After watching Annihilation, I was finally inspired to read the series by Jeff Vandermeer and I regret letting it gather dust on my shelves for so long! Review for Annihilation here, if you missed it. I dove into the next two books and read them back to back – with mixed results.
Authority by Jeff Vandermeer
My Edition: Paperback – 341 pages – 2014 – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – ISBN: 9780374104108
After the director of the Southern Reach fails to reappear with the rest of the team from the latest expedition into Area X, John Rodriguez, known as Control, is brought in to clean up the mess. Despite his briefing, Control comes to realize there’s a lot he doesn’t know about Area X and even more he doesn’t know about the people working for Southern Reach. He’s under pressure from superiors to clean up and control the situation, but as he learns more strange truths, finds his composure failing.
I totally can’t describe this book without launching into a ramble. This book directly follows the events of book one, but delves further into the history of the Southern Reach and slowly reveals tidbits from prior expeditions into Area X. So, if you haven’t done it yet, read Annihilation.
As with the first book, much of Area X remains unexplained and unsettling. This is definitely a slow burn series (at least, the first two books have been), so you have to be willing to follow these characters and their thoughts, with less action. This doesn’t always work for me, but in this case, it has.
As Control tries to understand wtf is going on at the Southern Reach and in Area X, it feels like he’s starting to go crazy. The biologist is back, only she’s definitely different.
I really don’t know what to say about this book, without struggling to describe everything going on. But after finishing this book I was very excited to dive into the next one. Each detail revealed left me ready for more and the ending had me like !!! Couldn’t wait to figure out what the hell was going on.
Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer
My Edition: Paperback – 341 pages – 2014 – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – ISBN: 9780374104115
I’m just going to go ahead and quote some of the back of the book on this one: “It is winter in Area X, the mysterious wilderness that has defied explanation for third years, rebuffing expedition after expedition, refusing to reveal is secrets. As Area X expands, the agency tasked with investigating and overseeing it – the Southern Reach – has collapsed in on itself in confusion.”
Let’s leave it there, shall we? Because that’s about all I understood from this damn book. Remember how I said I couldn’t wait to figure out what the hell was going on? (I hope you do, because it was like a paragraph ago.) Well, the joke is on me.
Books/series with endings that leave me with a lot of questions are hit or miss. There’s some sort of magical sweet spot where if I’m left with “some” questions, but not “too many,” then I love it. The first two books hit that mark for me. The third book blew me outta the fuckin water with a million questions and made me feel like an idiot. So, if you’re at all like me, be prepared.
I was like, “Oh boy, I can’t wait for the reveal about how Area X was created and what the hell it’s doing.” The book was like, “Hey, fuck you.”
I’m being overly dramatic here, but I honestly didn’t understand the majority of this book. While I previously enjoyed reading about the biologist and Control, I no longer liked them in this book. I was no longer unsettled by Area X. I was just confused. The book does go back in time to the creation of the area and touches on the significance of the lighthouse, I guess. But I still didn’t understand what happened.
I did some research after I finished, because I was mad and I was hoping maybe someone who wasn’t too stupid for this series would have a review out there to help me understand. After reading a few detailed reviews, the only thing I gathered is that this is a book about how we basically can’t know or understand life. So I guess I’m not supposed to understand this series either.
If you couldn’t tell, this last book and the series ending left me annoyed and confused. While I’m glad I read the series, and I enjoyed the first two books, and they’re all bloody gorgeous, the final book was a massive let down. If you’re someone who enjoys open-ended books and the mystery of life itself, maybe you’ll love this series. If not, well, just beware the third book is quite a bit different than the first two.
Would I recommend the series? Yeah, probably. It certainly felt unique to me. While Vandermeer’s writing gets flowery and pretentious at times, I mostly enjoyed his tone. I think I’ve heard this series, or Vandermeer’s work in general, described as New Weird – sounds about right to me! So if that all interests you, give it a shot. If you were also confused by the ending, let’s chat!