Like a fair number of people, I would think, my first experience with Annihilation came from the movie that came out starring Natalie Portman. I would say I liked the movie, although it didn’t quite meet the sky-high expectations I’d had coming into it.
Of course, I had to read the book it was based off of, and I’m glad I did. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything quite like it, and I enjoyed the read very much.
There are two ideas here that I want to discuss. The first is the idea of something being completely alien. The book (and movie) explore what it means to be in a land that is truly alien and unknowable. In most of our sci-fi, aliens end up being humanoid creatures with humanoid emotions, goals, and dreams. Or they’re insects trying to take over the universe, I guess.
What Annihilation does so well is present its explorers with a truly alien experience, something even our senses have a hard time understanding. Writing something so bizarre is challenging, and I have nothing but respect for anyone who attempts it. This book is the closest I think I’ve ever come to being able to put myself in a truly alien environment.
The second idea, and the one that kept recurring to me, was that I will never believe this got made into a movie, and a movie I enjoyed at that. The book doesn’t possess anything that would lead one to believe it would make a great film. There’s no epic battles, no inherently evil antagonist.
I finished this book feeling a little haunted and very impressed. The language and writing is gorgeous here, and for me at least, evoked strong feelings of tension and awe.