This one’s an odd choice for me: no sorcerers, no ghosts, no guns, no starships, and if I’m honest, there wasn’t really much that would normally hold my attention … aside from the some very fine writing.
The story is set a few years before WWII. America is rediscovering its sense of prosperity following the Great Depression, and New York is crammed full of industrious rich, and the idle children of the industrious rich.
And crash-landing into this world of privileged hedonism, is our heroine and narrator, the unlikely-named Kathey Kontent (Kontent – emphasis on the ent, as in ‘reasonably happy’). Kathey takes us through her time as a wannabe ‘it’ girl, climbing New York’s society ladder aided by a vast array of equally ambitious female friends and somewhat vacuous lovers.
The author draws a world that you can almost touch. The architecture, the cars, the noise, the people … reading this book is really odd; a lot like remembering a forties movie you’ve never seen. It’s wonderfully atmospheric, and the story is beautifully told, and it gets better as Kathey becomes a wiser to the way the world works. It helps that she’s a very likeable character: smart and ambitious, with two very simple aims: a fabulous career and a rich husband.
You know, I was about to describe this book as an ‘epic work of science-fiction’, but thinking about it, I don’t think the term ‘epic’ really does it justice. Children of Time is breath-taking in scope and ambition, covering thousands of years and taking in the desperate flight of the last remnants of humanity to find a new home, and the birth and accelerated evolution of an entirely new species: from the mud, to the trees, and eventually to space travel.
Yes, it’s that big, that detailed, and yet it still manages to keep things moving at a cracking pace. The prose is sparsely poetic, managing to distill an awful lot of scientific detail into the story without overwhelming the reader (and I’m easily overwhelmed, and have a surprisingly short attention span when encyclopedias get in the way of a good novel).
If I was going to sum up this book then I’d say that it was gritty, surreal and lacked specifics. The characters remain unnamed, the setting: likewise unnamed, along with an unspecified location and no hint as to when it is set. Annihilation is the first in a trilogy detailing the events surrounding a region of coast that seems to have been taken over by an alien ecological force. The main character is a biologist who is a member of a exploration team sent into investigate the infected (if that’s the right word) region. As well as having to contend with strange creatures who may or may not be imaginary, alien doppelgangers and transformed humans, the team also has to deal with a member who may not be on their side … Continue reading “Book review: Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy – Book 1) by Jeff Vandermeer”