Okay, so technically this is a bit of a cheat because I haven’t actually started reading Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer yet. I bought it on release day this past Tuesday and I’ve been carrying it around with me ever since. Today, however, will be the day. Once I’m done with work and writing my terminally late review of the Doctor Who series opener “Deep Breath,” I will settle down on the couch under my throw blanket with Acceptance. This book is my reward for finishing a work week that started last Saturday and a blog post that has been causing me grief.
So what’s it about, I hear you ask. Acceptance is the final volume of the Southern Reach trilogy that has been released by FSG Originals throughout this year. The books are about Area X, a zone in the southern US where an ecological disaster took place several years before the events in the first novel. The only people who have gone into the contaminated area are members of scientific expeditions sent by the Southern Reach organization with a mission to figure out what happened and to study the aftereffects of the Event. The trouble is that one expedition after another ends in disaster. The few people who return alive from these expeditions are…changed…by the events that happen there.
The first book, Annihilation, follows an expedition into Area X, which turns out to be a pristine wilderness with some very disturbing flora and fauna. The protagonist is a biologist who is far more comfortable with nature than she is with people. Once inside Area X, the group begins their study of the area around their campsite despite the tension that builds among the expedition members. I don’t want to spoil it by revealing too much more. I can tell you that every word and sentence construction in Annihilation is designed to fill the reader with a sense of dread. It’s gorgeous prose, and I could not put it down.
The second book, Authority, follows the new head of the Southern Reach. He’s a cleaner, kind of like Harvey Keitel’s character The Wolf in Pulp Fiction. His built his career on going into troubled organizations and fixing the problems he found in the system. He’s been sent to the Southern Reach to clean it up following the mess that the most recent expedition revealed. This book is all about paranoia. As he investigates the problems within the Southern Reach, the protagonist begins to feel like someone is watching him and working against him. Your sense of unease increases faster and faster along with the point of view character’s until he reaches a breaking point. Again, I don’t want to spoil this book because you really ought to experience the story for the first time as you’re reading.
I don’t do a whole lot of rereading anymore, but I will come back to these again to see exactly what he’s doing from a technical standpoint. I could appreciate the quality of the writing on the first read, but it’ll be worth taking a closer look at his technique. But first, it’s time to find out how the heck the conclusion is going to unfold!