I discovered the Santa Clara Book Match recently and decided to try it. I plugged in a few of my favorite books and authors and a few days later HL, an actual person from the library, emailed me three recommendations. One of them was Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer. It turned out to be a slim book, supposedly the first in the Southern Reach trilogy.
The novel kicks off great: an expedition of four women is sent to a mysterious and desolate coastal region named Area X. These nameless explorers include a biologist (the narrator), an anthropologist, a psychologist and a surveyor. They are put under hypnosis to aid crossing over from civilization and undertake the 4 day hike into Area X. Sent by the Southern Reach, an arm of the military, they are the 12th expedition here, former members having been either lost or mysteriously reappeared only to remember nothing much.
The explorers face a landscape devoid of humans and technology, the last vestiges of a fishing village and lighthouse there slowly being digested back into nature. Some Event has occurred here at some time in the past and since then the environment has been changing causing inexplicable phenomenon. And the more secrets the women discover, it only leads them to more questions and danger.
I felt Annihilation had flavors of Crichton, The X Files TV series and Night Shyamalan movies. The plot is wafer thin, but what keeps it edge-of-seat thrilling is the writing skill of Vandermeer. I was totally sucked into the overpoweringly dark and foreboding environment he has created. The bleak landscape, the mysterious tower, the lighthouse, the mysterious creatures are all truly mesmerizing. Plus there were a few genuinely shocking moments in the story. The story lags a bit in the middle, before picking up steam once the reveals slowly begin, the bodies start to pile up and you start to lift the veil back along with the narrator.