Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Book Info

Grade Level
High School
STEM Concepts
Biology, Ethics & Civics, First Aid, Rescue Efforts, Ecology

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.

Source: Macmillan 


Science in Novels with Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer ( sat down to discuss the integration of science into fiction. His “Southern Reach Trilogy” is widely loved, and his newest novel “Borne” is in stores today.

Becoming an Author with Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer shares his wisdom about becoming an author–from reading everything you can, to writing what you love.


Idea Sparks and Mini Lessons

These questions, prompts, and short activities provide quick ways to inspire interest and explore STEAM concepts related to the book. Idea Sparks and Mini Lessons can also be used for differentiation and to foster new ideas of your own.

Download the Lesson Plan

Mystery of Area X

Area X seems to no longer be a welcoming environment for humans, but new creatures are beginning to form.  What triggered this change in the environment?  Was it man made or natural? In this lesson, students hypothesize what might have happened in Area X.

Download the Lesson Plan

Creatures of Area X

Area X seems to no longer be a welcoming environment for humans, but new creatures are beginning to form. The Crawler appears to be evolving as it proceeds through various levels of the Tower. In this lesson, students will design a model of an organism and predict the adaptations and changes that it might undergo in Area X.

Download the Lesson Plan 

Illuminated Letters

The Crawler creates script with many curves and flourishes.  In this history and fine arts lesson, students will investigate examples of illuminated manuscripts and produce a letter in that style.

Download the Lesson Plan

Tower Dance

In the book, the Tower was a tall cylindrical structure with many layers.  In this fine arts-dance lesson, students must choreograph and perform a dance that could take place in the Tower. This lesson can be divided into two or more sessions. One for planning and practice and another for performance.

Download the Lesson Plan

Writing Activity: World Building

Read the first few pages of Annihilation, paying particular attention to how Jeff VanderMeer is building the world of Area X.

Then create your own piece of writing that introduces readers to the world of a story you will create. Use sensory details and provide hints about the conflict you will introduce into your imagined world.

Exchange your writing with another student and share with one another: How does the piece make you feel as a reader? What images or details are especially strong? Did anything confuse you? What conflict does the story introduce?

Digital Storytelling

Add images to the world-building writing assignment to create a short digital story.

Adobe Spark is one tool, web-based or downloaded as an app, for creating a digital story. Spark offers templates and a catalog of images, fonts, and backgrounds and projects can be downloaded and saved or shared via a link.

Discussion Questions

Find a reading group guide and discussion questions at FSG Originals.

About the Author

Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist and editor. His fiction has been translated into twenty languages and has appeared in the Library of America’s American Fantastic Tales and multiple year’s best anthologies. He writes nonfiction for The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, and The Guardian, among others. He grew up in the Fiji Islands and now lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife. Other titles by Jeff include Authority, Acceptanceand Borne.

Learn more at

Source: Macmillan