Thursday, 14 December 2017


Acceptance, Jeff VanderMeer

With the preceding novel, Authority, closing in calamity, the final volume of Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Acceptance, has the task of picking up the pieces and arranging them into a completed whole. Which, it half-does, and it half-doesn’t. It takes places partly in the aftermath of Authority, following Control and the steadily changing Biologist into Area X. But also partly in the form of filling in the backstories of Control’s predecessor, the Director, and her childhood acquaintance, the Lighthouse Keeper, both of whom have been significant characters, or presences, in the preceding volumes. Again, the novel does atmosphere well, and again it’s a fairly propulsive read. But, as I feared previously, it’s also more than a little bit flaky on clearly wrapping things up. By the end, it remains indistinct as to whether Area X is a protected part of Earth, not part of Earth at all, under the watchful gaze of Space Aliens, a consciousness-is-everywhere superorganism, or what. That none of these disparate explanations can be ruled firmly in or out indicates how deftly Vandermeer steers the novel towards revelation but never gets there. So enjoyable, but not entirely satisfying. Sometimes keeping the mystery in place works, especially in single volume books, but where a mystery has been teased extensively, and over several volumes, as here, this can be more than a little frustrating. But, despite this, I’d still recommend the trilogy – although I’m as yet unconvinced that it will make a successful leap to the screen, a journey that it now appears to be making.

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