"The tower, which was not supposed to be there, plunges into the earth in a place just before the black pine forest begins to give way to swamp and then reeps and wind-gnarled trees of the marsh flats."
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.
This has been a book on my radar this year and I finally broke down and got myself a copy (probably after reading the umpteenth glowing review). I can't say I was super impressed after reading it but I also wasn't really that disappointed either. For the most part, It'll all come down to the series as a whole collection I think. I almost wanted to wait reviewing the books until I've finished them all, but thought giving my initial reactions might help other readers relate if they find themselves feeling the same way. The first book doesn't have many answers and throws out question and question which leaves you hanging off a cliff once you've finished it. Maybe that was the point, to hook the reader into running out and getting the second installment? Well, it worked. I had no plans on reading the books back to back (especially since I have a long list of required review books on netgalley and other galleys coming up in October). So I shake my fist at VanderMeer and blame him for putting off books given to me to review. Now I just have to read MORE and play WOW less... but the expansion is coming out soon and I still need to get my reputation up with SO many factions. Okay, so now you see where I'm going with this right? VanderMeer has me gripped, even though I wasn't entirely in love with this first book.
So what exactly wasn't I happy with? I didn't like that I couldn't tell the sex of the characters (especially the main character). It's not that it doesn't get mentioned, it does, many times and the Author even throws in some background with the main character's "husband". I'm still not sure why I couldn't get my mind wrapped around the fact that this was a bunch of women undergoing this trip to Area X and it bothered me quite a bit. The Author made very little progress with the characters as a whole and I'm pretty sure this is due to the fact that the first book is super short. I'm hoping that this changes throughout the series. Despite all that though, the book was very intriguing and kept me tuned in the whole time. No commercial breaks here! Instead of giving you ANY information on the plot-line, I think it would be better if you experienced that yourself, I just wanted to give you my thoughts. The first book is so short that I can't not recommend those curious to definitely pick it up, but be warned... you might find yourself being dragged into the rest of the series, which has happened to me.
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