Japanese literary sensation Fuminori Nakamura's latest novel is a puzzle box of a narrative in the form of a confessional diary that implicates its reader in a heinous crime, asking: What turns someone into a killer?
... dizzying ... This is not to say these plot lines are McGuffins, though they nod toward that convention of the form. At the same time, they are essential for what they tell us about the inability of the psyche to separate what it imagines from what is real. Subjectivity, in other words, although Nakamura has something bigger than that in mind. The issue is less what we see or think than who or what we are ... The effect is of a vast decentering, almost a state of vertigo ... This is a book that doesn’t afford easy succor or any particular comfort at all. In Nakamura’s universe we are all damned, not by our sins so much (although those, as well) as by our ignorance. Who are we? What are we doing here? The answers to those questions are unavailable to us, but it doesn’t matter anyway.
... an elaborately played-out revenge plot. It is a story about identity—not least the creating and changing of identity ... It is a hall of mirrors novel, the characters and readers alike being deceived by what they see and purport to know ... Nakamura's effort here is ambitious, and he pulls it off quite well. The pieces do fall into place—there is relative clarity about the who and what as the novel nears its conclusion—but for much of the time the reader too can feel in a fog of confused identities. The sexual difficulties of the various characters add another complicating layer (and a somewhat unpleasant taste to things, given how much violence is involved). My Annihilation keeps readers on their toes, and guessing, and there are some very satisfying turns and reveals here. It can be confusing, but it's the kind of confusion that one should simply go along with; ultimately, it works itself out quite neatly and well (though not entirely so: Nakamura can't entirely let go of all the ambiguities he's sown). It's a good, unpredictable mystery—if arguably overly complex—and an enjoyably constantly unsettling read.
... a literary labyrinth of forking paths. Surgical memory erasure, subliminal messaging, sexual blackmail and suicide all feature in this bravura work, which evokes the feel of such diverse writers as Calvino, Highsmith, Kafka and Dick ... An intriguing solution to these crimes is all but guaranteed, though it may need to be politically corrected.