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.
Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.
I read this one on a Sunday afternoon. It's short, barely 200 pages. It's quick and mysterious. What is this world they've entered? Is it evolution? Nature biting back? Is it a bioweapon gone awry by this government? We don't know and it's quite a ride to figure it out.
The biologist is the one writing the notes and whose view we see through. She's an unreliable narrator as well since she's being influenced. But how much do we trust? Is there a good guy? What about her colleagues?
I love the mysterious new world. We don't know know much about the government the biologist comes from. We know they're not being told everything. There are conspiracies. There are mysteries to be found.
This was a great book. I loved how it was told and I loved the world the author created. Vandermeer is a creative writer and he offered up some good insights through his protagonist.
The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.
That’s how the madness of the world tries to colonize you: from the outside in, forcing you to live in its reality.
I look forward to finishing off the series soon and to seeing the movie coming out soon with Natalie Portman.