Well, Jeff VanderMeer has got them both beat–if the scheduling works as planned, the entirety of his new SF trilogy, The Southern Reach, will be published between February and September. Below is our review of the first in the series, Annihilation, and if it is anything to go off, this trilogy is going to be impressive.
Yes, this is another dystopian trilogy, but the themes here are not what you would expect. Rather than the cultural and political themes we usually get in this genre, VanderMeer focuses on more philosophical themes, questioning the boundaries between the individual and her society, and between linearity and circularity. With the narrator under the influence of a mind-altering toxin throughout the text, it makes for a heady ride of ideas, while never skimping on the action and world-building.
I’ve got the sequel, Authority, on my desk right now, and I can’t wait to get to it, as well as the final volume, Acceptance.
VANDERMEER, Jeff. Annihilation. Bk.1. 208p. (Southern Reach Trilogy). Farrar. Feb. 2014. pap. $13.00. ISBN 9780374104092.
Adult/High School–VanderMeer’s suspenseful, thought-provoking dystopia follows a scientific expedition into the mysterious Area X, a region that has been utterly abandoned following an unexplained Event. Previous expeditions attempting to determine the current state of Area X have resulted in the disappearance, murder, suicide, and amnesia of the various expeditionary members. The current group, consisting of a psychologist, a surveyor, an anthropologist, and a biologist (the narrator), quickly locates a strange tunnel–though the narrator insists on calling it a tower–that contains a bizarre, meandering, apocalyptic text written on the walls in some sort of plant life. Upon accidentally inhaling some spores of the plant, the biologist begins to undergo strange changes, especially in her perception, lending the rest of her narration a hallucinatory quality. Though her altered state leaves all fact in doubt, it becomes apparent that all is not as it seems in Area X–the dead seem never to really die, boundaries extend further than seems possible, and everything in the region seems to loop back in on itself. And the other members of the expedition, especially the psychologist, may have their own agendas. Throughout the novel, VanderMeer focuses on two key juxtapositions–linearity versus circularity and self versus other–both of which play off the grander theme of the porousness of borders and boundaries. The young female narrator and the dystopian setting should bring plenty of teens to this rich, multi-layered text, thankfully only the first in a trilogy, the rest of which will be published this year.–Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA