With the film adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer's New Weird novel in theaters, it seems appropriate to give you a list of 21 suggested books to read after seeing Annihilation, because the movie will definitely leave you wanting more strangeness in your life.
Annihilation follows four women — the biologist, the psychologist, the anthropologist, and the surveyor — into the mysterious Area X, a place that is no longer inhabited by humans, and that changes everyone who comes into contact with it. In the film version, five women — the four mentioned above, plus a paramedic — go into the strange place, which is known as the Shimmer. Both the book and film focus on the biologist, whose unnamed husband was part of a previous expedition into Area X/the Shimmer.
This list assumes that you have already read the Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance. If you haven't read any or all of VanderMeer's trilogy, I highly recommend you do so. There's no guarantee that Authority or Acceptance will make it to movie theaters, and the Annihilation film adaptation's writer-director, Alex Garland, wrote his version of the story based entirely on a galley copy of VanderMeer's book, with no consideration given to the two follow-up novels, which complete the biologist's story. Garland has stated that he has no interest in heading up a film franchise, so if Authority and Acceptance make it to the big screen, it will probably be under someone else's leadership.
Check out my picks for what to read after seeing Annihilation:
'All the Birds in the Sky' by Charlie Jane Anders
As the world teeters on the brink of disaster, childhood friends Patricia and Laurence reunite as adults with disparate plans for saving humanity. Patricia, a witch who has graduated from a secret magical academy, plans to use her magic to keep the Earth in balance. Meanwhile, Laurence is part of a project that aims to create a wormhole through which humanity may emigrate to another planet. As the world speeds toward collapse, Patricia and Laurence find themselves at odds in their approaches to saving it.
'In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods' by Matt Bell
After leaving their home in the city to forge a new life in the forest, the unnamed couple at the center of this novel experience a series of devastating miscarriages that leave them with a fingerling — a fetal being that lives within the husband's body — and a foundling — a bear cub changed into a humanoid form. But even these do not mend the hole that grows in their relationship, and the husband will have to fight tooth and nail to keep his family together as the world around them grows stranger.
'Lagoon' by Nnedi Okorafor
An alien object lands in the ocean near Lagos, Nigeria, pitching three beachgoers — a marine biologist, a rapper, and a soldier — into the fight to save their country and the world. The aliens have a message for humanity, the Nigerian government is debating destroying them in a pre-emptive strike, and an alien ambassador has begun masquerading as a human in Lagos.
'Welcome to Night Vale' by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Jackie has always been 19 years old, and she has always operated Night Vale's pawn shop, but she has never seen anything like the man in the tan suit with the deerskin suitcase, who pawns a piece of paper that she can't seem to let go of. While Jackie struggles to understand the significance of the man's visit, Night Vale PTA member Diane wrestles with her teenage son's newfound interest in his estranged father, whom Diane has suddenly begun to spot around town.
'State of Wonder' by Ann Patchett
After Annick Swenson sends a letter announcing the death of a member of her team, who was conducting research in the Amazon for a new fertility drug, Swenson's former mentee, Marina Singh, is dispatched by the pharmaceutical company to uncover the truth of what has happened to the researchers and their project.
'American Elsewhere' by Robert Jackson Bennett
When the deed to a previously unknown property falls into her hands following the death of her father, unemployed ex-cop Mona packs up and lights out for Wink, N.M. Built around a research station where Mona's late mother worked in the 1970s, Wink has maintained a picture-perfect atmosphere in the wake of the station's closing. But not everything is as it seems in this little hamlet, and as Mona gets closer to unravelling the mystery of her mother's time in town, she begins to uncover the secrets of Wink and its residents.
'Amatka' by Karin Tidbeck
Sent to research cosmetics usage in the snowy, argicultural colony of Amatka, Vanja finds herself alienated from her neighbors, who live by a stricter set of rules than the folks in the capital. Her growing affection for housemate Nina keeps Vanja in Amatka, but her new job working with the library's increasingly smaller collection may put the entire colony in jeopardy.
'The Returned' by Jason Mott
Fifty years after he drowned at his eighth birthday party, North Carolina native Jacob Hargrave turns up, unharmed, in China. He is one of hundreds of dead people who are returning to their families unchanged, but the social, political, and religious implications of this mass resurrection leave the world with more questions than answers.
'Sister Mine' by Nalo Hopkinson
Born to a human mother and a demigod father, conjoined twins Makeda and Abby have never quite fit in. After the girls' physical separation, Abby and her magical abilities are cherished by the rest of their talented family, but nonmagical Makeda feels like an outsider. She moves out, intent on finding her place in the world of mortals, but their father's disappearance will force Makeda and Abby to make up if they want to find him.
'The Vine That Ate the South' by J.D. Wilkes
Written by rockabilly musician J.D. Wilkes, The Vine That Ate the South follows an unnamed narrator deep into the woods, down the Old Spur Line, looking for the Kudzu House, where an elderly couple were supposedly swallowed up by the titular vine.
'The Wilds' by Julia Elliott
This collection of short fiction dances across modern-day conceit, tracing rejuvenation techniques, fad diets, and self-help seminars, all held in unsettling landscapes populated with the kind of repulsive people you expect from the Southern Gothic tradition.
'Kraken' by China Miéville
The disappearance of a giant squid from London's Natural History Museum has comic and catastrophic consequences for cephalopod expert Billy Harrow. Investigating the mysterious teleportation with a magically inclined police officer, Billy discovers that his specimen has been kidnapped as part of a bid to destroy the world, or to save it.
'The Doll's Alphabet' by Camilla Grudova
Another short story collection, The Doll's Alphabet explores sex and gender roles through steampunk, absurdism, magic, and mayhem. Though much, much darker from a social standpoint that any of VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy, Camilla Grudova's collection will appeal to anyone who loves weirdness with a message.
'The Cabin at the End of the World' by Paul Tremblay
On vacation with her dads, seven-year-old Wen is playing outside one day when a small group of strangers arrive with a message for her: "None of what's going to happen is your fault." Riding the line between home invasion and world-saving mission, The Cabin at the End of the World will keep you turning pages into the wee hours of the morning.
'Panther in the Hive' by Olivia A. Cole
Four days after a cyber disaster turns most of the U.S. into living weapons, fashionista Tasha sets out with a Prada backpack and a kitchen knife to find a safe haven rumored to exist on Chicago's South Side. To get there, she'll have to move around and through the Minkers: citizens whose illness-curing Chips have malfunctioned and turned them into mindless zombies.
'The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe' by Kij Johnson
Set in the Dreamlands created by H.P. Lovecraft for his novella "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath," The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe centers on an aging professor who must save one of her students when she attempts to elope with a dreamer.
'Vermilion' by Molly Tanzer
This weird West story centers on Lou Merriwether, a Taoist psychopomp who lights out for the Rocky Mountains of Colorado when some boys go missing from San Francisco's Chinatown.
'The Good House' by Tananarive Due
Two years after her son's untimely death, Angela returns to her ancestral home, the titular Good House, to confront the truth about her family's tragic history, which includes a rash of suicides and the expectations of the town surrounding the old house.
'Revenge' by Yoko Ogawa
This set of 11 interconnected short stories revolves around the tale of a surgeon whose tangles with women who are not his wife — including one who was born with her heart on the outside of her chest — run afoul of lovers and creeps alike.
'The Grip of It' by Jac Jemc
James and Julie have just bought a new home, after being impressed by its seemingly unlimited storage space. But they didn't prepare to be watched wordlessly by their new neighbor, or to have doors in their home open onto rooms in his.
'Borne' by Jeff VanderMeer
Mord, the giant bear who lords over the wreckage of an old city in the wake of the Collapse, is relieved of a hanger-on when Rachel removes Borne from his fur one fateful day. She convinces her lover, Wick, to let her keep the little green blob she has found, but neither of them expects the ways in which Borne will change himself and them.