness box in the final book "Acceptance".

Hard pass - there is far better scifi out there.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability
Feb 22, 2019

RosyHorror thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

May 07, 2018

Pipthekat thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Apr 07, 2018

Sam_Stewart thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

strangegazelle Jul 07, 2017

strangegazelle thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Jun 19, 2017

VladTheGreen thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Feb 24, 2017

blairl thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Jun 23, 2015

red_cobra_341 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Quote
MickWF Apr 09, 2020

That’s how the madness of the world tries to colonize you: from the outside in, forcing you to live in its reality.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at CPL

To Top