The Hope of Annihilation

When the trailer for Annihilation dropped last month I went to the library that day to pick up the book it was based on. I finished it in three days. It was a giddy reading experience. I stayed up late reading and took the book with me out in public on the off chance that I’d have a moment to sit down and read some more pages. I finished it in three days.

I went back to the library looking for other books by the same author. I came home with Borne.

I like Borne. It is very much in the same style as Annihilation, half-explained monstrosities, impossible in our world, yet existing in our world nevertheless. Even the characters are very similar, both of them intrepid women who once loved the mysteries of the sea.

But Borne hasn’t grabbed me like Annihilation did. In Annihilation the characters were venturing into a landscape they didn’t understand, maybe couldn’t understand. They were explorers, tasked with unraveling the mysteries of this place that had swallowed up so many explorers before them without trace.

Borne has none of that sense of exploration. The impossible world simply is. The protagonist has lived in it long enough that she has stopped questioning the nature of the things around her. She knows she has no hope of finding the answers, so she focuses instead on surviving.

There’s something draining about the book. Reading it is less an adventure and more of an ordeal. It’s not that I dislike it, but it makes me realize that there is something in the act of trying to solve a mystery that is inherently hopeful. Even if all aspects of the mystery are never revealed, even if the answers could never be understood, the search for those answers is an artifact of hope, hope that things can be understood, that life can be untangled into some kind of understandable order.

When Pandora opened her bottle and let out all the demons into the world there was one creature left behind. Hope. I’ve always loved the ambiguity of the ending of that story. Is Hope a cruel force in the world, just like malice and selfishness and pride, driving humanity on through bad times into worse? Or is it the balancing factor, the antidote to set right Pandora’s mistake? I tend to think the latter.

At least I hope it is.

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