John O'Loughlin was born in Salthill, Galway City, the Republic of Ireland in 1952 of mixed Irish- and British-born parents of Irish descent. Following a parental split while still a child, he was taken to England by his mother and maternal grandmother (who had initially returned to Ireland after a lengthy absence with intent to stay) in the mid-50s and subsequently attended schools in Aldershot, Oakham, and, upon the death and repatriation of his Galway-born grandmother, Carshalton Beeches, Surrey, where, despite an enforced change of denomination from Catholic to Protestant in consequence of having been put into care by his mother, he attended a state school. Upon leaving Carshalton High School for Boys in 1970 with an assortment of CSEs (Certificate of Secondary Education) and GCEs (General Certificate of Education), including history and music, he moved the comparatively short distance up to London and went on to work at the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in Bedford Square, where, after a lengthy period as a general clerk, he was promoted to clerical officer grade one with responsibility for booking examination venues throughout the UK. After a brief flirtation with further education at Redhill Technical College back in Surrey, where he had enrolled as a history student, he returned to his former job in the West End but retired from the ABRSM in 1976 due to a combination of factors, including ill-health, and proceeded to dedicate himself to a literary vocation which, despite a brief spell as a computer tutor at Hornsey YMCA in the late 1980s and early '90s, he has effectively continued with ever since. His novels include Changing Worlds (1976), Cross-Purposes (1979), Thwarted Ambitions (1980), Sublimated Relations (1981), False Pretences (1981) and Deceptive Motives (1982). Since the mid-80s Mr O'Loughlin has exclusively dedicated himself to philosophy, his true literary vocation, and has penned more than sixty titles of a philosophical nature, including Devil and God - The Omega Book (1985-6), Towards the Supernoumenon (1987), Elemental Spectra (1988-9), Philosophical Truth (1991-2), Maximum Truth (1993), and, more recently, The Centre of Truth (2009), and Musings of a Superfluous Man (2011).
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.