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You kids get off my lawn. 

You find yourself in Area X...

Acceptance (The Southern Reach Trilogy) - Jeff VanderMeer

When you're dealing with a series as freaky wig-out as the Southern Reach, it's difficult to wrap things up satisfactorily. You could go the way of the X-Files, and just get stupider and stupider until you die, having destroyed the mystery with a drearily linear explanation that insults everyone's intelligence. Some just never wrap, eventually howling out into the the void with less and less coherence, until it's just eidolon arms writhing in a no space. I think both have their problems, but I do have a preference for the screaming void. I felt like Acceptance cut the difference, which works better than it should, compromises being what they are. That said, I think there could have been maybe 15 more pages of coda. Shrug emoticon. 


Acceptance is the third in the Southern Reach series, which heretofore has been tight little Gothic mindjobs. The first follows a biologist on an excursion into Area X, an uncanny bit of landscape on the "forgotten coast". (I'd put it mid-Atlantic: above DC, below Maine.) The second follows the newly appointed director of Southern Reach, the clandestine organization which monitors Area X. Both books are suffocatingly personal books, written in a tight third person, and both occur in short time frames: maybe a week, a month. Both are regretful, in a way, both their characters on the wrong side of meaningful lives. Both creeped me the fuck right out.


Acceptance instead has four or five point of view characters (all of whom we've met in the previous books). There's even a point of view character written in the second person, which seemed just bizarre and unneccesary. Honest to glob, I spent way more time than I should trying to work out why this one character was second person, and I have no answers, especially given who the character it is. I mean, I can see how she's a pivot in a way, a bridge, but I'm not sure this translates into you. Or me. Whichever, second person is a pain in the ass. If any of y'all do have an answer, drop me a line. The time frame also cuts between a then and a now, sometimes confusingly, which is either a bug or a feature, not sure.


So, I liked the answers I got, and I liked that I didn't get all the answers.VanderMeer's been building some metaphorical systems through the series, and in many places, he just laid the final card on the tower, and then gave it room. Honestly, that kind of restraint is commendable in an author, especially in science fiction which tends to the monologue at the end, letting you know how clever everything is. I have some reservations, but mostly they are personal weirdnesses, and not something the average reader is going to get fussed about. I bolted this trilogy down in a way I haven't in a long time, and that is really saying something. Good show.