Annihilation is fresh science fiction


Photo Credit: Photo via Flickr under the Creative Commons License.

The cover for the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy, Annihilation.

By: Sara Attia, Reporter

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, the first novel in the Southern Reach trilogy, gained a lot of attention recently. Natalie Portman starred in the movie adaptation of it, a science fiction/horror thriller. The novel won the 2014 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel. The trilogy as a whole was a finalist for the 2015 World Fantasy Award and the 2016 Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis.


The novel is from the unnamed “biologist’s” point of view, told through her field journal. She, alongside a team of three other women- the psychologist, the anthropologist, and the surveyor- are chosen by the mysterious agency, Southern Reach, to journey into the uninhabited Area X. The novel chronicles their journey in Area X. The biologist’s group is part of the twelfth expedition. The other eleven expeditions either committed suicide, killed each other, died of cancer, or disappeared. Area X is beautiful, full of strange plants and animals. As the story progresses, the group begins to break apart, and the land begins to turn against the humans.

The film adaptation, on the other hand, came from filmmaker Alex Garland’s own memories of the novel. According to the science-fiction website Syfy, it was described as a “dream based on a dream.” The movie certainly stays true to that description. The film of the same name is very different from the novel. It keeps true to the story of an expedition into Area X, though, told by the biologist, now named Lena. While Annihilation the film was not nominated for an Oscar, it was nominated and won many awards at various film festivals.


Annihilation is creative, fresh new fiction. In an age where it feels like all of the new media we see is just a never-ending cycle of sequels and remakes, it’s refreshing to see something boldly original. The book is purely Vandermeer’s own mind. It wasn’t a sequel of anything, or a remake of someone else, and that was a breath of fresh air. The movie was an adaptation of Vandermeer’s book, but it was original. I had never seen anything like it before. It was very different from the book, but while I usually hate when studios don’t stay true to the book, I felt like the film stayed true to the spirit of the film.

It’s so tiring to see the same movies premiere over and over. They still make millions, even when they are virtually the same as any other film. My question is, why can’t studios take risks? Why do we go to see the same movies instead of taking risks? Annihilation is such an exciting movie for the fact that it’s so unique, especially for the science fiction/horror genre. It’s not just a story about an alien creature coming to colonize the earth. It’s about cancer, cheating, self-destruction, and even survival. All of these themes are present in both the book and the movie, with nothing feeling shoe-horned in.

Annihilation is a movie that was flawed, yes. No movie- or book- is perfect! The film is confusing and vague at times, and the book can often be hard to understand. The gore in the film is often hard to stomach. The book makes it very difficult to form a strong connection with the main character, since she is nameless except for her title. But both book and movie are so unique. I’ve never seen anything like these movies in the science-fiction genre today. Annihilation calls back to an earlier era, where we made movies out of love, not money. It calls back to a time where we were excited for books and movies that were new and fresh, not copies of everything else.

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