Conspiracy or Cover-Up: A Review of “Annihilation”

This book was quite the read. It was both profound and confusing; it answered some questions, but left you with a host more—A good reason to acquire the sequel. I love how just enough information is revealed; how this allows readers to conjecture and form hypotheses about the strange events occurring in Area X. These chilling mysteries kept me reading as fast as I could.

It was odd reading a story in the far past tense. The biologist mentions a few times near the beginning that she has been writing in her journal as she goes, but the story reads as if it were one giant writing session after the events of the book took place. On several occasions the narrator foreshadows, saying phrases similar to ‘at the time I couldn’t know’, ‘that’s what I thought back then’, or ‘how could I have known?’ This pushes the idea that she is writing down the things that have happened to her at a later date, when supposedly the journal was written a little bit each day. How is her hindsight from the far future possible? I found this style distracting and believe it would have been easier to read without these glaring inconsistencies.

I enjoyed the biologist as an unreliable narrator. She does not trust what her own senses are telling her about her body. The atmosphere of skepticism permeates the entire narrative to the point where questioning every action becomes habit. This helped to create a great mystery: one that kept the pages turning.

Parts of the book seem poorly written. Frequently I would have to reread a passage to grasp its meaning. The narrative contains many run-on sentences. One thought always seems to abut another. While most of the time they are isolated ideas, those that are separate but part of a coherent thought are not joined with proper punctuation. A sentence I found particularly enticing, but hard to read, is on the first page: “The tower, which was not supposed to be there, plunges into the earth in a place just before the black pine forest begins to give way to the swamp and then the reeds and wind-gnarled trees of the marsh flats.” Without a comma after “swamp”, at least, the sentence is too much to swallow—If someone were reading it aloud it would be difficult to get everything out in one breath. This is what results from a lack of commas: pauseless reading.

The prose was also hard to follow. While reading, it seemed that words were left out of some sentences where they belonged. The text could sound disjointed, as if an “a” or a “the” were missing in some cases, with trivial words added in others. One specific case of an extra word unbalancing a sentence is on page 151: “…it was already noon of the next day.” With the addition of “the”, the writing reads less smoothly and I was jarred from my focus on the story to examine the odd addition to the sentence. I get the feeling that the author has mastered storytelling, but not the craft of writing, itself.

I’m torn between finding the author both genius and uneducated. There exists an intriguing and captivating story in Annihilation, but to find it I was forced to wade through some poor writing. Eventually I became familiar with the mistakes. They became less distracting and I could focus on enjoying the mysteries. The mysteries were so captivating that I read the bulk of the haunting tale in a single day. Annihilation left me with many existential questions worth considering, and it will do the same to you.

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