Acceptance

By Jeff VanderMeer

It is winter in Area X, the mysterious wilderness that has defied explanation for thirty years, rebuffing expedition after expedition, refusing to reveal its secrets. As Area X expands, the agency tasked with investigating and overseeing it–the Southern Reach–has collapsed on itself in confusion. Now one last, desperate team crosses the border, determined to reach a remote island that may hold the answers they’ve been seeking. If they fail, the outer world is in peril.

Meanwhile, Acceptance tunnels ever deeper into the circumstances surrounding the creation of Area X–what initiated this unnatural upheaval? Among the many who have tried, who has gotten close to understanding Area X–and who may have been corrupted by it?

In this last installment of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, the mysteries of Area X may be solved, but their consequences and implications are no less profound–or terrifying.

18077752

As I mentioned on my other two reviews, I’m so grateful that when I started to read this series all these books were out. I couldn’t have handled it if I had to wait months or years for the rest of the story.

Acceptance brings The Southern Reach trilogy to a close. Some answers are revealed, but in true VanderMeer form, we get more questions that don’t have ready answers.

The form of this book was quite a bit different than Annihilation and Authority. We jump from character to character as well as backwards and forwards in time. We hear from Control, Ghost Bird, the old Director of the Southern Reach, and Saul, the lighthouse keeper. So many different viewpoints means a lot of the questions and clues were either filled in completely or at least partly elucidated upon.

Finally, we begin to see inside the final days of the Coast and the birth of Area X. We learn a bit more about The Southern Reach and its shadowy controllers and employees. Control’s questions about the old Director get some explanation. And Control and Ghost Bird plunge into Area X, one final time.

I think this was my favorite of the three book. More answers, less secrets, but not all the answers. For those of you who remembered me being so scared while reading Annihilation, this book is not any creepier than that was.

Just go read it already. If you’ve come this far in the series, you might as well finish it!

Authority

By Jeff VanderMeer

After thirty years, the only human engagement with Area X–a seemingly malevolent landscape surrounded by an invisible border and mysteriously wiped clean of all signs of civilization–has been a series of expeditions overseen by a government agency so secret it has almost been forgotten: the Southern Reach. Following the tumultuous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the agency is in complete disarray.

John Rodrigues (aka “Control”) is the Southern Reach’s newly appointed head. Working with a distrustful but desperate team, a series of frustrating interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, Control begins to penetrate the secrets of Area X. But with each discovery he must confront disturbing truths about himself and the agency he’s pledged to serve.

In Authority, the second volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Area X’s most disturbing questions are answered . . . but the answers are far from reassuring.

18077769

In many ways, I liked Authority better than Annihilation. One of the major reasons is that Authority is nowhere near as creepy as Annihilation. Rather than take place in the mysterious Area X, Authority deals with the Southern Reach, the government body in charge of Area X.

Van De Meer loves to give his main characters thought-provoking names. Ghost Bird in Annihilation. Control in Authority. I read the word “Control” so much it actually started to sound like a decent name. And of course there was a delightful little riff with CTRL and Control.

Authority goes a long way towards putting some explanation to Annihilation and the secrets of Area X. But of course, not everything is resolved and we get new questions with no answers. Some people found this book to be slow or even boring. While it’s true I didn’t gobble this book down in one sitting, my pulse wasn’t at an all-time high, either.

Oh and the ending of this one is a doozy. Be sure to have Acceptance standing by so you can start reading.

Annihilation

By Jeff VanderMeer

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; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died 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 months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their 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 and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to 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.

17934530

Annihilation takes the cake as one of the creepiest books I’ve read recently. I was thoroughly creeped out from the opening pages and nothing had happened yet, just description of landscape. Now that’s good writing!

As intrigued as I was, I wasn’t sure I was going to finish this book. I didn’t think I could handle it. But then, when I wasn’t home alone, I finished the rest of the book in one sitting.

If you’ve seen other reviews for this book, you know it opens a Pandora’s box of questions without bothering to solve much of anything at all. Good thing I got copies of the next two books, Authority and Acceptance, right away. I believe all three books originally came out within a few months of each other. Which was a good move on the publisher’s part. These books need to be binge-read together.

If you’re considering reading Annihilation, do yourself a favor and buy all three books.