Review: Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer
Acceptance (2014) by Jeff VanderMeer
Haunting. Mesmerizing. Extraordinary.
These are the first words that come to mind when I try to talk about the novels that make up the Southern Reach Trilogy (see my reviews of the others below).
Acceptance, the final installment, differs from the first two in that it isn't focalized (mostly) through a single character, but jumps back and forth between all of the major characters previously introduced. Here, for the first time, we learn about Saul, the lighthouse keeper, in great detail, and how the "change" that came over Area X impacted and transformed him. We learn about the Director's past relationship to what Area X was before it morphed into whatever it now is, and we learn what happened to the Biologist (the focus of Annihilation).
You've probably read a million reviews of this trilogy, and rightly so, because VanderMeer immerses you in the lush natural world of Area X and its environs. The layers of complicated emotional and psychological self-evaluation done by the characters builds up until you feel as though you know Area X intimately because you've experienced it through so many different eyes.
Acceptance does answer a few questions raised in the first two books (like what/who the Crawler is, how the spreading of Area X began), but other questions are addressed mostly through hypotheses- ways of thinking about how we might approach an answer. VanderMeer thus opens up our minds to how we relate to nature in our own way- do we see leaves and birds as the backdrop to our lives, or as an organic part of it, influencing us in minute but important ways? How can we live in a world that is itself a cipher to most of us (being unable to communicate with other species, unable to explore the deepest parts of our oceans, etc.).
Is Area X a kind of wormhole to another planet? Another galaxy? Is it still on Earth? What happens to those who become absorbed? I didn't find any definitive answers to these questions, but I'm okay with that, because it gives my brain the chance to mull these juicy questions for a long time to come.
My reviews of the first two books in the Southern Reach trilogy: