Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance

Plot Summary Part 1

Annihilation, Book 1:

Weird things are happening in a part of the Earth called "Area X". Some sort of barrier has appeared preventing people from entering a specific geographic area except at one entry point.  An organization called the Southern Reach has sent teams into Area X to find out what is going on, but for the most part either the teams do not return, or they return as retards.

A new team is sent out with four members. They don't use names. Their leader is the Psychologist. Also there is the Biologist, the Surveyor, and the Anthropologist.

They are given hypnotic conditioning, supposedly to help them cope in Area X, but in reality it is to better control them. They have no memory of entering Area X, part of their hypnotic brainwashing, they just wake up and they are there.

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The story's premise is ridiculous from the start. There's a very dangerous area, and the authorities send four women? Why not send a company of heavily armed soldiers? Why not a brigade?

Instead, we get four girls with pistols. They came to a part of Area X where there is a  tower. Actually it is not really a tower but a staircase that goes winding down a long, long way, like a tower going down into the Earth.

There are many pages of this book where they debate whether to call it a tower or a tunnel. Tower! Tunnel! Tower! Tunnel! Just when you think they have finished debating it, they talk about what to call it again, as if it were super-important. It's that kind of book.

The girls didn't come with any satellite phones or any means to communicate with the outside world. That was part of their "rules". Why they should not be in contact with their superiors is never explained, but it's a very convenient way of isolating the girls and making a scary story. But not very believable.

They start to go down the stairs of the tower. They see some fungus on the wall that is in the shape of words. The fungus says something about strangling fruit and worms. Really. This line about strangling fruit and worms is repeated over and over and over, not just in this book, but the next two to come. The meaning of this "strangling fruit and worms" line relates to the aliens who are turning human beings into other aliens. But we are never explicitly told that. But that is what the entire book is about, so what else could it mean?

Some of the fungus from the words on the wall spray out and hit the Biologist. Now she's been contaminated.

Why, you may wonder, didn't the team wear haz-mat suits? You can file that away with the questions as to why they didn't send a military brigade, and why they aren't allowed to  have cell phones to contact their superiors. The story is so unbelievable at this point that you almost wonder why they weren't sent in blindfolded and handcuffed, the better to be ass-raped by the invading space aliens.

They leave the Tower and set up a base camp. The Psychologist uses a key phrase to hypnotize them, and to tell them that they will be excited to go back to the Tower the next day.

But the hypnosis doesn't work on the Biologist, because she has been sprayed by the fungus. Does this make sense to you? No? Good!

By the way you may have noticed no one uses real names in this book. That's because the characters are so two dimensional that giving them names seems irrelevant. The Biologist is independent-minded, the Psychologist is bossy, and the Surveyor and Anthropologist don't have any personalities to speak of.

The next morning, they notice the Anthropologist is missing. The Psychologist said that the Anthropologist got scared and ran away. The Biologist and the Surveyor believe her.

When they go back to the Tower, the Psychologist says she will wait outside while the Biologist and Surveyor go back down. The Surveyor is unhappy about this but the Psychologist uses one of her hypnotic code phrases to convince the Surveyor that she should be happy that she is so expendable.

Inside the Tower, the Biologist feels that the Tower was alive. She sees the fungus glowing on the wall of the circular stairwell and felt that the Tower is breathing. Ok now, they are inside a small, cylindrical, dark hole that feels alive--what does that remind you of?
A v_gina, of course.

Yes, the Tower is symbolic of a v_gina. The Biologist even thinks that they are "descending into an organism" when she really means to think they are "descending into an orgasm".

Anyway, they go down the stairs of the v_gina, I mean the Tower, once again. The Biologist takes this time to explore her own past backstory, which is totally irrelevant to the main story but does fill pages when one has nothing to say for most of a book besides describing people going in and out of a Tower.

They see the nonsense writing on the walls again and think about it. It continues to make no sense. But they keep talking about it, and talking about it some more.

The Biologist reveals to the reader that her husband was on the last expedition. When he returned he was a retard. He had no memory of his time in Area X or how he got home. He drank a lot of milk and spilled a lot on his shirt, which disturbed the biologist.

The Biologist, hungering for p_nis, stripped him naked and bounced up and down on his dick, but got no reaction from her husband. He quickly died of a mysterious cancer and the Biologist had to find another source of dick.

But the fate of her husband is what persuaded her to sign up for this mission, to find out what had happened to him. Now if it were me, and my spouse returned from a dangerous place acting like a retard, I wouldn't want to go within 1000 miles of such a place.

We learn later in the book that the man who came back to the Biologist was not actually her husband, but an alien monster duplicate, so the Biologist was actually riding on an alien monster duplicate p_nis, not her real husband's.

Back in the present, they find the body of the anthropologist on the stairs, dead. She looks like she's been melted into the wall. They find two sets of boot prints so they know the Psychologist had been there too, and had lied to them. The Anthropologist was killed by a monster somewhere on the stairs below them.

So they leave the Tower for the second time but when they get outside the Psychologist is gone. We learn later that the Psychologist had used a hypnotic command to get the Anthropologist to go back into the Tower while the other two had slept. Why the Psychologist felt it necessary to do this, rather than have them all go together in the morning, is never clearly explained in this story.

Now that there are only two of them left, the Surveyor wants to go to the border and get the f out of there. The Biologist says they should sleep on it. Yes, they should sleep on it, while there are only two of them left and monsters and crazy people roaming everywhere. Naturally the Surveyor agrees.

The next morning the Surveyor still doesn't want to go explore more. The Biologist wants to go to another nearby landmark, a lighthouse. The Surveyor won't go with her so the Biologist goes alone.

The Biologist finds a small village covered with moss. She finds the moss fascinating. Wow.

Then she sees a dolphin with a human eye. The Biologist thinks about the dolphin with a human eye. Something is turning people into monster alien things.

The Biologist reaches the lighthouse and climbs up. She finds a room with journals from previous expeditions. Why are all the journals of previous expeditions here? Don't ask.

The Biologist starts reading them, for pages and pages. There is a tremendous amount of detail. All of which say nothing. The Biologist sees a photo of the guy who used to live at the lighthouse. She talks about this photo a lot.

The Biologist leaves the lighthouse and finds the Psychologist lying on the beach. She has jumped from the lighthouse and is very injured.

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