Most of what I have to say about this series is equally true of all three books, so I’ll be reviewing them all together. This review will be spoiler free except for my very general expression of how satisfying or not I found the explanation at the end of the series. Here’s (some of) the blurb for the first book, which explains the general premise for the series:
“Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer. This is the twelfth expedition.” (source)
Something I loved about this series was the feeling of being lost with the characters, slowly discovering more information with them. It was an immersive reading experience. And, as you can tell from the blurb, the author knows how to write a good hook! I tore through this series, helped along by short chapters. I always desperately wanted to know what would happen next. A big part of this was because of the atmosphere created by the author’s writing style.
The writing is what made this book. It was amazing – beautiful, bizarre, clever, unique. Much of the cleverness came from double-meanings of words. Every word felt carefully chosen. Every short chapter felt packed with meaning. The more I thought about the writing, the more I got out it. I also think the author did a good job of explaining just enough, leaving the reader the enjoyable task of putting the pieces of the puzzle together themselves. I think re-reading this series and seeing clues you originally missed would be a lot of fun.
The world the author created felt like it might by truly incomprehensible to the human mind. The imagery was vivid and bizarre. I was impressed someone could even conceive of it. However, all this strangeness and wonder made me want an equally awe-inspiring explanation. I don’t think it quite delivered. The first two books I gave four stars because they were amazing in all the ways I’ve described above, but left me hoping the next book would provide the answers I wanted. The third book got three stars because I didn’t feel an adequate explanation was provided. I still see no explanation for many small details and while a clear theory is provided explaining the main events, it’s very vague. Given the enjoyable mystery at the beginning, I could see some people appreciating that some mystery is preserved at the end. Personally, I find a lack of cohesive explanation sloppy world building and couldn’t love this series completely without that explanation.
Book 1 – Annihilation – 4 stars
Book 2 – Authority – 4 stars
Book 3 – Acceptance – 3 stars