Acceptance is the third and final installment of Jeff VanderMeer’s The Southern Reach Trilogy. It picks up almost immediately where the second book, Authority leaves off, but continues the story in a narrative style different from the first two books. In Acceptance, the mysteries of Area X and the fate of the Southern Reach agency is revealed through the voices of 4 different narrators; Control, Ghost Bird, the former Southern Reach Director, and the lighthouse keeper. Control and Ghost Bird alternate in telling the story in the present; of what happens to them right after the events mentioned at the end of Authority, as well as the fates of the agency and all its members; the former Director – the psychologist in the 12th and last expedition into Area X, relates the past events at the Southern Reach agency leading up to the deployment of the 12th expedition, including her personal connection to Area X and interest in joining the team; and Saul, the lighthouse keeper from before Area X became what it was, talks about his relationships with other residents of the coast and with the members of the Seance and Science Brigade, a pseudo-scientific group inexplicably interested in the lens of the lighthouse. This combination of multiple narratives, as well as the retelling of events from different times – the present and the past, makes Acceptance a captivating read, all the while maintaining that level of weirdness introduced in the first novel.
I can’t really say much about Acceptance without giving it away, but suffice it to say that Acceptance has a lot of surprises up its sleeves and is thankfully more interesting and riveting than Authority. In comparing the three novels, Acceptance comes closest to matching the intensity and storytelling quality of Annhiliation. Unfortunately, while Control and Ghost Bird try to make sense of the present and the Director and Saul give readers a glimpse of what took place in the past, neither are enough to explain mysterious phenomenon that created and transformed Area X and everyone in it.
As a whole, The Southern Reach Trilogy is unique in its weirdness, but as separate novels, I feel that Annihilation is superior to the two succeeding installments, so much so that I think it can stand on its own and readers need not read the other two in the series, because sadly, doing so will not give them the answers they desire. The trilogy is bizarre, shocking, disturbing, and intense, and it does not yield its secrets easily. So if you’re easily disturbed or want closure in your life, I would recommend you stay away from this novel. But if you’re looking for a strange…and I mean STRANGE story that is not too preoccupied with trying to explain itself or reveal anything, then this might just be your up of tea. Give it a try, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Acceptance (2014) – Book 3 of The Southern Reach Trilogy – Jeff VanderMeer
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (FSG Originals); 338 pages (tpb)
Personal rating: 3/5