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review 2017-05-25 23:09
Borne: Or VanderMeer cranks up the weirdness even higher
Borne: A Novel - Jeff VanderMeer

It is really difficult to review a book like this one. If you've read any of VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy then you already know his books are weird. This one is even weirder. I'm going to do my best to write this review without giving anything away, which may be difficult, but I think the less you know about the specifics of this story before diving in the better.


The world building in this novel is extensive, even though most of what you know is pieced together through subtle clues and guesswork. The landscape you live in while immersed in this book is distinct, striking, dangerous, toxic, intriguing, and claustrophobic. Populated with biotech, mutated murderous children, poisonous rivers, a decaying city, and an enormous flying bear and its lethal proxies. This is not a world anyone wants to live in, including the characters.


Ah yes, the characters. One thing VanderMeer excels at is writing an unreliable narrator that is realistic and intriguing rather than frustrating. Every character in this book has secrets and is hiding something. No one fully trusts each other. And yet, this feels right rather than contrived. The plot and arc of the book is slow paced and builds on revelations about the characters (though there is some action). Without giving anything away I will say that each of the three main characters has a character arc, and each of those arcs concludes in what I found a satisfying manner. This book does have a very definite ending, unlike some of his other works.


My only reason for not giving this book higher marks is entirely personal. This book made me feel something, and for that it has my respect. Unfortunately, it mostly made me feel trapped and full of dread, which isn't something I particularly enjoy. On a technical front this book gets full marks - VanderMeer is an amazing writer. But on a personal front I just couldn't wait to escape from this world. When I finished it was a relief. Do I recommend this book? Yes. Absolutely. Especially if you enjoyed his other work but want something with a more concrete arc and ending. I think this is my favorite of his works. He did a great job building a horrible place. Such a good job, in fact, that it was hard to pick the book every night and live there for a time. I applaud that.

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text 2016-10-31 22:05
Books read (or not!) in October
Spirit Gate - Kate Elliott
Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen - Garth Nix
Travel Light - Naomi Mitchison
Thieftaker - D.B. Jackson
Gunpowder Alchemy (The Gunpowder Chronicles) - Jeannie Lin
Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer
Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread - Nathan Edmondson,Phil Noto
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now - Erica Henderson,Ryan North
Updraft - Fran Wilde
Saving Bletchley Park - Sue Black

Books started: 13 (including the 2 I'm reading currently...)

Books finished: 10

Books not finished: 1


Genre breakdown: As usual, it's SFF all the way, though this time one exception when I was given a copy of Saving Bletchley Park, which is non-fiction.


What progress on Mount TBR?: Some, but not much. Oh well. 


Book of the month: In terms of the books I've finished reading, the clear winner this month is Updraft, which is excellent. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-10-17 08:51
Annihilation - Jeff Vandermeer
Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer

From reading the other reviews of Annihilation, this seems to be one of those books which people either love beyond reason or are underwhelmed by and I've definitely fallen into the latter category more than the former. Not that it's a bad book and I certainly wanted to know what the hell was going on, not that I felt that I got any kind of resolution and, for me at least, that's one of the problems with it...


The basic premise of Annihilation, which is the first of a trilogy, is that there's a part of the world called Area X which is apparently encroaching on the rest very slowly and the folks of the Southern Reach have been sending expeditions in to find out what's going on. This requires some kind of hypnotism, as apparently it's impossible to cross over without it, and it's also unclear exactly how many expeditions have been sent even though none of them seem to have been either successful or to have survived unaffected. Partway through the book our main character finds a room full of journals which suggests hundreds of expeditions rather than the dozen or so she's been told about, but she's seriously losing the plot by that time so how reliable is her perspective anyway?


Yes, this is serious unreliable narrator territory, right from early on. There is 'something' living in an underground tunnel which is slowly writing post-apocalyptic ramblings on a wall going down into the earth, writing which turns out to be made of fungus and our protagonist breathes in some spores. From that point she begins to change, firstly in that she can no longer be controlled by the leader of their expedition who has been using hypnotic suggestion (the title of the book being one of them) to get her own way all the time. Anyway, bad things happen to the other expedition members and our hero (if she can be called that) starts to suspect that folks from other expeditions never really left Area X even though they supposedly returned home afterwards. 


This was one of the points where things broke down a little for me, as our protagonist is pushed to join an expedition to find out what happened to her husband, a doctor on a previous expedition, but a lot of the time she seems quite flat as a character. Still, I read the entire thing even though it doesn't really have a resolution, and will probably read the next one (Authority) since my library has a copy. 

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text 2016-04-07 13:15
Reading progress update: I've read 18 out of 368 pages.
Halo: Evolutions Volume II - Tobias S. Buckell,Jeff VanderMeer,Tessa Kum,Kevin Grace

Other than a little Halo-pedia research, I know nothing about Halo.  I was intrigued when someone mentioned AIs were treated well in this universe and there was even a kinda love story between Cortana, an AI, and Master Chief, a genetically engineered soldier.   (I think.   I could be understanding MC wrong.   Feel free to correct me.)


So far, this is about Fireteam Black, but it's fascinating, and it's about them potentially working with some 'enemies' who are really slaves of their enemies.   Hopalong, who has been mutilated by what he sees as his enemy, is trying to convince Fireteam Black that they are all in the same craptastic boat.  


The being said, so far this is pretty horrific, but it's all about war.   War gets horrific.   I also don't feel like I can't understand anything because Halo.  I did the Halo-pedia research pre-purchasing this book, mostly to see which ones had the Cortana story and the Cortana/Master Chief love poem.   (This one has both, guys.)


I haven't researched a single thing since then, and I am all good to go.

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review 2016-03-12 20:07
Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer

I put Annihilation on my "Book-to-movie"-reading list for one reason only: Alex Garland is writing the screenplay and quite frankly, he could write a screenplay based on the phonebook and the movie would be awesome. So I had high hopes for this novel and I wished for at least an engaging story (which I ultimately didn´t get).


Annihilation tells the story of four women, a psychologist, a biologist, an antrophologist and a surveyor, who are being sent into Area X, a mysterious region somewhere on the coast of the US. The explorations of Area X are issued by a clandestine government organization, called the Southern Reach, who keeps sending teams into the area although bad things are happening to them. As soon as the new team arrives in that weird place, things starts to unravel.  


So here is the thing: this book is utterly crap-tastic. It´s one of these books that solely relies on the weird and the bizarre, although there isn´t much of a coherent story to begin with. Honestly, I can´t tell you what this book is exactly about. The only thing I can come up with is that I was doing exactly the same thing as our narrator, the dull and unlikeable biologist, is constantly doing: observing a pristine ecosystem. And I was just bored by it and it just lacked so many explanations that I slightly felt irritated by it. I have two questions which I ultimately needed an answer to (mind you, I didn´t get them):


  1. Why are the Southern Reach sending expedition after expedition into Area X even though it always ends in a catastrophe?
  2. Why do people volunteer for those expeditions?


Thankfully it´s a short read so I didn´t have enough time to get angry with the book ... okay, almost not angry. In the end I wanted to throw my kindle at the wall. The last chapter was just so bad that I´m lost for words.

I´m going to blissfully ignore the other installments in the series. And I´m hoping that the movie is going to be a whole lot better than the book.

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