First Chapter Thoughts: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

I’m somebody who enjoys both books and movies equally, and am often in the unenviable position of enjoying both a book and its adaptation. This is funny enough with things like Lord of the Rings, where at least the nerdboy contingent is balanced out by widespread cultural love. Annihilation, however, is an amusing case where the author is – not derogatory towards the movie, but not particularly fond of it either.

As it stands, I saw the movie first, and adored it – but even knowing about how different the book and movie are didn’t sink in until finishing the first chapter. There are hints, of course; the main character is still a biologist, and the psychologist still feels and sounds like the odd Dr. Ventress. But the atmosphere of the book reminds me more of older science fiction, the slow build, the threat of the unknown lurking just out of view.

I do love how completely unremarkable it is in-text that all of the characters are women. I wasn’t sure whether or not that was a decision the film had made, and considering hard scifi’s running gender problems, it’s refreshing to see from a male writer in particular. Additionally, there’s an expectation that books with female characters are YA-styled, romantic or otherwise moralistic, and while that might change, I’m unconvinced that the book will go that direction. (The YA thing in particular is aimed largely at female writers, so Vandermeer isn’t likely to get it, but still.)

One downside to the book’s pacing and differences from the movie is that I have absolutely no clue what to expect. Is this a horror novel? Aliens? Is the Southern Reach flawed and at fault? I don’t have my usual genre signs to draw on, and not knowing is fun – but it’s also stressful! Wah! Let’s see what happens!

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