ANNIHILATION by Jeff Vandermeer. Plot: Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition. The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself. They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers―they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding―but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything. Narrated by Carolyn McCormick. Don’t let the couple of bad reviews at the site dissuade you. One says it “fell flat,” and the other “do not care one single iota about anything this author has written.” Right. Well, it won a Nebula Award for Best Novel, a Shirley Jackson Award, a USA Today Favorite Beach Read, a Salon Best Audiobook of the Year. Then it was praised by Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews. And it will be a major movie in February 2018, starring Natalie Portman, directed by Alex Garland, who wrote and directed Ex Machina, which made Alicia Vikander a star.