Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer


Rate: 4/5

Medium: Kindle

Of note: When reading it is common that I encounter words that I’m not privy to the exact definition, however it is easy to infer the meaning of the aforementioned word based on the context of the sentence and story. As such, new to the Critiquing Chemist, you’ll find an additional section that includes vocabulary words that I encountered upon reading the book being reviewed and either had to look up the definition or it is a word in which I would like to add to my repertoire. This endeavor is easier when in the Kindle format, and potentially impossible with audiobooks, however I’m going to attempt to continue this section for all future book reviews. I’ll be using the definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Overview (No Spoilers):

Recently I’ve found myself choosing books from recommendation lists, which is where I found Annihilation. I’ve also been trying very hard to avoid reading any synopsis or book summaries before picking up any novels. It has been an interesting and unique experience going into a books knowing very little regarding the premise or direction the story is going to take. With that being said, I went into Annihilation knowing little to nothing about the world VanderMeer had created other than the lead character was a scientist. With that being said, Annihilation kept my rapt attention throughout, as the characters are thrown into an environment that is as much a mystery to them as to the reader. Slowly, facts trickle into the story as one new piece of the puzzle is revealed after another. Moreover, in several pivotal plot twists we learn that the foundation that we had built our fragile grasp and understanding of the world at hand shifts, leaving both the characters and the readers struggling to reassess what this new knowledge means for Area X and previous expeditions. Of note, the tempo of the story had a jarring quality that was borderline irritating, in which a startling revelation was immediately followed by a flash back to the narrator, pre-Area X. Overall, the mystery surrounding both Area X and the Expeditions in Annihilation will cause edge of your seat, compulsive, and riveted reading.

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • What caused Area X? What is the border?
  • Is the Biologist’s husband on the Island or even still alive? Does it matter he never went into the ‘Tower?’
  • I thought it was so fascinating that the book did not include any names.
  • How many Expeditions have there been? Why did the leaders of the Expedition lie to the members of the Expedition about the history, the ‘Tower’, and the who knows what else.
  • What else did the Psychologist cause the Biologist to see differently through hypnosis? Why did she jump from the lighthouse? Who was her letter addressed to?
  • Did the Anthropologist actually come back to ‘life.’ In the Biologist’s husband’s account he also make mention of someone coming back to life, as well as, individually seeing himself, along side his slain companions, resurrected, walking into the tower. It must have been this form of him that returned to the real world. Why didn’t his psychologist get resurrected? Will the same thing happen to the Biologist’s Psychologist?
  • So everything in Area X was once the humans that came from the expeditions? If so, what was causing the change? What/who is the Moaner? What is the Crawler and what is his purpose or origin? What does the lighthouse keeper have to do with the history of Area X?
  • When the Biologist encounters the hidden room in the lighthouse filled with hundreds of journals I was completely shocked! I felt as betrayed as the Biologist that all the information I had been given up until this point needed to be reassessed with new eyes.
  • Another plot twist that caught me off guard was the purpose of the black box detectors that each member had to wear. They were yet another rouse/lie to control the emotions of the Expedition members.
  • Another revelation that was shocking, to say the least, is the purpose of the word, ‘Annihilation’, which the psychologist shouts at the Biologist just before she dies.  The aforementioned word was a hypnotic suggestion that had been planted for the Biologist to commit suicide.
  • What was in the video from the first Expedition?
  • As you can see, this book left me with more questions then it answered. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the series is headed. Also, I love that Natalie Portman was cast as the Biologist in the upcoming movie. I’m interested to see what changes the movie will make to the storyline.

Vocabulary Builder:

Banal: lacking originality, freshness, or novelty

Gregarious: tending to associate with others of one’s kind

Manic: affected with, relating to, characterized by, or resulting from mania <had a manic personality

Obfuscation: to be evasive, unclear, or confusing

Cogent: having power to compel or constrain; appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

Prescient: foreknowledge of events

Taciturn: temperamentally disinclined to talk

Blunderbuss: a muzzle-loading firearm with a short barrel and flaring muzzle to facilitate loading; a blundering person

Interregnum: a period during which the normal functions of government or control are suspended; a lapse or pause in a continuous series

Reliquary: a container or shrine in which sacred relics are kept



  1. I wanted to like the novel but the lack of names meant I didn’t connect to the characters, and the lack of satisfying answers left me disappointed, not wanting more. I’m glad you liked it, but I didn’t get into it like you did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Understandable! I think in my head I made their job titles their names in order to make the needed connection. I kept thinking that they were going to reveal their names by the end of the book!


  2. I think this new vocabulary feature is a great idea!! English not being my main language, when reading adult books I find myself in that situation at times.
    I think this book should be interesting, strange but interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Strange is right, but it definitely piqued my curiosity. I’m glad you liked the vocab builder. It is going to be a bit of an experiment but I think I’m going to enjoy trying to incorporate new words into my everyday writing/speech.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This book is on my TBR, and I didn’t really know anything about it when I added it. It’s funny that you are trying to read books without any outside influence. That’s something I commonly do, and I think it actually serves me pretty well. I often myself disappointed with books that have gotten a lot of hype, so I’d rather not have a lot of expectations, other than knowing it’s a genre I typically enjoy. I’m looking forward to knowing your overall impression when you finish the series. It’s a trilogy, right?

    Liked by 1 person

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