jeff vandermeer

‘Area X’ Meets ‘And Then There Were None’ In Abby Geni’s ‘The Lightkeepers’

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Abby Geni’s The Lightkeepers is part Area X trilogy, with a swirl of And Then There Were None. It is a bit Jon Krakauer meets Alice Seobold. The novel takes place on the Farrallon Islands, a brutal and isolated archipelago off California’s coast. Nature photographer Miranda arrives to the islands, to join a small crew of biologists already living together in a small building, dorm-style.

The islands are a strange and foreign landscape, isolated and wild, adrift from the world. The biologists are single-minded and obsessed, as one would have to be to leave society behind and become completely immersed in nature.

As with Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X trilogy, the descriptions of the natural landscape here are intoxicating, delightful, both dangerous and wondrous. Pouring rain and scabbing rocks and diving, squawking birds are ever-present. Living on the island there is no way to escape its looming, wild nature. But those that found Area X too weird will appreciate The Lightkeepers, as its struggles, however powerful and awesome they feel, are all of this earth.

Some of the struggles are natural, and some are man-made. One of this book’s messages is that we, humanity, are also part of this wild world, just like the waves beating against the rocks. I’m not sure how much of a spoiler this, as the summaries seem to mention it, but if you want to go in a bit more cold, stop reading here. Still reading? Okay. Let’s continue.

I mention Alice Seobold because Miranda is raped by one of her fellow biologists shortly after her arrival to the island, after a night of hard-drinking. Geni crafts this plot delicately, chronicling Miranda’s very intimate struggle. The external aftermath of the incident, as well as the dramatic change to Miranda’s psyche, is explored.

This isn’t a cheerful book, but if you read the blog often, you know I’m not the biggest fan of the cheerful ones. It is lonely, haunting, and powerful. It reads like a quiet dream of an alien landscape, at once totally strange but totally familiar. Read it.

The Lightkeepers on’

Update: Annihilation Moves To The Next Round In The Tournament Of Books

I was going to add this as a comment to my review of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, but thought I’d post a quick update instead.

Annihilation beat critic fave Dept. of Speculation in the Tournament of Books yesterday, which has me chanting “Go, Annihilation, GO!” even as I know so many of my favorite other books are still in the mix. I think it is going to be hard for anything to beat Station Eleven.

I suspected Annihilation would fare well with Victor LaValle, as the only novel of his I’ve read, The Devil In Silver (his most recent), was full of the type of wild, fresh thinking that Annihilation fully embraces. But his reasoning behind his decision seemed justified, not just like an alliance with all things bizarre, and his discussion of Dept. of Speculation made me want to check it out soon.

So here’s to celebrating the new school of weird, and looking forward to the epic battles to come!

Jeff VanderMeer’s ‘Annihilation’ Will Take You On A Ride To Crazy Town

The Southern Reach of the trilogy’s title studies Area X, a natural landscape possessed, lost from humanity to unknown. Annihilation opens as the twelfth expedition begins their journey into this now foreign and predatory landscape.