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.
- The Guardian, 20 Dec 09.
'All hit, no miss... thought-provoking at worst, and stunning at best... shows that science can inspire anyone and everyone.'
– New Scientist, 5 Dec 09.
– THE, 19 Nov 09.
'A diamond of compression.'
– Financial Times, 20 Dec 09.
When It Changed is an attempt to put authors and scientists back in touch with each other, to re-introduce research ideas with literary concerns, and to re-forge the alloy that once made SF great. Composed collaboratively – through a series of visits and conversations between leading authors and practicing scientists – it offers fictionalised glimpses into the far corners of current research fields, be they in nanotechnology, invertebrate physiology, particle physics, or software archaeology. From Planck's Length (the smallest indivisible distance) to Plankton (potential saviours of the Earth's ecosystem), from virtual encounters between Witgenstein and Turing, to future civilisations torn asunder by different readings of the Standard Model, together these stories represent a literary 'experiment' in the true sense of the word, and endeavour to isolate a whole new strain of the SF bug.
* * Featuring Sara Maitland's 'Moss Witch' - Runner Up in the BBC National Short Story Prize 2009.* *