I have talked about recharging creatively through exercise. Sometimes in order to recharge my creativity I need to enjoy someone else’s creative efforts.
I get an email that focuses on reading lists of books and is called “Read It Forward.” It show cases different collections of stories and has reviews. In one of the emails was listed the book “Annihilation” by Jeff VanderMeer. It is the first in the Southern Reach Trilogy. The description intrigued me…….An expedition of four women into an area that was cut off from the rest of the world. I had to get my hands on this book. I was also up to my eyeballs in having to complete two canvases for an exhibition. So I made a bargain with myself…….if I could find the book, I would be allowed to read it once the first canvas was finished. So I scoured local bookstores until I found it. I also noted that they had the second but not the third book in this series. So I bought the first one and went home to work on my canvas……I really wanted to read this book.
“Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer.”
After finishing the first canvas, I read “Annihilation” in three nights. It was fascinating and terrifying at the same time. I couldn’t tell if it was fiction or science fiction. The descriptions and unfolding of the story had captivated me. It was like Alfred Hitchcock, M. Night Shyamalan, Agatha Christie, and Sir Edmond Hillary got together and wrote this book. An expedition filled with suspense, mystery and terror. I wanted more. I wanted “Authority,” the second book. But I had another canvas to finish. This time I knew that I could not go purchase the second book until I had finished the canvas or it would never get done. So…..in record time, I finished the canvas and got the art works shipped. I had to know what happened next.
“After thirty years, the only human engagement with Area X – a seemingly malevolent landscape surrounded by an invisible border and mysteriously wiped clean of all signs of civilization – has been a series of expeditions overseen by a government agency so secret it has almost been forgotten: the Southern Reach. Following the tumultuous twelfth expedition chronicled in ‘Annihilation,’ the agency is in complete disarray.”
I read “Authority” in three nights as well. The mystery deepens. The suspense and terror are different but equally unnerving. Questions are answered but you are not sure of the answers. This is like the X-files on steroids. I had to know more. But sadly none of the book stores in town had the third book “Acceptance.” So I ordered it and had it shipped to my home. I anxiously checked my mailbox every day until it arrived.
“It is winter in Area X, the mysterious wilderness that has defied explanation for thirty years, rebuffing expedition after expedition, refusing to reveal its secrets. As Area X expands, the agency tasked with investigating and overseeing it – the Southern Reach – has collapsed in on itself in confusion. Now one last, desperate team crosses the border, determined to reach a remote island that may hold the answers they’ve been seeking. If they fail, the outer world is in peril.”
I finished “Acceptance” in two days. The questions asked and the answers given raise even more questions….. Do we really understand space/time? Can evolution be a choice? Is science supernatural phenomena? How do you define life?
I highly recommend this trilogy. However, these are not quaint cute stories. These books are thought-provoking, thrilling and terrifying……a fascinating read. I have not been so excited to read a series of books since the Harry Potter books. Thank you Jeff VanderMeer for writing these novels. My world and imagination have been enhanced by your creative work. I hope that my excitement and enjoyment of these books causes others to take their imaginations on an expedition to the mysterious Area X.
Thanks to these amazing books, I am recharged, refreshed and ready for another creative adventure.