JEFF VANDERMEER Southern Reach #1
$13.00 trade paper, available now
Rating: 4* of five
The Publisher Says: 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.
UPDATE DECEMBER 2016 The 2017 film via indie filmmaker Alex Garland looks really intriguing.
My Review: Winner of the 2015 Nebula Award for science fiction novels and the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award for horror novels, this novel earns accolade after award heaped on top of praise for a good reason: It is eerie, atmospheric setting plus glimpsed monsters plus the recrudescence of the inner evil in all humans. And it's very well written.
We're well into this short book before something truly scary happens; before that, it was all spooky suggestions. The first truly scary thing
One thing I must note about Mr. Vandermeer's work is that he seems inordinately interested in fungi and molds. **shudder** The shroom-o-phobic members of the audience are warned. Everyone else, I recommend the book with mild reservations, but only mild ones, about the SF-resistant ladies. I myownself would say try 50pp, for what that's worth.