Review of Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1), by Jeff VanderMeer

I borrowed an audio copy of Jeff VanderMeer‘s Annihilation through my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
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.

Review:
I really wanted to see the movie of this when it came out, but never managed it. So, I figured I’d listen to the book. I had no real idea what to expect though, as the preview for the movie was all mysterious and that’s all I had to go on.

I enjoyed it. I thought the main character was pleasantly self-aware and liked that the husband was the more emotionally attuned of the two. I wouldn’t call it a romance by any stretch of the imagination, but I appreciated the little whisper of romance here and there. (That’s how I choose to interpret it.) Don’t go in looking for any firm answers though.

I struggled with McCormick‘s narration in the beginning. I felt it was far too fast (and slowing it down sounded funny). However, I either got used to it or she slowed down after the first couple chapters. After that, I thought she did a fine (if somewhat flat) job of it.

Review of Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carrier

I borrowed an audio copy of Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carrier, from my local library.


Description from Goodreads:

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.


Review:

Carriger just never fails to amuse me. This is a more MG/YA delivery than the Parasol Protectorate series, which is one of my favorites. But I still laughed out loud more than once and loved seeing early appearances of some later familiar characters. In the end, I passed it to my daughter, sure she’ll love it too.

Quirk does a marvelous job with the narrations.

Review of Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

I borrowed an audio copy of Ernest Cline‘s Ready Player One from my local library.

Description:
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Review (spoiler):
For those raised in the late 80s to early 90s this this was a sentimental cheese-fest of the best kind. But that’s really what carries the book. I enjoyed revisiting the geekery of my youth, but found the story pretty flat. It was quite predictable, the descriptions of the above mentioned geekery got tedious, it’s too dependent on coincidence and happenstance, and ultimately the ending of beat the baddy, get the prize and claim the girl was pat and unoriginal.

All in all, I wouldn’t call it bad. I actually enjoyed it as a bit of fluff. But I wasn’t super impressed either.

Thematically Will Wheaton was the perfect narrator for this book. He’s even mentioned in it. (How odd must that have been for him to read?) He did a fine job, but I wouldn’t say he was super engaging with it.