I haven’t read all of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, a series of sci-fi novels about a mysterious biosphere steadily taking over the earth, but the first one, Annihilation (2014), really got under my skin. Four women—a biologist, a psychologist, an anthropologist, and a surveyor—head toward a quarantined coastal area on a government mission to secure a base camp, investigate a lighthouse several miles away, and explore the surrounding wilderness. Theirs is the 12th expedition to Area X, previous ones having ended in horror: the second team committed mass suicide, the third split into factions and killed one another, and the members of the 11th all died of cancer after returning home. Shortly after the women penetrate Area X, they encounter a mysterious cylindrical tunnel into the earth, with a spiral staircase leading ever downward and, growing from its outer wall like a fungus, an apocalyptic incantation that draws the explorers ever closer to its monstrous author. Continue reading>>