Acceptance

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews AcceptanceVanderMeer Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer.

The first book of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy is a first-person journal written by the biologist. The second book is a not-so-omniscient third person narrative centered on the actions and perceptions of the character Control. In this final book, the protagonist function is distributed across an assortment of characters at different points in the overall timeline, including Control, the lighthouse keeper Saul Evans, Ghost Bird (the clone of the biologist), and the penultimate Director of the Southern Reach (a.k.a. the psychologist of the twelfth expedition). The last of these characters is addressed in the second person, i.e. the reader is made to identify with her by a narrator who tells “you” what “you” are doing and thinking in her role.

This narrative fragmentation and mixing allows VanderMeer to answer many of the questions raised in the previous books, while raising a few more. The expanded perspective of Acceptance accounts for both the origins of Area X and the fates of the principal characters already introduced, so it serves as both sequel and “prequel.” Much of the story consists of episodes on the “Forgotten Coast” prior to the advent of Area X, and these are mixed in with the history of the development of the Southern Reach, along with stories of the survivors of its destruction.

In each of these books there is a singular epiphanic confrontation that rises in sublime intensity above the surrounding events. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . This third book, although it has a few episodes that are in their own way more conventionally frightening, has less of an overall trajectory of genre horror than the ones that have come before. The title is accurate — I don’t know that it would be fair to call this book’s resolution a “happy ending,” but it wasn’t horrific to me. Veteran readers of Lovecraft might consider a comparison to the coda of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”: shudderingly scary to some, inspirational to others.

I think this third volume had the most far-reaching ideas of the three, and it was in a position to make some impressive gestures on the basis of what had already been established in the prior books. But I suspect that a typical reader will be most impressed by the innovations of the first volume, and I really enjoyed the pacing and riddles of the second. For all the diversity of approach across the individual books, they are definitely pieces of a whole worth reading. [via]

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