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Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 7 books29 followers
September 12, 2014
I'm not sure why, but everything kind of fell apart for me on this one (and, looking over the reviews, I'm clearly in the minority on that.) The only story that was truly compelling to me was the Lightkeeper's. Otherwise it just felt like a race to wrap up different story threads and tie it with a bow. When you step back, not a whole lot of anything actually HAPPENS in this book. People walk around. Thoughts are processed. We flash back to the past. People marvel at Area X's oddness. They see an oddity. They process their thoughts about that oddity. They walk around some more. After the breath of fresh air of the first book and the deepening of the mystery in the second, this third book just left me disappointed.
Profile Image for Claudia Putnam.
Author 6 books126 followers
November 21, 2014
Bumping to 4 because the writing really is terrific. And because I'm still thinking about it, and about some of the comments on this review, below. Thanks all!

Spoiler alert... I'm not hiding this review, but I'm giving something away. Don't read if you don't want to know anything in advance.


Actually, I don't have much to say. Basically, (this is the spoiler) Earth is being terraformed (whatever-formed, really) by an alien organism to prepare the way for colonization by aliens who have probably already destroyed themselves. How we know this latter part (how the organism might, and therefore why it's bothering) is not quite clear. Many things remain unclear in this book, such as WTF Lowry is really up to (initially I didn't understand why the Science and Seance people were given carte blanche to explore Area X before it even was Area X... but apparently this was Central's doing, somehow, but how they knew to investigate Area X at that time is unclear. It seems the organism was released by something one of these Science and Seance (maybe it's Seance and Science) weirdos did, but how it fit with Central, or what role Control's mother played and might still be playing, whether or not the organism is conscious of humans--some say it's oblivious, but if so what was the point of making copies?--are not explicated.

I kind of think that given the destruction of the aliens--in Area X, the lights are on, but no one's home--the organism WAS actually terraforming Earth. IE, making it a healthy environment once again, which sometimes has meant transforming humans. To what seems unclear. Initially some of the transformations seem to have been science experiments on the organism's part. Or you could say, it's a virus and the mutations it caused weren't always highly adaptive. I was kind of disappointed that the biologist (another spoiler) got transformed into this wild leviathan creature. It seemed a stretch from what she'd been (yeah, she was observant, and she liked the ocean, but tidal pools, not the tides). I thought the real story would have been her successful copy as a human being. That hadn't happened before.

Eventually some humans learn how to live as both human and Area X. I think. I guess that was what Lowry was looking for, but again, it isn't clear.

So this is my beef...what was the point of not making it clear? I had the sense that the author, too, had no idea what Area X was, until maybe the very end. So some of the confusion feels like his. We go around in circles--maybe it's alien, maybe it's environmental catastrophe, maybe it's whatever. But there are no real scientific discussions about it in any of the books, no sense that anyone is working together to solve the problem. It's true that all data from Area X is by def corrupted, but there didn't seem to be any real effort to do anything with any information other than frown in puzzlement over it.

No one who has any good ideas is ever willing to share them with anyone else. I can't believe that the response would be so passive. That no one tried dropping a bomb on the place, just to see (seems like what we would do). Maybe the "boundary" prevented this. Maybe they did try. Maybe all the fight tableaus were invasion attempts. It's fuzzy in my mind.

So, again, my beef. Don't substitute vagueness for mystery. Don't use mystery alone as the source of tension and the driver of plot.

At least in this final book we get multiple characters interacting with one another, or if not interacting, we get multiple POVs. We had a little interaction in Annihilation, but mainly we were in the biologist's head. In Authority (not sure that was the best title), we were stuck in Control's head, which was pretty useless. Here we get varying perspectives, which help a great deal.

So, I still don't understand:

-Why of all places the organism would land inside a beacon lens
-What tipped off the authorities that something weird was going on, before the organism was released
-What exactly the Director saw in the biologist to begin with
-Or why the biologist was so attached to her husband, for that matter
-What Lowry wanted to do or not do
-What the dynamics inside Central were, and between Central and the Southern Reach
-What Grace had going on with Central
-What was going on with Control's mother
-What happened to the rest of the world... I kind of had the feeling that the Southern Reach was the last refuge rather than the vanguard
-Whether in the end this might be good for Earth

Mostly thinking out loud. At the sentence level, this was a gorgeous book. And I really appreciate the publisher's decision to release them all within months of one another, priced to sell. :)

Profile Image for Will Chin.
545 reviews24 followers
February 18, 2016
That's it? Well, I must admit, I feel a little hoodwinked.

Acceptance is a noticeably better book than Authority, but that is not saying a lot, considering that the second book in the series is dreadful in every sense of the word. Just when you thought that the middle chapter of a trilogy cannot get any more weighted down, Authority showed up to prove us all wrong. Every page towards the end felt like a sucker punch to the guts, and it took great determination to pick up the next and final book in the series.

Thankfully, in Acceptance, the book is divided into three story lines: The Lighthouse Keeper's, the Director's and Control's (or Ghost Bird's). The good thing is that because you spend 2/3 of the time away from Control, the worst character in the book, you are less bothered by how mind-numblingly bad his character is. He continues to wallow in his thoughts and being slightly out of touch with the situation at hand, and he's in a constant state of denial. To think that we spent a whole book with the guy, I do wonder how I pulled through till the end.

The Lighthouse Keeper and the Director both have fairly interesting stories to tell, although they both sort of dissolve into underwhelming fuzz towards the end. They provide an interesting perspective to the creation of Area X, as well as the Director's motivations up until her death in book one.

The problem, however, is that Area X as a character (and yes, it is a character) does not progress forward in the plot. Instead, through the Lighthouse Keeper and the Director's story lines, Area X actually develops BACKWARDS. Essentially, you learn nothing new about Area X beyond the chronological point established in book one. Acceptance does reveal answers to some lingering questions, yes, but it doesn't move the plot FORWARD. Perhaps this is Vandermeer's way of preserving some of the mysteries, but place in better hands, Area X could have been so much more. Arthur C Clarke did a masterful job with his work on the Odyssey series, especially 2010: Odyssey Two. In there, he provides answers/closures to the mysteries established in book one, and yet leave enough doors open for more mysteries to come. Vandermeer's closures here are sloppy at best, almost amateurish. If you hated the way LOST gathered the loose ends and threw it at your face back in 2010, you are really going to hate the way Vandermeer chooses to end his yarn here.

Also, Area X is supposed to be at the forefront of the story. In Annihilation, it was the main character, and the humans were essentially sacrificial lambs to the overarching mystery. They didn't even have names to begin with! In books two and three, however, Area X is in the backseat while the human characters are put at the forefront. There's nothing wrong with that provided that the human characters are good, and that we can relate to them on some level. However, none of the characters end up being anything more like caricatures. They are constantly questioning themselves and wallowing in their own sense of self-doubt and misery, like characters from a Murakami book, and they don't ever snap out of it even after the trilogy ends. Halfway through the second book, I started to miss the creepiness of Area X, and I wanted to go back to the "tower". I didn't want to stay at Southern Reach anymore, and the characters weren't interesting enough for me to want to stick around at the party.

Overall, the Southern Reach trilogy has been an overwhelming disappointment. Book one was the perfect set up for a series, with enough mysteries to keep the readers guessing. If you intend on reading the series, pick up the first book, read it from cover to cover, then ask yourself if you are comfortable with not knowing any concrete answers. The answers provided in Acceptance aren't terrible per se, but the execution of the story is the series' Achilles' Heel. Again, Vandermeer pulled a LOST here, with the perfect set up and an unsatisfying ending. I'm not sure what the other reviewers on Goodreads read, but I certainly did not read the same book as everyone else.
Profile Image for carol..
1,572 reviews8,224 followers
November 20, 2014
From my blog:

Once again, Vandermeer astonishes me with evocative, symbolic language:

“The fifth morning I rose from the grass and dirt and sand, the brightness had gathered to form a hushed second skin over me, that skin cracking from my opening eyes like the slightest, the briefest, touch of an impossibly thin later of ice. I could hear the fracturing of its melting as if it came from miles and years away.“

And once again, Area X takes center stage in the last book of The Southern Reach Trilogy. The narrative switches between Ghost Bird and Control, last met in Authority; Saul, the lighthouse keeper; the psychologist Gloria, and perhaps one or two others that slip in. The narrative is done well enough that the separate voices do not feel disjointed, but I warn you: pay attention to chapter titles, as they say who is speaking. The story also flows back and forth in time, filling in the stories of people introduced, backgrounds and events alluded to but never explained. The insight into characterization provides more interest than in it did in the first two books; thankfully so, as the plotting explodes, much like a cell line on the upswing of reproduction (apparently a recent TED talk on angiogenesis is leaking in).

“You note again not just the musculature of this woman but the fact that she’s willing to complicate even the simple business of stating her name. “

As the capstone to a trilogy, it has mixed success. I understand a number of the metaphors and plot connections being made, but I wasn’t sure the gestalt was worth the effort. Yet as I randomly flipped back through the book looking for sections that had stood out (unsurprisingly, I had lost my sticky-note), I was caught again into reading long passages, first hooked by the writing and then pulled deeper by glimpsing hints to the puzzle of Area X.

But here’s the thing: there were also long passages that made me quite sleepy, and, as usual, I have a number of other non-book things at that periphery of my consciousness, peeping for attention. If I would have loved this, it may have been worth a re-read to better understanding of the genesis of Area X and the relationship the characters have with it. But it isn’t, not right now. Still, the writing is something special, as well as the concept, and I can always get behind a good environmental message. I recommend it, with the caveats that you are wide awake and in the mood for ambiguity and metaphor.

"‘I can’t go down there,’ Whitby says, in such a final way that he must be thinking that in the descent he would no longer be Whitby. The hollows of his face, even in that vibrant, late-summer light, make him look haunted by a memory he hasn’t had yet.“
Profile Image for Kaora.
585 reviews282 followers
October 11, 2018
For those of you like me who loved Annihilation and struggled with Authority, you will be happy to know that this book is more like Annihilation than Authority. We are back in Area-X with Ghost Bird and Control, although there are multiple view points alternating through this book that also bring us back to the history of Area-X.

The thing that I adore most about these books is the writing. The haunting metaphors that set the tone for this mind-fuck of a novel. The pacing was perfect, and the book drew me in from the first page and did not let go, something I struggled with a midst the politics of Authority.

The characters can be a bit confusing, especially since many of them have given up their prior names and go by nicknames. Such as Biologist, The Director or Control, although they may be referred to as their other names on occasion.

This is not a book that you can speed read, since you will miss some important details, and not get the full effect of the amazing writing.

While it doesn't answer all the questions posed in the first two books, I do feel like many of the important ones are answered, and I love it when details that seem insignificant come back in a big way. Chekhov's guns in disguise, just waiting to go off. It makes me want to go back and re-read the entire series, so I can discover elements I never noticed before.

While everything isn't tied up in a neat little package, Vandermeer allows us to draw our own conclusions from the end, a fitting finish for this trilogy and one that will keep you thinking about this book hours after you close it.

Highly recommended for fans of weird Science Fiction or weird in general.

Cross posted at: Kaora's Corner
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
September 19, 2019
The face of someone watching Mulholland Drive for the first time.

For me, I was mesmerized by the first two books in the trilogy, entranced by VanderMeer’s writing like watching a cool street magician. But the bubble burst here and I blinked and came back to the world, realizing that while it was entertaining and fun to watch, the performance art was only just that.

Taking themes, styles and inspiration from JG Ballard, Jack Finney, and Eugène Ionesco, Jeff VanderMeer has crafted an extraordinarily original story of environmental and biological concerns.

Magic realism and inventive allegory abounds and VanderMeer demonstrates not only his great talent but also his deft ability to form an impressionistic vision of environmentalism.

For speculative fiction literati.

Profile Image for Mike.
502 reviews378 followers
October 6, 2014
I am afraid to report that I found the final installment of The Southern Reach Trilogy to be a disappointment and let down. After really enjoying the first two books in this series, Annihilation and Authority this verdict pains me. VanderMeer succeeded in creating this weird, amazing world populated by fascinating characters. But all the promise and potential of the first two books were squandered, in my opinion, by Acceptance's ending.

Spoilers for the series and this book follow, so be wary.

The first two books were told from one point of view, the Biologist and Control respectively. This allows VanderMeer to establish a very specific atmosphere for each of these books: a strange, alien, yet seemingly pristine, natural environmental for Annihilation and a byzantine bureaucratic labyrinth that Control must get control of in Authority. Acceptance, in a departure from this pattern, provided multiple points of view. To a degree this is good. I got to see some past events in the Director's and Lighthouse Keeper's lives before Area X manifested and before the events of Annihilation. I found the character of the Director and the Lighthouse keeper to be quite interesting and enjoyable. However, this shattering of the narrative prevented a definitive ambience from being established. As a result I did not feel as immersed in this book as the previous books.

But my biggest problem with this book is the lack a closure for the majority of the characters. I can certainly understand the choices to leave the fates of Control and the Biologist ambiguous at the end of the first two books. But when this book ends, we do not know the fate of Control (or what his new form is or what was in the shining light), what befell earth/Area X (not to mention Lowry and Southern Reach) as Ghostbird and Gloria pick their way through a transformed landscape, what the final fate of the transformed lighthouse keeper, and why Area X was so interested in the Director's memories. I was left expecting some sort of closure for these character arcs but never got it.

I really liked how VanderMeer constructed Area X. It was the very definition of alien, lacking a common ground for humans to interact with it. I think the nature of Area X vis a vis humanity was aptly summer up by Saul the lighthouse keeper.

Saul: That fish down there sure is frightened of you.
Gloria: Huh? It just doesn't know me. If it knew me, that fish would shake my hand.
Saul:I don't think there's anything you could say to convince it of that. And there are all kinds of ways you could hurt it without meaning to.

And that is Area X encapsulated. Humanity is the fish that Area X is unable to communicate with and it is indeed hurting us as it tried to communicate and make sense of Earth. In fact I thought the nature Area X was pretty darn nifty: a sort of biological Von Neumann Probes from a dead world that it tries to recreate. And humans (among everything else) is just raw material for it to sculpt as it sees fit.

There is a lot of love about this book. I loved the Ligthhouse Keeper character and his relationship with Gloria. I thought is was awesome what the biologist turned into, but would have liked a lot more about her instead of her just being a near mindless force of nature. I liked the personal journey of the Director and her maneuverings against Lowry (which was a character I would have loved to have gotten to know better). The Seance and Science Brigade was very intriguing but woefully underdeveloped.

Had this book merely been the third installment of a four (or more) book series this would have been a solid four star book. But because this is (as far as I am aware) the end of the line, the lack of closure and resolution really rankled me. If you are going to make me care so much about the characters in the story, at least do my the courtesy of telling me what befalls them.
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,389 reviews1,469 followers
July 10, 2017
Acceptance answers any lingering questions that the reader may have concerning Area X. I found it much more satisfying than the second entry. But, I don't think that either the second or third book approached the brilliance of the first.

Beyond the revelations about Area X, this book also explains some of the relationships between characters. "Sometimes.. other people gave you their light, and could seem to flicker, to be hardly visible at all, if no one took care of them. Because they'd given you too much and had nothing left for themselves." pg 60.

The reader discovers some major surprises. I won't say anything else because... no spoilers!

Jeff VanderMeer's descriptive passages are beautiful, something that all three books shared: "Soon after the storm, the trail they followed wound back to the sea along a slope of staggered hills running parallel to the water. The wet ground, the memory of those dark rivulets, made the newly seeded soil seem almost mirthful. Ahead lay the green outline of the island, illumined by the dark gold light of late afternoon." pg 108.

And Area X is as mysterious as ever: "In the lengthening silence and solitude, Area X sometimes would reveal itself in unexpected ways." pg 178. And also: "Never has a setting been so able to live without the souls traversing it." pg 241.

I am glad that I took the time to read all three books. I think that VanderMeer's entire concept of Area X is brilliant.

The series as a whole is strange but wonderful. Admittedly, the second book is the weakest and I barely made it through it. But, in hindsight, it fills in some blanks that contribute to the bigger picture.

Recommended for readers who like their science fiction with a large side of horror/suspense.
Profile Image for Richard.
233 reviews7 followers
September 18, 2014
There's a paragraph or two in Acceptance that perfectly sums up my feelings about this trilogy(So much so that I had to look it up!). The key line is - "The allure of the island lay in its negation of why". The author is talking about how humans constantly need to have a purpose, constantly need to find the why behind something and neglect to just accept the `what` of something.

Its so apt, because its exactly what happened to these books. Area X is summoned up in all its glory in the first book. Things just are - it feels like there is meaning behind it all, but its opaque and weird. Its fascinating!

But then.... along plopped Authority and to a large degree Acceptance too. Both books don't expand on the amazing world building of Annihilation. Its all backstory. Dreary characters discovering pointless things about themselves and their co-workers/mothers/lighthouse keepers/past expedition members. All plot mechanics - all focused on the why and how rather than the what. Everyone's backstory explored to the point of pain.

Maybe thats intentional, and largely its about humans ineffectiveness in the face of something so alien, but I found it the most tedious way to deal with this fascinating subject.

There's occasionally a connection made that I think i'm supposed to see as a revelation (Lowry's identity, Controls mum, etc etc), but to me, it came off as cheap and totally perfunctory to the point of the book(the amazing bio-horror of Area X, the thing we cannot understand).

Maybe it was just weighted too heavily towards the characters. I just never cared or clicked with any of them. And to be fair, Acceptance does have a handful of pages of great Area X stuff, but it was nowhere near enough in a 350 page book.

Its possible I have entirely misunderstood what this is all about, so i'll be hungrily reading all your(mostly positive it seems!) reviews on here to try to discover what I missed.

Also - the covers are among the most beautiful covers i've ever seen.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,065 reviews1,905 followers
March 29, 2016

Bodies could be beacons, too, Saul knew. A lighthouse was a fixed beacon for a fixed purpose; a person was a moving one. But people still emanated light in their way, still shone across the miles as a warning, an invitation, or even just a static signal. People opened up so they became a brightness, or they went dark. They turned their light inward sometimes, so you couldn't see it, because they had no other choice.

The final exploration of Area X. After the catastrophic and horrifying events that took place in Authority, this ragtag group of individuals is not really an expedition, but a patchwork mash-up of survivors trying to make sense of the feral, mysterious, blossoming explosion of nature called Area X.

To recap: Area X is a large area of coast and swampland in Florida that is completely cut-off from humanity. Vines grow over everything, the ocean teams with fish, and the land is overflowing with an abundance of animals - some familiar, and some never seen before by human eyes. When the border went up, 30 years ago - 1,500 people died (or were never seen again and assumed dead) as they were consumed by this sudden apparition of wilderness. Now, the government has been sending in expeditions composed of teams of scientists in a desperate attempt to understand what's going on.

Those expeditions have been massive failures. The teams either kill themselves, kill each other, disappear, or come back - as personality-less, hollow shells of their former selves. One notable expedition came back riddled with cancer - all of them died within 6 months of coming back.

No one knows how anyone returns - they just appear, disoriented and confused.


This book is, I believe, the weakest of the trilogy. Annihilation is the strongest. You can read Annihilation and enjoy it, love it, and never read the other two books. It can stand on its own two feet. But if you want answers (like I did) you will continue reading - because Annihilation sure leaves you with a lot of questions.

That being said, I still think Acceptance deserves five stars.

The writing is gorgeous.

She had panicked for a second as the water pressed in on her, evoked her own drowning. But then something had turned on, or had come back, and raging against her own death, she had exulted in the sensation of the sea, welcomed having to fight her way to the surface - bursting through such a joyful hysteria of biomass - as a sort of proof that she was not ---, that she was some new thing that could, wanting to survive, cast out her fear of drowning belonging to another.

--- = character's name x-ed out so no spoilers

Look at this. bursting through such a joyful hysteria of biomass. I mean, that is just exquisite. And the book is brimming with wonderful amazing sentences and paragraphs that you can get lost in.

I read the book twice: I read it, and then turned to page 1 immediately to read it again. Half of this was because it was so beautiful, half of it was because there are a lot of complex things going on in this book that need a second reading to really coalesce in your mind.

This book is a horror story. Not 'horror' as in Stephen King, buckets of blood and possessed cars and stuff. (Not dissing him, I'm a King fan - but it's a different kind of scary). Horror as in slow, creeping insanity, doppelgängers, hearing strange noises in the kitchen at night, etc. etc. etc. There's no villain, there's no tangible enemy of any kind. That's what makes it so frightening. Some of the stupider characters in the book just can't seem to grasp that you can't fight Area X with guns and bullets - in fact, you can't fight it at all. It's as pointless as raging against the ocean or the sky.

Z had walked into the light to find Y staring at her with fear, with suspicion, and she had smiled at Y, had told her not to be afraid. Not to be afraid. Why be afraid of what you could not prevent? Did not want to prevent. Were they not evidence of survival? Were they not evidence of some kind? Both of them. There was nothing to warn anyone about. The world went on, even as it fell apart, changed irrevocably, became something strange and different.

*Z and Y used in place of actual character names.

It's also science-fiction. I've heard it described as "cli-fi," as in science fiction with a slant on "we're destroying our planet," a la Paolo Bacigalupi, but I hate this term. It makes a reader think that this is going to be preachy or self-righteous and that is not at all what this trilogy is like. It is fun, exciting, and edge-of-your-seat reading. I didn't find it the least bit sanctimonious. So read on with no fear! Except, perhaps, the fear that comes with reading any horror novel.

Some of the reasons I think this is the weakest entry in the trilogy:

We are in a lot of people's heads. Four different 'main characters' in this one, and we get all their points of view. Three in third-person and one in second-person (which is fun. I like second-person when it's done well). However, being involved in so many different POVs is adding a bit of complexity to an already very complex book. This is one reason I suggest reading it twice.

Another thing is that the first half of the book is not that exciting, not that 'scary.' VanderMeer doesn't really start delivering the blows until page 193. From then on it's a faster-paced freefall into awesomeness, but you do have to get through that first half to reach this. IT'S WORTH IT. And the first half is not a slog - far from it. VanderMeer's writing is beautiful and you are also, by this point, familiar with - and curious about - the characters so that you are interested in seeing them and getting to know them better. But still, fair warning. Don't get fed up with the lack of 'action' and quit early.

There's some great twists in here, and I was happy with the way everything turned up. Even though VanderMeer is not super-explicit, I feel like I have a pretty firm understanding of Area X and what it does after closing this book. People who need a very direct, pat explanation and everything spelled out for them ARE NOT going to be happy or satisfied with this trilogy. However, if you want an amazing trilogy with beautiful writing, fascinating and mysterious concepts, OMG-OMG-OMG horror that will have you riveted - this is the trilogy for you.

You are still there for a moment, looking out over the sea toward the lighthouse and the beautiful awful brightness of the world.
Before you are nowhere.
Before you are everywhere.

P.S. VanderMeer also - throughout the whole trilogy does a GREAT and AMAZING job of making characters of all different types: black, white, Latino, Asian, gay, hetero, bisexual - without making it seem glaring. He does this so seamlessly, so effortlessly, that the reader just falls into this. So many authors try to make "diverse characters" but end up drawing so much attention to their "diverseness" that it's distracting and annoying. "Look at this character. He's Indian. He's eating chapati. Did I mention he's Indian? He says, "Namaste" in this one scene. BECAUSE HE'S INDIAN." I hate this. Authors who do this are missing the whole entire point of making a 'diverse' cast of characters. The idea is not to hammer home how wonderful you are and how progressive you are for having non-white, or non-heterosexual characters - it's to make having non-white and non-heterosexual characters just a normal part of life. Not questioned, not commented upon to excess, not overanalyzed - just existing. VanderMeer pulls this off perfectly. So does Michael J. Martínez, whose The Daedalus Incident I also highly recommend.

P.P.S. People closest to nature already tend to survive and even thrive in Area X, unlike people who are wrapped up in cities and humanity and bureaucracy and taking showers and stuff. LOL But seriously, this is why

P.P.P.S. Strong women. If you enjoy strong women and female characters who are strong but NOT Mary-Sues, this is the trilogy for you. Multi-faceted, a mixture of goodness and malice, playing both the heroes of the piece and the villains, VanderMeer is wonderful in this regard.
Profile Image for Emily B.
442 reviews440 followers
July 1, 2021
I didn’t get the answers I wanted from this book so it was pretty disappointing. I prefer when things are explained, specially after three books.

I did like Saul’s story and did appreciate what was added to the story that was first presented in the first book.
Profile Image for Caro the Helmet Lady.
773 reviews349 followers
July 15, 2017
Wow, this book. Wow, this series. I know it will haunt me for a while now and I will have to read something of completely different genre, because I will try and compare any other sci-fi or fantasy book to it through some period of time. And it will win. Because the language was gorgeous and the world was hypnotic and Biologist/Ghost Bird wormed in deep into my brain like that Saul's sliver of light. I guess this whole story had this effect on me.

Acceptance was as good as Annihilation was, while it was different, more versatile. Seemingly less trippy, while even more trippy and crazy. It answered all questions and even those unanswered were OK as they remained unanswered. I never wanted books to give 100% explanations, it often only ruins the fun. This time the comparison with Solaris came to mind, in a good way of course. Would this sound as a blasphemy if I said this was in some way stronger than Solaris?
Comparing to movies Beyond the Black Rainbow comes to mind, somehow.

I feel like rereading the whole thing now to be honest. I can't process right now.
Would love to discuss.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,102 followers
September 14, 2015
Really 3.5 stars

I'm already tired of my previous argument that the first book was the unconscious and the second was the superego. There's no where else for this book to go except a healthy balance: Hence the name, Acceptance. My argument is too trite and obvious.

So, instead, I'll move on to how this novel either succeeds or doesn't as an actual novel meant to entertain us.

I had issues with the previous novel which did get much better once the Authority crumbled, and this novel takes place entirely in Area X, which I very much prefer. The place is a character, after all, and it had been filled with so many delicious developments that it was a shame to just get a dry point-by-point debriefing. I wanted to be plopped right back into the action, to revel in the gorging fruit and flame, and enjoy that unbearable lightness of being.

Well, as the argument goes, we've got a compromise.

The book is chock-full of good reveals, but unlike the first novel, the timing on them weren't quite as good. The first novel had an excellent horror aesthetic, rising and falling between intellectualism, memory, and being absolutely confronted by the Id becoming externalized, backing off and rushing forward like the tide.

This novel is stuffed full of characters like Saul the Lighthouse Keeper, living out his last days before the great change to the Area, (which I liked a lot), Grace the original psychologist and the director of the Southern Reach, her past and her current new self, Control, and (thank goodness,) Ghost Bird. All of them do their part to fill in the gaps we've been missing, and there's a lot of gaps that had to be filled, but that's the purpose of Ego. It's here to make sense of things that can't be quantified, just like Area X.

Here's your first warning about spoilers, people.

I really WANT to talk about the reveals. They're fun and worthwhile. I want to have a nice long discussion about them with people who like But I won't, out of respect for those who still want to be surprised. Because, let's face it, if you've gotten this far, you're RELYING on the surprises to keep you going, because the plot is kinda unreliable and organic, which fits the theme, of course, but if you're looking for something to actually HAPPEN, or for the Area to finally be Provoked, as was hinted at earlier, then you'll be disappointed.

Can a novel be carried entirely by it's reveals? No. Can they be entirely carried by only a few of the characters, who, like cancer victims, must find in themselves a reason to carry on despite everything that has happened? Maybe. It always depends on how the story spins out and what kind of things we can pull away from the tale, as readers.

Some people are going to take away a lot more from this novel than me. I loved the ideas. I'll rank this novel very high as an idea novel, rather than one that is written well. What really pains me is the hints that Mr. VanderMeer IS a very talented writer, full of great aesthetics and a great sense of timing, which, unfortunately, he declined to pull out for the readers in the second and third novels. (It's not quite as bad, in the third novel. My interest was held much more in it than in the second.)

I just feel as if the novel could have been great with a bit more plot-push or a complete submersion back into the weird. Either way, we bring it back to the characters, or we bring it Fully into Area X as character.

*sigh* Apparently, I have to Accept that the Area (the Id) and the scheming people (superego) must make up a third, ultimately less satisfying character.

Sure. It might be healthy to integrate the two, and it is a mark of character growth, whether it is within Us, as readers, or the peeps we are reading about, but let me ask the important question:

"Don't we, as readers, read for the conflicts, and not the resolution?"

It's where the action is. It's what puts us at the edges of our seats. Acceptance means the loss of conflict. Great for living life, but not so great for the readers of an obviously excellent setup and prolonged execution of an idea story that happened to have truly fascinating and well-drawn characters. It has so much potential. It's really reaching for the stars. I love that about it. I just wish I hadn't felt cheated at the end. We're still sitting on the fence. Neither Id nor Superego are going to win this one. It is ongoing, forever.

*sigh* Happiness and adjustment, in this case, is very off-putting and creepy, especially if you're eventually going to .

(And don't argue with me about the thousands of great examples in Horror that leave us without happy endings. This is a one-off of those. This is an unhappy ending posing as a well-thought-out exposition and persuasive argument telling us that it's actually a happy ending. Or it's the ultimate argument, taken to extremes, of "Life must go on".)

I really want to like the novels, people. I really do. There's a lot going on that I appreciate with my brain and it's turtles all the way down. It's my heart that rebels.

On the other hand, I'm totally open to comments and discussions on this one. It deserves a lot more than just this.

Profile Image for ren ♡ .
340 reviews624 followers
December 19, 2022
Acceptance was an absolute fucking masterpiece. The Southern Reach series is definitely one of my favourite series of all time. The end had me sobbing.

As with the first two, this book was beautifully written; the prose was too die for. I also loved the multiple POV's and how disjointed the narrative felt at times, it really added to the tension and nightmarish quality of the story. If I could write like VanderMeer, I'd quit my job and just write for a living. And I have to give credit where credit is due - VanderMeer writes amazing female characters, and ya'll know some male authors cannot write women for shit.

I can definitely see why this series is so polarising though, there were so many questions left unanswered. I read a few reviews that claimed the whole book was a cop-out or a result of bad planning, but I whole-heartedly disagree. The Southern Reach series is about the journey and the questions we ask along the way, rather than the destination. If you're constantly looking for answers, you're going to miss out on so much amazing story telling. I also think having questions left answered is very much a reflection of the limits of humans when faced with the extraordinary... which is essentially what this story is about. What can we do when we face something that is ultimately unknowable?

So, if you like clear-cut answers, this series is not going to be for you., but if you want to be mesmerized and you like weird fiction, this series will blow you away.

(And for those of you who don't know, this was once a trilogy but VanderMeer did announce that there will be a fourth book! I am over the moon! I am not ready to let go of Southern Reach and Area X just yet.)

Rating: 5/5
Profile Image for Andrea McDowell.
582 reviews334 followers
August 24, 2023
I have a hypothesis about this series.

If you like boundaries between civilization and nature, humans and animals, intellect and emotion, you would probably classify these books as horror. And if you aren't particularly invested in those boundaries, you won't.

I've read a number of reviews (both official and non) about these books that discuss how terrifying they are. But they're not. At least, not for me, and believe me, I've got a thin skin and a poor stomach for most horror. This was just life. An odd, alien, sometimes disturbing life, to be sure, but not particularly scary.

At its foundation I think this series is ecological. The "horror" at its centre is just an elimination of the lines we draw between what is human and what is not. Civilization melts back into wilderness. Humans, after first becoming fascinated with the natural world, then become something Other. The kinship of people with other life forms on our planet is highlighted often. And the limitations of humanity, both in our character and in our reasoning ability, is made very clear.

The character of the Biologist struck me as so true, and I've wanted to give Annihilation to the biologists I know to see what they make of her. Only she really copes well with Area X and its mysteries, and I don't think it's a coincidence that she's anti-social and already allied more closely with the natural world than with her fellow humans.

So it's done. I loved the ending; I loved the way that the author chose his techniques so deliberately based on the books and the narrative. In this one, he switches between second and third, between past and present, between character viewpoints, in a way that is utterly effective and a marked contrast with the previous two. I love how atmospheric they are. I love the detailed and affectionate descriptions of the environment and the ecology, both within and outside of Area X. I loved the whole thing, and now once this year's reading challenge is over (curses), I have another trilogy to re-read from start to finish.
Profile Image for Trish.
2,017 reviews3,436 followers
February 16, 2018
You could know the what of something forever and never discover the why.
The only solution to the environment is neglect, which requires our collapse.

In my opinion, these are the most important quotes from this book as they explain the entire trilogy.
Sometimes there just aren’t the kind of answers we’d like.

In this third and last book of the Southern Reach trilogy we get three different POVs: the one of the lighthouse keeper, Saul Evans, beginning before the border came down and Area X was created; the one of the psychologist / director, Gloria, starting almost simultaneous to the one of the lighthouse keeper’s and then progressing to the events when/how she became director, until her death in Area X; the one of Control and Ghost Bird in what I would call present day Area X (sort of).
We also get different POVs and timelines within these three POVs (such as the journal of the original biologist within the POV of Control and Ghost Bird). The book lets these different POVs converge and collide here.
Some theories already hinted at in the previous books are confirmed, such as the fact that the border isn’t actually shutting Area X off, not completely; that it has a biological effect (like plants growing differently or faster) as much as a psychological influence on people (explaining the ineffectiveness of the research into the phenomenon, Lowry, and the general slowing down of any potentially effective counter-measures from humans).
Thus, we get to know what Saul Evans was like before he became the Crawler, what made the psychologist so weird and yet kept her in her position at Southern Reach, the power plays at Southern Reach that damaged so much of the research, what happened to the biologist after the end of the first book, what qualified her for the expedition in the first place (no, it had nothing to do with her husband) and, yes, we get a pretty good picture of what happened that prompted the emergence of Area X with all its consequences. However, the author is too good and too sly to just hand us the resolution. Certain things remain mysterious but still palpable, giving us just enough to make a kind of sense of things, but leaving us with enough room for each and every reader to draw their own conclusion and take away what the individual needs.

I do have to point out how much I like how the author included people of different ethnicities (Control being Latino, the director being of Native decent) and different sexual orientations and how it rides in the back, never shoving its way into the foreground, but being there, all normal, like it is supposed to be. It fleshes several characters out without being their sole definition and is the kind of characterization/writing that should be „normal“ in this day and age. Representation without making a big deal out of it. Effortless.

My favorite POVs were that of the psychologist and Control / Ghost Bird although I don’t very much liked Control. He was like the boy with a toy gun, who had never really grown up, had never been allowed to fully grow up because that made him much more pliable for his mother, who received and followed orders and as soon as he didn’t have those anymore, didn’t have a mission - he just fell apart. Nevertheless, that POV, as well as the psychologist’s provided us with so many rich and vibrant descriptions of the area, even before it became Area X. The fauna, the flora, the ocean … the author once again sucking me into his rich descriptions of nature that made me feel right at home.
The lighthouse keeper’s POV was brilliant, too, make no mistake. However, that one was more supposed to provide background and clicking certain pieces into place, while the other two - at least at first - were still about exploration and discovery.

Things are much more connected than I first thought although I had had some slight suspicions. This also ties all three books to one another in a rather nice and natural way.

It was fascinating how . Nevertheless, Area X seemed to . A message in and of itself, especially considering how the author always tied it back to what we’re doing to our environment.
And the sheer creativeness of what the humans are transformed into in Area X (the Crawler as much as what became the Moaner or, later, what the biologist had turned into) was simply a delight.

There was one passage that resonated with me and yet I couldn’t agree with: . A paradox, certainly, and yet this not only shows the depth of contemplation the author underwent and prompts the reader to undergo, an examination of what it is to be human (all facets), not to mention the beauty of the author’s prose, but it also is, in itself, the explanation because being human is a paradox. After all, we can be brilliant and kind and caring and indifferent and cruel and stupid - we can be the problem, but also the solution.
Later, the book also defies the passage above by revealing that .

The trilogy mostly is about death and loss, obsession and, finally, acceptance.

Thus, if it was nature’s way of fighting back, an alternate dimension pressing in after a rift had been created, perhaps even a biological weapon from some creature from another planet or alternate dimension, a remnant of an insanely advanced ancient civilization that no longer exists, a new universe being born … - we’ll never know for sure. My take is that . After all, .
It’s not really important either. Like I said, it’s up to the reader to fill in the blanks and let Area X grow and populate the imagination.

Accept. Just accept. (And use the damn phone. *lol*)

Profile Image for Melki.
6,038 reviews2,388 followers
September 18, 2014
Area X was looking at her through dead eyes. Area X was analyzing her from all sides. It made her feel like an outline created by the regard bearing down on her, one that moved only because the regard moved with her, held her constituent atoms together in a coherent shape. And yet the eyes upon her felt familiar.

I'm not sure why none of these books have captured me like Annihilation. There was just something about those four nameless female scientists that held me rapt and it has not been repeated in the other titles.

Vandermeer has conjured a beautifully lush yet deadly landscape, teeming with wildlife both real and imaginary. Unfortunately, the characters are not quite as full of life and frankly, they leave me cold. In this volume, I did enjoy the scenes shared by Gloria and Saul, the lighthouse keeper, but the others, even Ghost Bird and Control, bored me.

There are a few moments of suspense and dread here, and questions are answered, but by that time I had stopped caring. If I knew then what I know now, I'd have stopped at the end of the first book.
Profile Image for Matthew Chiabotti.
8 reviews4 followers
October 4, 2014
I so badly wanted to like this. Truth be told, I only stuck it out because I was already 2 books invested into the trilogy. By the end it became a chore just trying to finish. If I could go back in time, I would have stopped with Annihilation as a great stand-alone piece of weird fiction. Do yourself a favor, read Annihilation and then stop. You won't ever get the adequate answers you seek, and the mystery created by the first book only gets watered down by the remaining two.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,046 followers
November 5, 2014
I loved 'Annihilation'; I had a few doubts about 'Authority' - but 'Acceptance' pulled it all back together.

However, if anyone reading this is thinking about starting here: don't. You will be totally lost. I actually think you could conceivably skip the middle volume, but 'Annihilation' is a required prerequisite.

'Acceptance' brings us back to the depths of Area X.
The book has a lot of jump-cuts and flashbacks (I actually think it might've worked better chronologically, but that's not what VanderMeer wanted to do, so I'll just have to accept it).

The main character here is Saul, the lighthouse keeper/former preacher. Where before he was a cipher, merely a figure in an old photograph, here he becomes a fully realized and fascinating individual - and we find out how his presence at the inception of Area X may have influenced the direction of events to come...

We also learn more about the Science and Séance Bureau - and how they might've been involved.

And of course - the biologist, her duplicate, and what happened there...

The language is beautiful. Especially as one is just entering the book (and it does feel like entering, like crossing the barrier) it is truly striking how lovely the phrasing is. In some senses this trilogy is a work of apocalyptic horror - but one can't help feeling a certain awesome beauty in what is happening, and the way in which the story is told reflects that.

There are layers and hints of symbolism here as well - but it remains indefinite what elements of the story are meant to stand for something, and which are there just because they ARE. There's a lot of room for the reader to bring their own interpretations.

As the book ends, there is a slight sense of frustration, which, for me was gradually replaced by a sense of, yes, acceptance. Upon contemplation, I actually think that VanderMeer answered just enough of the many questions he created, and left just enough open-ended.
Profile Image for Tammie.
219 reviews57 followers
April 11, 2018
Though not the best conclusion, I enjoyed the entire Southern Reach Trilogy. The series was strange but also incredibly well-written and completely unique. I have to admit that I found Acceptance the weaker of the three books, with Annihilation being my favorite. I’d recommend this trilogy to science fiction fans or people wanting to read something that is different/original.
Profile Image for Ilenia Zodiaco.
267 reviews14k followers
November 7, 2015
"Accettazione" - capitolo conclusivo della trilogia dell’Area X - è l’ennesima apnea nel conturbante oceano creato da Jeff Vandermeer.
Preparatevi a rimanere intrappolati, come i protagonisti, per delle lunghissime ore nell’Area x, per di più nel bel mezzo dell’inverno. Se Autorità - secondo capitolo della trilogia - adottava un punto di vista esterno alla Zona anomala e ci offriva un quadro meno compromesso, un’inquadratura dal confine, in Accettazione ci troviamo di nuovo nel caos dell’Area X, a fare i conti con tutte le sue bizzarrie faunistiche e anomalie topografiche.

“Quando hai deciso di entrare nell’Area X hai rinunciato al diritto di dire che una cosa è impossibile”.

Ancora una volta, infatti, è lei la protagonista decisiva della narrazione: l’Area X. Lo scenario inquietante, dipinto da Vandermeer, vede l’uomo ostaggio di un luogo che gli è ostile o, ancor peggio, indifferente a tal punto da fagocitarlo per istinto. La natura ha acquisito coscienza propria, un proprio respiro, una propria volontà. Dall’incontro con questo orrendo ignoto nascono l’ossessione e la paranoia della contaminazione che seguono le classiche atmosfere del body horror (le copertine disegnate da LRNZ danno un’idea). L’ambientazione creata da Vandermeer rappresenta l’ecosistema naturale danneggiato, la prefigurazione di una Natura che, dopo essere stata a lungo contaminata, sia andata incontro ad una trasformazione che anziché farla morire, l’abbia portata ad assumere la capacità di attuare un’invasione, agendo completamente al di fuori della portata dell’uomo. Risuona beffarda di sottofondo l’impotente retorica delle Smart Cities a misura d’uomo (e magari con tanti spazi verdi!). Per quanto l’Area X sia un’ambientazione aliena, nel terzo capitolo diventa ancora più evidente il sospetto che sia certamente il prodotto dell’azione umana e quindi sua precisa responsabilità. Di definizioni per descrivere questo particolare filone ne sono state date tante: new weird, eco-thriler, climate fiction…
Tutti figli del grande calderone dello sci-fi, che si presta benissimo a rappresentare i diversi scenari del mondo che verrà. Sembrerebbe che tutti cullino lo stesso presentimento: il futuro sarà da incubo, soprattutto se continuiamo ad agire indiscriminatamente sull’ambiente che ci circonda.

La trilogia s’incastra su un binomio particolare: da un lato l’ombra della responsabilità umana, dall’altro l’impotenza dei personaggi contro questa nuova Forza che li infetta. I protagonisti infatti sembrano sotto scacco, sempre frustrati dall’inconoscibilità dei misteri dell’Area X. Questo impasse viene parzialmente superato in Accettazione che - per quanto il titolo presupponga una sorta di rassegnazione a fare i conti con forze più potenti di noi - si risolve in un finale particolare, in cui il “sacrificio” e il libero arbitrio dell’uomo contano ancora qualcosa.
Lo stato psicologico dei personaggi è, di nuovo, centrale, forse ancora di più che negli altri capitoli. La narrazione risulta più densa, ricca di personaggi e sfaccettature. Ci si muove tra più piani temporali(numerosi sono i flashback che contribuiscono a dipanare molti dei misteri lasciati in sospeso negli altri volumi) e diversi punti di vista che danno più dinamismo alla storia, soprattutto se paragonati al punto di vista unico dei precedenti capitoli, a volte asfissiante. Spesso pesa eccessivamente l'indugiare dell'autore in descrizioni macchinose sull'alterazione mentale dei personaggi ma è innegabile che i protagonisti, stavolta, hanno più agency. Soprattutto perché Vandermeer utilizza l’Area X come una sorta di purgatorio in cui pagare gli sbagli, le scelte (e le non scelte) della propria vita:
“Varcare il confine significava entrare in un purgatorio dove trovavi tutte le cose perse e dimenticate”.
L’idea è quella di creare un luogo estremo in cui le percezioni siano alterate, amplificati i ricordi, i rimpianti. Accettazione è il più insidioso dei tre capitoli, si muove tra due mondi, all’interno dell’Area X e all’esterno, nel mondo della vita quotidiana e nel mondo dove tutto è possibile e dove però tutto sembra allo stesso tempo più intenso, più reale.
“L’unico pensiero che si insinua la sera, dopo un appuntamento dal medico o un salto al supermercato: in che mondo vivo in realtà?Puoi esistere in entrambi?”.

Molto insistito è il motivo dello sguardo, creatore di mondi, che ricorda la metafora cinematografica. Si riflette nel continuo rimando all’idea di sorveglianza che c’è all’interno dell’Area X - “Del resto in quei luoghi qualunque cosa spiava e veniva spiata”- sia nel rimando continuo alla luce (tutto sembra animarsi sempre con un’illuminazione o un luccichio) e addirittura si fa un’ipotesi azzardata su come tutto possa essere nato per colpa di una lente…
C’è anche un fondo di metaletterario in Vandermeer: la figura dello Scriba in primis, ma in maniera più sottile, ciò che vedo, vive. Ciò che illumino, creo. Ciò che scrivo, forgio.

Infine, nella trilogia, tutto è connesso. Luoghi e persone presenziano nella narrazione sempre come immagini speculari, doppioni che vivono in simbiosi. Il faro che rimanda ad un altro faro, il tunnel che gli è speculare, i doppioni fantocci ecc…
“Un faro che proiettava il suo segnale verso un altro faro”.

La trilogia dell’Area X è così conclusa. Un lavoro che è intessuto di echi, rimandi, il meglio delle suggestioni dello scrittore (in primis, Lost), rielaborati in questa trilogia “anomala”, una breccia nella mente, una singolarità. S’inserisce perfettamente nelle tendenze dello storytelling contemporaneo: serialità e coralità, un universo immersivo , capace di catturare il lettore con ingegno e raffinatezza.

Unico appunto: avrei forse preferito più concretezza nella descrizione di alcune "creature" che popolano l'Area X, meno vaghezza. Ammetto di non essermi immaginata molti dettagli, descritti in maniera fin troppo ermetica.

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Profile Image for Nicole.
99 reviews8 followers
March 17, 2018
What the fuck.

What the fuck???

What. The. Fuuuuuuuuuuuucccccckkkkkkk.

In case that wasn't enough to warn you, this isn't going to be a nice review. Spoilers below (nothing major because nothing gets answered, but read at your own risk).

I'm so freakin' pissed right now, at the fact that both my time and money were spent on this absolute fuckery of a series. How trailed along I was, just hoping it would get better, wanting it to get better because goddammit it was a great premise and originally it sounded so intriguing and so cool and the idea could have been taken in so many different directions! How curious I was at how allllllll of this mystery and weirdness would loop back around and be tied together. This series is a highway robbery.

Okay, so let's recap all of the weirdness we have come across in Area X, all of which should, technically, be addressed in the third book, since this is, after all, wrapping up the series. Which usually means tying up loose ends.

- The "topographical anomaly"/tower tunneling into the earth, the walls of which are living tissue (QUESTION #1 THAT IS NEVER ANSWERED: WHY ARE THE WALLS LIVING TISSUE THAT BREATH? WHY INCLUDE THIS DETAIL IF YOU WILL LITERALLY NEVER TOUCH ON IT AGAIN EXCEPT TO ADD WEIRDNESS FACTOR???) Sorry. Whew. Breathe. Okay.

- There's this Crawler entity that used to be the lighthouse keeper, Saul Evans, who is writing weird evil script down the side of the walls, and the words are made of glowing plant-like things that have spores, and that are alive. (Question #2: What is this plant made of? What is the Crawler exactly? Is there any part of Saul Evans that is left alive in there?)

- Area X "infects" people and "changes" them, the nature of this infection is not quite clear, it seems to range from increasing paranoia and delusion to creating a "brightness" in someone. This "brightness" is never explained and seems to waver between literally brightness coming out of your body, to a metaphorical feeling of disembodiment, to a feeling akin to a second skin, sometimes though it's around the face or the heart or wherever the fuck. (Question #3: This is just plain old vague, what is this exactly? A parasite? An infestation? A sickness? The result of being examined by higher beings?)

- When people die in Area X, they are turned into animals/monsters that have the capacity of awareness? Area X can also create copies, or doppelgangers, of people. Sometimes you get both a doppelganger and turned into a monster. The "brightness" is used in this transformation both times somehow and you mental state/cognitive makeup has effect on what Area X is able to turn you into?

- Hypnosis alters how things are seen, flesh walls seen as stone, the Crawler seen as all sorts of different people/things

- A weird contracted branch of a shady government organization may or may not have had something to do with the creation of Area X. Literally this is the final answer we are given as to Area X's creation. That there was a sequence of events (vague and unknown) that led the lighthouse lens on the island to be a certain way that involved contamination with an ancient alien civilization (or something?) for an unknown purpose that just happened (through a mysterious phase of events) to be transferred to Saul's lighthouse and infect him and he became the conduit for the organisms controlling Area X? There are also some passages that make it seem as if Area X is sentient itself. Also hints that it may be a parallel universe invading our own. I thought the random theories in Authority were just that: theories. Not real, actual answers in their wholly complete form.

- The border (through other parallel universes? Part of Area X's universe of origin? This part supports that part of the theory) transfers energy and things into other universes unless you go through the door

- There's major feelings of being watched, and beings that are never described, never actually seen in detail, come through "tears" in the sky, ground, etc. Are these the beings in control of Area X, the ones who created it and are trying to re-create their own universe? So that means that Area X isn't sentient itself? Or are they just more monsters inhabiting Area X itself? What do they want? Who are they? What are they? Questions 85-3049 probably. I actually am not keeping count.

- Time moves, like, what, 78% faster in Area X than the rest of the world? Two weeks = three years.

- Hallucinations are rampant and no one knows what's real. Was Lowry's cell really something else in disguise as a cell phone and followed Gloria/Cynthia/the psychologist/the director home?

- There's a bright light and the "bottom" of the Crawler's tower, always seemingly just below him (unless he took a break from writing after the end of Annihilation and just nicely waited for the story to catch up, although then since it was for sure a couple of months in between (real world time) he must have waited centuries. So patient of him.)

- What's through the bright light? What did Control experience when he jumped through?

- What was it that infected Saul in the first place?

- And lastly, why does modern technology not work in Area X?

This book is a hot mess. There was just so much weird shit going on, and so much of it bogged the book down. All of the above are loose ends. Nothing is tied up. Nothing is answered. There are way too many small details and moving parts to the story, and not even the big concepts are tied together and wrapped up. At all. Somehow, the author has managed to write three fucking books and not say a single fucking thing. That's frustrating. I feel bad already for raging, especially considering the promise and the potential that this idea had, and the author's skillful use of language. It could have - should have - been so, so much better than it was.

But sadly, you can't create a good book just from being able to make pretty sentences. You need good characters, world building, and a strong plot. While Ghost Bird and the biologist were both really good characters, they weren't enough to hold the fort down. The world building and plot both had a strategy akin to "let's throw all this shit at the wall and see what sticks." The POV bounces between first person (in the first book), third person (in the second book), culminating to four different viewpoints in the third book, alternating between first, second, and third. Even that felt like overkill. This book was completely aimless. It felt like one long hike through the woods, with all this weirdness sprinkled in, and none of it answered or resolved.

"This mind or these minds asked questions and did not seem interested in hasty answers, did not care if one question birthed six more and if, in the end, none of those six questions led to anything concrete." Funnily enough, a quote from the book that describes how I felt the book was.

". . . Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives while form the dim-lit halls of other places that never could be . . ." (An example of Saul/the Crawler's writing as taken from Authority.)

More like: Where reads the struggling book-lover that resulted from the writing of the author who shall bring forth no answers to the questions to share with the readers that gather in the coffee-places and live in the world with the power of Goodreads while form the anger-and-wine-fueled reviews of other sites that would never be . . .

The Canadian in me already wants to say sorry for the rage review, so I'll have to add that in. Sorry, but don't read this series. It's not worth it.
Profile Image for Timothy Urgest.
529 reviews284 followers
July 10, 2018
Area X opens the door to more questions. Area X embraces and destroys.

Acceptance and The Southern Reach Trilogy as a whole is about experiencing the journey of seeking answers.

Ambiguity rules this trilogy. Answers are not always the outcome. Theory after theory wander the minds of those involved. And communication is not always lingual.
Profile Image for David.
31 reviews
September 13, 2014
i slogged through all 3 of these slim volumes, waiting for a rational explanation of area x. didn't happen. guy can write, but this short story sized plot went on and on and by the end i was sick of the all of the whinny characters and felt stupid having spent all these hours reading the series instead of watching re-runs of battlestar galactica with loren greene.
oh well. peter hamilton has a 600 pager coming out this month, and if you haven't read the void series, get busy.
Profile Image for Maria.
120 reviews10 followers
June 30, 2014
After Authority's "nothing happens and you're gonna like it" plot line, this was exhilarating. The excellent pacing from Annihilation is back! And the beautiful, disturbing prose is still here, as ever.

There are no neat answers here. In fact, I have several questions. I call this "my own damn fault for reading so quickly" (forgive me, it was exciting). Well, I'm not sure how much is that and how much is intended/unintended ambiguity on the part of the author. Which is fitting, for Area X.

If anyone has understood this stuff, and sees this, could you read some ramblings below and tell me if I am way off-base?

Profile Image for Katie.
444 reviews278 followers
April 14, 2018
But what if you discover that the price of purpose is to render invisible so many other things?

So....I loved this a lot. This was better than I ever hoped that it would be, and after the first two I hoped that it would be pretty great. Acceptance is weird and abstract and beautiful and sad.

The final book in VanderMeer's trilogy follows three parallel plotlines: Saul the lighthouse keeper, Gloria's first trip into Area X, and the rag-tag remnant of survivors from Authority. The thing that really makes this book magical, and unique, is that this isn't any sort of last stand. There's no Last Mission to get to Point A and hit Button B to save the world. Rather, the title of this one tells you exactly what this book is all about.

It's hard to review a book that's concerned in part about the limitations of language and human conceptualization. No one here can wrap their mind entirely around what's happening to them or to their world. There's a sense of extravagant, overreaching possibility that permeates this book, the sense that the world is vaster and wilder and more potent than people had ever even thought to assume. There's also the sense that an acknowledgement of this, looking this idea straight in the face, is deeply and irrevocably altering. To pick up one of the books only really heavy-handed metaphors, it's about the voluntary abnegation of control, and all the possibility and peril that entails.

It's the most beautifully-written book in an already beautifully-written trilogy, and I really can't recommend it highly enough. On a side note, it's also an A+ example of how to write interesting female characters with nuance and depth that aren't just Strong Female Characters. Actually, VanderMeer does a great job of including a diverse, interesting cast of characters without hammering it over the head. They're simple there, as interesting characters, which really shouldn't be refreshing by this point but definitely is.

Anyways, thanks for these, Jeff VanderMeer. This series was the best.
Profile Image for Scarlet.
187 reviews1,169 followers
October 3, 2019
"The world we are a part of now is difficult to accept, unimaginably difficult. I don’t know if I accept everything even now. I don’t know how I can. But acceptance moves past denial, and maybe there’s defiance in that, too."

So fitting for the times we live in and where our planet's headed if we don't accept and act on what's so obviously staring us in the face.

Also, this unsettling observation from the biologist:

"The only solution to the environment is neglect, which requires our collapse."
Profile Image for Brandon Baker.
Author 14 books4,578 followers
April 16, 2022
Holy shit. Full written review and video encompassing all three books in the trilogy to come, but it’s safe to say this completely blew my mind.
Profile Image for Fuchsia  Groan.
162 reviews195 followers
November 16, 2019
Cuando hace unos años empecé a leer Veniss Soterrada estaba casi convencida de que Jeff VanderMeer se convertiría en uno de mis autores imprescindibles. Pero terminé la novela con sensaciones encontradas: las descripciones y el mundo creado eran fantásticos, mientras que la historia y los personajes distaban bastante de ser redondos. Con todo, me quedó claro que estaba ante un autor diferente y al que merecía la pena seguir de cerca.

Esta trilogía, Southern Reach, es la que le ha catapultado a la fama, y pese al entusiasmo de la crítica, yo la finalizo con unas sensaciones parecidas a mi impresión inicial, confirmando que la prosa de VanderMeer es fabulosa, y que cuando caiga en mis manos otro de sus libros, volveré a él (y seguramente sentiré de nuevo lo mismo).

La primera novela, Aniquilación, la disfruté mucho y creo que es la mejor de las tres. La agencia gubernamental Southern Reach investiga desde hace años una especie de catástrofe medioambiental de la que se desconocen las causas, enviando expediciones científicas que son incapaces de dar una respuesta al motivo de la formación del Área X, una zona dominada por una naturaleza salvaje, inquietante y desconocida. Todas las expediciones han fracasado, los expertos vuelven siendo meras sombras de lo que eran y la mayoría, por diversas causas, fallecen. En esa novela se cuenta la historia de la duodécima expedición.

Ahora que han pasado meses desde que la terminé, la valoro todavía más. Tiene todo lo que me atrae en VanderMeer: descripciones delirantes, terroríficas y hermosas a la vez, sensoriales (la “bajada” a la “torre” es una maravilla), psicológicas y envolventes. Una novela fundamentalmente descriptiva que se lee como si de un thriller se tratase, llena de ideas originales y difíciles de concebir. Un misterio que te hace pensar, mirar con lupa cada detalle, que implica al lector, que inquieta, aunque desde el principio tengas claro que, con los datos que se dan, no podrás llegar a una conclusión satisfactoria.

...lo sabíamos todo... sin saber nada.

Dicho esto, dudaba mucho de la necesidad de seguir con la historia: ¿daría el autor respuestas?, ¿es posible una explicación?, ¿es, de hecho, necesaria una solución al enigma que es el Área X?

En Autoridad y Aceptación conoceremos a nuevos personajes, accederemos al interior de la Southern Reach y seguiremos ahondando en la historia del Área X y de la mentira oficial. Pero en mi opinión, poco aportan ya a la primera de las novelas, que funciona perfectamente como novela autoconclusiva aunque no concluya nada. La ambientación, de sobras capturada en Aniquilación, lleva todo el peso de la historia y en mi opinión lo demás sobra.
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