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; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition 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 weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The 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, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, 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.
Strange things have been happening to thirty-three-year-old Cody; he’s lost sleep, heard sounds which shouldn’t be there, and has bruises he cannot explain. A woman, he’s sure has been stalking him, tells him to be careful, and he laughs. When he wakes with her in a motel room, he listens to what she has to say, though he doesn’t expect the psycho-stalker to tell him he should not go home.
At thirty, Tyler is still looking for ways to make an easy dollar, but he gets more than he expects when he goes home. He is seduced by the charms of the man living in the Shanley Hotel, and begins work restoring the block. When his brother, Cody, comes to take Tyler away from Shoshoni he is soon drawn into the darkness growing in the hotel without hope of escape.