The “Southern Reach Trilogy” created by writer Jeff VanderMeer and published in 2014 is a high-point of recent speculative fiction. Being pointed in the direction of both the books and the later movie adaptation of the first installment of the series by my colleague D is yet an example of the merits of listening to people with good taste. I very much share his impression of these books as a H. P. Lovecraft for a younger generation. There´s spooky natural phenomena going on, which will forever change the fate of the persons involved. Although the books provide some sort of closure for the main characters, there´s no feel-good happy ending to the saga. Instead you get a ride into a unique imagination filled with ambiguity and just sheer strangeness. Nothing really gets explained and at the end you´re left with more questions than answers.
These are books that will keep you thinking for a long time about the stories, the metaphors and the audacity of it´s writer in creating something so strangely unique. Mystical, sprawling and hard-hitting at the same time, these stories are hard to classify in a way that you rarely encounter nowadays. While writing this I´m getting ready for my third re-read, which is something that almost never happens.
Some parts of this work emerging as a movie was almost inevitable, while no-one could really be expected to transfer the special feeling of this material to the screen in a fully satisfactory way. The movie “Annihilation” is pretty much what could be seen as a reasonable interpretation of some of the themes from the book. Best seen as a work of it´s own, separated from the deeper universe of the books, this is still an at least partly enjoyable film. If you need to choose and have the time, read the books. Otherwise the film will give you a glimpse of what´s actually there in this story.