Yes, this is the book the Natalie Portman movie was based off of, and yes, the book was better. In the first book of the Southern Reach trilogy, a biologist is sent on a mission to Area X, where she and a team of women are tasked with gathering as much information about the mysterious territory as they can.
This was my first Jeff VanderMeer experience, and I was a fan. There's just something really beautiful about the way he writes about the end of the world that makes you think you might just be able to get into that. (Then he whips out something like a dolphin with a human eye, and you're like, nah, I'm good here.)
The book is the journal of a woman identified only as the biologist, and it shines with sparse narration describing the fantastical and utterly horrific environment of Area X. The rich descriptions of Area X are clearly meant to prompt the reader to think about the environment now and how humans are corrupting and contaminating it, and ho boy, does it work.
My favorite part of this book was how ambivalent the main character was about her life. In a very real and kind of sad way, you realize that the biologist, who you follow and care about, is beyond caring about her physical body and has given herself over entirely to Area X. Maybe I don't read enough science fiction, but those moments stood out to me as totally unique and gripping in a way that made me despertate to get to the next book in the triolgy.
I didn't feel like I totally understood this one, but I liked it. I'm excited to read the other two books in the trilogy (shout out to Unabridged Bookstore for carrying this gorgeous three-in-one; Independent Bookstore day is April 28, people, js), and I'm even more excited to hear Mr. VanderMeer speak at Northwestern on Friday. #ALLTHEPLUGS