“The effect of this cannot be understood without being there. 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.”
I have seen some pretty mixed reviews about this series, and I understand why. ‘New weird’ fiction is not for everyone, but it is definitely my bag. This fascinating mystery about the enigmatic Area-X is gripping and ridiculously beautiful at times. It is one of those books that wraps itself around you and isolates you from the rest of the world, pulling you into it and not letting you come up for air until you’re done. It is the sort of book that needs to be read in one sitting.
“Silence creates its own violence.”
What’s it about: A group of four women are deployed into the mysterious Area-X. Several previous missions have been sent to the area, and everyone has either never been heard from again, or come back completely changed, only to die a short time later. These four women, the biologist (our protagonist), the psychologist, the anthropologist, and the surveyor are each encouraged to keep a journal of the expedition and this story is told through the journal of the biologist. After they enter area-X it becomes clear that some weird shit is happening, and it’s not just the strange terrain that’s responsible.
“Some questions will ruin you if you are denied the answer long enough.”
What I thought: This is the kind of book where you don’t have much of an idea of what’s going on, but you just know that whatever is happening is not good. And it’s not the kind of book where you are going to get answers at the end. That’s not really the point of it. But I really liked this book.
I’m not sure if my being a biologist boosted my connection with the protagonist or not, but it might have. That may explain why others didn’t connect with this book that way that I did. It’s hard to say much about the rest of the characters because they are very scattered, and you get the feeling that you actually don’t know them at all, as they are not themselves in area-X. We only see them through the eyes of the biologist, and they have been encouraged to distance themselves from one another. But it is a rather interesting dynamic.
This story is told in the form of a journal, and I found this method rather hit and miss. It was great to read, but it often didn’t feel like a journal at all. The way she was telling the story often felt too immediate to be a recounting of things that had happened, even if only recently. The details were often too fresh and too descriptive to have been described later as well.
It’s a very quiet and solitary kind of book that would be perfect to read on a rainy day when you’re alone and surrounded by silence. I don’t think this is the kind of book you could read on the subway or in a busy coffee shop. I feel like not giving it the silence it deserves would probably change the whole feeling of the book itself. The isolation of it demands that it be read while you yourself are also isolated.
“We were neither what we had been nor what we would become once we reached our destination.”
I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes strange but beautiful books that completely cut you off from reality. This book is solidly in the ‘new weird’ category, so if that’s your thing (it is certainly mine) then you should pick up this book.
I rate it 4/5 stars.