I was on my way to a gig in Canada, scrunched into the backseat of a rented Nissan. I always take the seat behind the tallest person because I require the least legroom. My singer peeked over and asked what I was reading and what it was about. The best I could come up with was “It’s sort of a science-fiction book about plants taking over the world?” That doesn’t really do the book justice but if I had to do it in a single sentence…Anyway, I’m a little late to the party on this one. It looks like there is already a movie version of this book but I’m still compelled to gush about how much I liked it.
A series of expeditions are sent to investigate Area X, a mysterious abandoned coastal forest where some undefined natural event occurred. Expeditions are vigorously trained but also not given full information about what happened or why they are there. They also never seem to come back unscathed.
This book follows the latest expedition of four women identified only by their respective fields: the anthropologist, the psychologist, the surveyor and the biologist. It’s written from the viewpoint of the biologist through her journal. The women immediately find an uncharted tunnel with mysterious words written on its walls. Spores are inhaled, alliances are formed, trust is shattered, violence is done and all the while some weird unseen creature moans at night. I don’t want to say much more because the slow build was such a joy to read. The language and imagery are beautiful even when the plot tends toward the horrific.
The introverted biologist is a wonderfully flawed, lonely, unreliable narrator. Her connection to the natural world over the man-made one is a palpable thread through the book. There is a gradual reveal of her tattered personal life and what led her to the expedition that is just as engaging to read as the “what the fuck happened in the creepy forest” portions of the book.
This book made me consider my relationship with nature, my ability to relate to people and maybe the permanence of my place in the food chain. It stuck with me in a big way and I’m really excited for the rest of the trilogy. I highly recommend it, especially if you have to drive to Ottowa.