Continuing our discussion of our April Book of the Month Club selection – Annihilation:
vanderworld.com writes: “I wouldn’t normally comment, but…the next two novels are about 100,000 words each, which complicates things, and are *completely separate novels* in their own right, that interlock with Annihilation…they do not pick up the story right after the events in Annihilation. Annihilation is itself a self-contained short novel. Among other considerations FSG weighed in their approach to publishing the trilogy that weren’t at all cynical.”
Answer: Well, you’re in a better position to know so I stand corrected. Still, this first book is surprisingly short and the speedy release of subsequent volumes atypical of any series I’ve ever read. It will be interesting to see how this experiment fares.
skua writes: “The Arkady and Boris Strugatsky´s Roadside Picnic (Tarkovski´s Stalker) sensation at the first stages let me in.”
Answer: Yes, it certainly was reminiscent of Stalker as well with its foray into an uncharted alien landscape where the rules of physics – and logic – no longer apply. Great movie. Perhaps time for a re-watch.
JeffW writes: ” I found the pacing in Annihilation to be slow and ultimately unsatisfying.”
Answer: I didn’t mind the pacing. I was so caught up in the story that the slow build really worked for me. It was like one of those horror movies of old where the meat of the narrative is in the suspense rather than the visceral payoff.
Duptiang writes: “Was the protagonist her whole self or a replacement like what was often explored in the SG series a DNA replacement, replicator conversion?”
Answer: Interesting question. She seemed to retain a certain part of herself as evidenced by the introspective passages in her journal. And yet, there’s the hint that she is losing a part of herself as well. When her husband mysteriously returns from his expedition, she points out that it’s as if a part of him is missing. He’s not quite the same person…
Duptiang writes: “How did the files get into the Light house, and why was she succumbing to the brightness?”
Answer: My guesses would be – 1) the lighthouse keeper (human or otherwise) and 2) any human being will succumb to Area X following extended exposure to the environment. Of course, these are just guesses. Are the answers to come?
whoviantrish writes: “The protagonist is smart, decent, down-to-earth, flawed and brave. She’s easy to like.”
Answer: I found the narrative approach very interesting. It allowed us to get to know our protagonist but, on the other hand, never allowed us to know or in any way connect with the other characters.
sparrow_hawk writes: ” The prose is lovely and evocative and conveys the sense of weird other-worldliness quite well.”
Answer: Agreed. He’s a terrific writer and I’ve greatly enjoyed his previous books.
sparrow_hawk writes: “Why are teams still being sent in? What is done to them before they go in? What is happening to The Biologist and has it happened to others before her? Why the heck is everyone so depersonalized and isolated? ”
Answer: In my mind, these first two questions are the ones that really need to be answered. Don’t get me wrong. I too would like an answer (or, failing that, some solid hints) regarding the fate of the biologist and how Area X is influencing its visitors, but I’m willing to cut its enigmatic, alien-centered answers some slack. In the case of the expeditions, I’m in a less forgiving mood since there are real people behind these seemingly illogical decision. As someone else already pointed out, if so many teams have already gone missing, why are expeditions still being sent into Area X? What, if anything, is being gained?
Jenny Horn writes: “The premise reminded me some of Michael Grant’s series and King’s Under the Dome as well as LOST, but had none of the payoff. ”
Answer: I’ll have to reserve judgement on payoffs until I’ve completed the trilogy, but you present some very interesting examples. I didn’t make it through the entire Lost run but my friends who did were VERY disappointed with the finale. As for Under the Dome – I read it and, while I thought the premise was great and the narrative fairly engaging, I found the ending hugely disappointing. Sometimes, payoffs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
astrumprota writes: “I guess the antagonist is whoever sends in the missions with nothing but lies. If they want to be successful understanding Area X or stopping its encroachment, why not give them all the information possible, and dispense with having one person, who becomes insane, use hypnotic suggestion on the others? I don’t see an end to the failures.”
Answer: And that fairly encapsulates my biggest bump with the book. Given all of the previous failed missions, why not better prepare future teams? Why not arm them with better resources? This is hinted at early on (ie. the limits to what they can bring, the fact that much of their equipment is outdated, etc.) but these are questions that need to be answered in time.
cat4444 writes: “Overall, I enjoyed the story, but I didn’t find that I was invested in what happened to the characters due to the detached manner in which the story was told.”
Answer: Yes, I had a problem with that too – and the fact that no one had a name It was always “the psychologist”, “the anthropologist”, “the surveyor”. I eventually accepted the conceit – until, at one point, a character is referred to as “the anthropologist” in dialogue. Surely when speaking to each other, I thought, they would use their first names. But then, upon further consideration, I realized that this entire narrative is an extended journal entry written by our protagonist, so she is essentially offering a tweaked account of her experience. It’s a reminder that our narrator is human and, perhaps, not to be trusted.
cat4444 writes: “The psychologist obviously knew more about what was happening than the other members of the expedition and was surreptitiously in control through the hypnotic triggers implanted in the other members’ minds. But how much did she really know?”
Answer: Again, I really hope we get the answers to these types of questions, those related to the Southern Reach organization and the reasoning behind some of their seemingly illogical decisions.
cat4444 writes: “The biologist’s observations suggest that they’re being changed. Some become the mossy pillars, but the diary suggests that others are changed into the very wildlife that Area X is rife with and that they may retain some semblance of who and what they were before they were changed.”
Answer: Yep. And remember her encounter with the dolphin possessed of an uncomfortably familiar gaze?
cat4444 writes: “Is this the 12th expedition to enter from a particular point, the others having entered from somewhere else?”
Answer: Another interesting point is the suggestion that they must pass through some sort of alien portal to cross the boundary from their reality to Area X.
cat4444 writes: “Who or what is the Crawler and what is the purpose of the words on the “Tower” wall? ”
Answer: Are those messages a disordered attempt at communication by the Crawler who perhaps makes use of the jumbled memories of those Area X it has absorbed in order to reach out to new visitors?
Line Noise writes: “Clearly Area X affects the mental and physical state of those who enter it. It modifies a person’s perceptions inducing hallucinations and wild emotions. As a result we can’t even trust the biologist’s record of events.”
Answer: Yes, alluded to this earlier, the fact that we could well be dealing with an untrustworthy narrator, one infected by alien consciousness.
2cats writes: “The writer’s style was lovely in places, highly descriptive and inventive, which I do like. I believe this was my first Vandermeer novel and I would read others in the future, when in a mind-bending mood ”
Answer: I highly recommend you do. Maybe this one? http://josephmallozzi.com/2009/01/26/january-26-2009-city-of-saints-and-madmen-by-jeff-vandermeer/
Quick! Get cast your votes for June’s Book of the Month Club selection! It’s a tight race and the polls close this weekend:
Well, this one did NOT go over well. In fact, it probably ranks as Akemi’s least favorite Stargate episode to date – partly because she found it so gosh darn confusing (“So complicated this episode!”), but mainly due to the “everything but the kitchen sink” plot (“A little too much thing going on for me.”). The word “cliche” also came up quite a few times.
When the countdown clock counts up to 100% in the nick of time: “So cliche.”
On their way back to the jumper, they encounter one more hidden alien to complicate matters: “So cliche.”
When the Daedalus is being attacked by enemy ships and all hope seems lost: “Atlantis will save them.” And then, when Atlantis does save them: “So cliche.”
For some reason, she really fixated on the team discovering their own dead bodies. She HATED that shot. When I asked her why, she explained that unlike the sequence in SGU’s Twin Destinies in which Rush encounters an alternate version of himself, she felt there was no point to their discovery here – outside of the VFX department showing off. I pointed out that the reason this discovery raises the stakes since alternate versions of themselves were in this exact same predicament and failed. She grudgingly accepted this explanation and then, seemingly unconvinced: “So not showing off the computer graphic skills?”
This episode’s single highlight: “I like him [Ronon]. Hansamu.”
A potential highlight, quickly quashed, came when the ship finds itself beside the red giant. “Now they can recharge!” Uh, sorry. Wrong Stargate series.
And she continues to be impressed by David Hewlett’s ability to deliver seemingly endless dialogue: “Don’t you think handsome guy’s sentences are very short and McKay’s are very long? Not fair. I can’t believe he can remember every single sentence.”
All in all however, Akemi found this episode tiresome despite (because of?) the seemingly endless obstacles the team encounters: “Like after drinking scotch or smoking pot, I have huge ideas and put them all into one script. I’m a crazy genius and this is chance to write every crazy idea I’ve ever had in this episode! I need something to make sense to make everything like this happen. I know – a ship! Alien attack! Now very close to sun! Super hot!” You get the idea.
Next up: Ghost in the Machine. Nothing like a Carl Binder joint to get us all back on track!