Annihilation is the last of the Nebula nominated novels I am reading this year, and the first of the World Fantasy Award nominees. Vandermeer also wrote Finch, which was nominated for an award for 2009.
What they have in common is a fascination with fungus. Finch features fungal aliens wielding fungus tech, something I had not seen before. Annihilation is more straightforward horror--fungus is always a good supporting cast member in a horror story. I would also say that Annihilation is a more accessible book than his earlier work.
Annihilation is the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy. The stage is set here for a fungal alien invasion--the Southern Reach is a governmental organization trying to cope with the issue of Area X, a place where civilization has been pushed out and some highly strange things are going on. A series of expeditions has been sent in to try to understand the place, with mixed success. The first expedition reported a preserved, beautiful wilderness. Subsequent ones ended with the deaths of all the members. The last expedition returned one by one without explanation. Now an expedition of women has been sent in.
The story is told from the perspective of the expedition's biologist. The specifics of the story are not so relevant here--this volume is mostly about setting up the rest of the series.
Only this volume was nominated for a Nebula, and if not for the World Fantasy Award I probably would not pursue it further. But all three books in the series were released in 2014, and the World Fantasy Award nominated the whole set. So I'll pursue the rest of the series. This one gets a weak three stars--I can't critique it too specifically, it just didn't really grab me. However, the descriptions of the next books are promising. We shall see.
Which novel do I like for the Nebula this year? In general, I don't think it was a great year for Nebula novels--the novellas were much better. I would say Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword is worthy of the nod. It's a fine piece of writing. I'm thinking the next volume will get award nods too.