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Acceptance: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy) Paperback – September 2, 2014
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“A satisfying conclusion to this captivating trilogy” ―Booklist
“This trilogy is that rare thing--a set in which the whole is as great as the parts.” ―Publishers Weekly
“I'm loving The Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. Creepy and fascinating.” ―Stephen King on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“Chilling.” ―Julie Bosman, New York Times on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“VanderMeer masterfully conjures up an atmosphere of both metaphysical dread and visceral tension . . . Annihilation is a novel in which facts are undermined and doubt instilled at almost every turn. It's about science as a way of not only thinking but feeling, rather than science as a means of becoming certain about the world. . . . Ingenious.” ―Laura Miller, Salon on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“A clear triumph for Vandermeer . . . a compelling, elegant, and existential story . . . .The solitary voice of its post-humanist narrator is both deeply flawed and deeply trustworthy--a difficult and excellent balance in a novel whose world is built seamlessly and whose symbols are rich and dark.” ―Lydia Millet, LA Times on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“A book about an intelligent, deadly fungus makes for an enthralling read--trust us.” ―Tara Wanda Merrigan, GQ on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“[A] strange, clever, off-putting, maddening, claustrophobic, occasionally beautiful, occasionally disturbing and altogether fantastic book . . . Annihilation is a book meant for gulping--for going in head-first and not coming up for air until you hit the back cover.” ―Jason Sheehan, NPR Books on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“Successfully creepy, an old-style gothic horror novel set in a not-too-distant future. The best bits turn your mind inside out.” ―Sara Sklaroff, The Washington Post on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“If J.J. Abrams-style by-the-numbers stories of shadowy organizations and science magic have let you down one too many times, then Annihilation will be more like a revelation. VanderMeer peels back the skin of the everyday, and gives you a glimpse of a world where science really is stretching the bounds of our knowledge--sometimes to the point where we can't ever be the same . . . [Annihilation] will make you believe in the power of science mysteries again.” ―Annalee Nevitz, io9 on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“Fans of the Lost TV series . . . this one is for you.” ―Molly Driscoll, Christian Science Monitor on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“What frightens you? According to many psychologists, our most widely shared phobia is the fear of falling. Jeff VanderMeer's novel Annihilation taps into that bottomless terror . . . VanderMeer ups the book's eeriness quotient with the smoothest of skill, the subtlest of grace. His prose makes the horrific beautiful.” ―Nisi Shawl, Seattle Times on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“Much of the flora and fauna seem familiar, but that's what's so fascinating about the carnage that VanderMeer sets loose. He has created a science fiction story about a world much like our own.” ―John Domini, Miami Herald on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“Annihilation feels akin to isolated sci-fi terrors of Alien . . . teases and terrifies and fascinates.” ―Kevin Nguyen, Grantland on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“The plot moves quickly and has all the fantastic elements you'd ever want--biological contaminants, peculiar creatures, mysterious deaths--but it's the novel's unbearable dread that lingers with me days after I've finished it.” ―Justin Alvarez, The Paris Review on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“Jeff VanderMeer ventures on to strange ground in this enigmatic story.” ―Alex Good, The Toronto Star on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“[VanderMeer's] writing is courageously imaginative, fiercely unformulaic, and utterly immersive. You don't read Jeff VanderMeer, you experience him.” ―Paul Goat Allen, The Barnes & Noble Book Blog on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“The first book in what may be a modern classic of post-apocalyptic sci-fi . . . .Annihilation's story struck me hard and pulled me in fast. I haven't had a reading experience this creepy, intense, and edge-of-your-seat since H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness.” ―Paul Schwartz, UR Chicago on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“Annihilation is smart, tense and utterly engrossing.” ―Mike Reynolds, Bookgasm on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“Master of the literary headtrip Jeff VanderMeeer's Annihilation is simply unlike anything you've read before. It gnaws away at your nerves with a slow-building sense of dread and impending madness.” ―Marc Savlov, Kirkus Reviews on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“VanderMeer both defies and challenges genre boundaries, forcing readers to forget about traditional tropes and clichés and simply enjoy the storytelling.” ―John DeNardo, Kirkus "Best Bets for Speculative Fiction Books, February 2014 on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“A gripping fantasy thriller, Annihilation is thoroughly suspenseful.” ―Heather Paulson, Booklist on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“After their high-risk expedition disintegrates, it's every scientist for herself in this wonderfully creepy blend of horror and science fiction. . . . Speculative fiction at its most transfixing.” ―Kirkus (Starred Review) on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“A gripping fantasy thriller, Annihilation is thoroughly suspenseful. In a manner similar to H. G. Wells' in The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), VanderMeer weaves together an otherworldly tale of the supernatural and the half-human. Delightfully, this page-turner is the first in a trilogy.” ―Heather Paulson, ALA Booklist (Starred Review) on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“Brilliant . . . ever-more-terrifying, yet ever-more-transcendent . . . .Using evocative descriptions of the biologist's outer and inner worlds, masterful psychological insight, and intellectual observations both profound and disturbing--calling Lovecraft to mind and Borges--VanderMeer unfolds a tale as satisfying as it is richly imagined.” ―Publishers Weekly on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“In much of Jeff VanderMeer's work, a kind of radiance lies beating beneath the surface of the words. Here in Annihilation, it shines through with warm blazing incandescence. This is one of a grand writer's finest and most dazzling books.” ―Peter Straub, author of Lost Boy, Lost Girl on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“Original and beautiful, maddening and magnificent.” ―Warren Ellis on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“One of those books where it all comes together--the story and the prose and the ideas, all braided into a triple helix that gives rise to something vibrant and alive. Something that grows, word-by-word, into powerful, tangled vines that creep into your mind and take hold of it. Annihilation is brilliant and atmospheric, a novel that has the force of myth.” ―Charles Yu, author of How to Live in a Science Fictional Universe on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“A dazzling book . . . haunted and haunting.” ―Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“A tense and chilling psychological thriller about an unraveling expedition and the strangeness within us. A little Kubrick, a lot Lovecraft, the novel builds with an unbearable tension and a claustrophobic dread that linger long afterward. I loved it.” ―Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“The great thing about Annihilation is the strange, elusive, and paranoid world that it creates. . . .I can't wait for the next one.” ―Brian Evenson, author of Last Days on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“It's been a long time since a book filled me with this kind of palpable, wondrous disquiet, a feeling that started on the first page and that I'm not sure I've yet shaken.” ―Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“This swift surreal suspense novel reads as if Verne or Wellsian adventurers exploring a mysterious island had warped through into a Kafkaesque nightmare world. The reader will want to stay trapped with the Biologist to find the answers to Area X's mysteries.” ―Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the Mars trilogy
“Unsettling and un-put-downable like an old-fashioned adventure story, only weirder, beautifully written and not at all old-fashioned.” ―Karen Joy Fowler, BookPage on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“The prose is phenomenal . . . it toyed with my imagination in ways that haven't happened since A Wrinkle in Time.” ―Madison Vain, Entertainment Weekly on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“Its deepest terror lies in its exploration of . . . the human heart, and the terror that can grow from the ways in which we are untrue to each other, and to ourselves.” ―Jared Bland, The Globe and Mail on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“VanderMeer's masterful command of the plot, his cast of characters, and the increasingly desperate situation will leave the reader desperate for the final volume in the trilogy.” ―Publishers Weekly on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“What frightens you? According to many psychologists, our most widely shared phobia is the fear of falling. Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation taps into that bottomless terror . . . VanderMeer ups the book's eeriness quotient with the smoothest of skill, the subtlest of grace. His prose makes the horrific beautiful.” ―Nisi Shawl, The Seattle Times on The Southern Reach Trilogy
“There's something Poe-like in this tightening, increasingly paranoid focus . . . the payoff is absolutely worth the patience.” ―N.K. Jemisin, The New York Times on The Southern Reach Trilogy
About the Author
Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist and editor. His fiction has been translated into twenty languages and has appeared in the Library of America's American Fantastic Tales and in multiple year's-best anthologies. He writes nonfiction for The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, and The Guardian, among others. He grew up in the Fiji Islands and now lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife.
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Top Customer Reviews
I have to recommend the entire Southern Reach trilogy (ANNIHILATION, CONTROL, and ACCEPTANCE). I found it creepy, unsettling, engrossing, many times unsure whether to believe our narrators or not, and in the end, definitely accepting that we would never get a concrete, absolute ending (nor would one have worked). An exploration of themes of what it means to be human, to be a part of nature while also trying to control it, what happens when we fail, and what would we choose in our own Area X. Yep, this is a purposefully vague review. It's a series that just has to be experienced.
If you need to have a very linear tale with everything answered, you will find this trilogy frustrating. If you are down for the ride and all of the twists and turns, then you should give this a try.
Of course, I read this just before we're set to go on some camping trips, but that should just make all the nighttime sounds more interesting (and creepy and give me weird dreams...)
This, the third volume of the Southern Reach trilogy, is a trilogy within itself since it is divided into three sections. The first section consists of narrative that alternates chapter by chapter between four characters: Saul the lighthouse keeper, whose story takes place on the "forgotten coast" before it became Area X ... "Control" the new Former Director of the Southern Reach, who exists in Area X in the subjective present ... "Ghost Bird" the returned biologist from the twelfth expedition, who is with Control, but since she is not really the biologist but an Area X-made copy she has a slightly different perspective ... the previous Director of the Southern Reach, whose story takes place before the events in volume 1: Annihilation. The first three characters are narrated in third person (except for excerpts from Saul's terse pronounless "no-person" daily log at the beginning of each of his chapters) while the Director's chapters are narrated in the rare _second_ person (in which "you" are the Director.) There is undoubtedly some clever meta-literary reason for this structure. I thought it helped in keeping the story straight so you know who you're reading about and sort of where it fits in the timeline.
Halfway through the book, we get to read the biologist's second journal, which is a direct sequel to "Annihilation." This is done in first-person, so all of the possible narrative voices are represented in one compact volume with a creepy pink owl on the cover.
Lots of new information is revealed which casts previous events in a whole new light. Several times I went "OH! So that's why so-and-so was acting that way" but in the end, none of the really significant questions were answered. What is Area X? What created it? What is its purpose? There are clues enough, I suppose, but you have to put them together yourself. The characters don't seem to ever figure it out, beyond some vague hint that it's some sort of life-preservation capsule from another world. Maybe?
The surreal dreamy quality started to get tedious in this volume, along with the philosophical musings about the nature of identity, perception of reality, etc. How do we know we are who we are, and that we are where we think we are? How much of what we remember is true? What happens to whatever it is that makes us "us" when we die? Why does any of this matter?
Perhaps I shouldn't have tried to read all three of these books in such rapid succession. I got tired. I can't give lots of stars to a book that makes me tired. It's technically well written - the prose is crafted with poetic precision - but my feeling toward it is MEH. This isn't a trilogy I would keep to read again.
Now, I saw some of what I liked from the first two books here, and I did finish it in three days (despite not having much time to read), so I just can't justify a one- or two-star rating. But neither did I like this as much as either of the first two books in the series.
Look, when you start reading a trilogy, you expect there to be some set-up in book one, some mysteries introduced in the first and even second books, but you want resolution by the end of book three, not new questions. Overall, I don't really feel like I got that. (I am, perhaps, most satisfied with the hints of what created the anomaly known as Area X, oddly enough. This is never spelled out for you, but there is an incident with the lighthouse keeper, Saul, and some speculation later on, and if you put those pieces together with some of the discussion of traveling to Area X, you can come up with something at least plausible. I think this part was done pretty well, actually, although you have to pay a lot of attention towards the end of the book and think about it for a bit afterwards, as well. Too much explanation would have made me roll my eyes because there's just no explaining something so alien.)
But, the first two books were character studies, first of the biologist from the twelfth expedition into Area X, and second of Control, the newly-installed director of Southern Reach, the agency that investigates and guards against Area X. And you kind of expect the book to continue in that vein, but the characters just aren't nearly as compelling in this book. Part of my issue here may stem from the multiple viewpoints -- Control, Ghost Bird (a double of the biologist created by Area X), the psychologist from book one who was also the director of Southern Reach before Control, and Saul Evans, keeper of the lighthouse that is discussed often in all three books. We also read a document written by the biologist from book one, who is sort of a fifth viewpoint character. (And if you wonder what happened to her at the end of book one, you will at least get an answer for that. It is weird, but it is resolution, and it doesn't come out of nowhere.)
This is really too many people to do the same type of character study we saw in book. But, I feel like the author is attempting to do so anyway. We get a lot of information on the backgrounds of the psychologist and of Saul. Both had experience in Area X before the change, and we read a lot about that time. Some of Saul's parts do help explain (or at least, I think they do) the formation of Area X. But there is a lot of extraneous stuff, as well. Like his relationship with a fisherman. I swear they go to bed together about 10 times in less than 25% of the book. (There is no graphic detail so don't worry about that.) I do like Saul's journal entries about the lighthouse. They don't seem relevant at first, but the changes in them accurately reflect his underlying mental state.
Anyway, I can buy Saul as a viewpoint character. I am not feeling the psychologist at all. I find her hard to sympathize with as she seems to have shunned personal relationships for most of her life, and the attempts to describe her personal life involve her hanging out at a bowling alley bar with people she doesn't know well (not even their names, apparently, or she doesn't care about their names). I think a lot of what she offered to the story could've been handled in Saul's sections, with Control finding a few of her documents to complete the picture.
And then, the other issues.
(1) Everyone is always trying to go to "the island." The biologist's husband. The biologist. Control and Ghost Bird. Even Grace (the Southern Reach assistant director from the past book). But why? What is so special about the island? It's not where resolution happens. I just don't get its prominent place in the story.
(2) Lowry. This guy survived the first expedition into Area X. He is the only person who did. I understand that this gives him some kind of personal knowledge and authority. But he has a couple of screws loose and I absolutely don't understand why he has so much influence over everyone else or how he is able to maintain a position in what I assume is some kind of intelligence agency. He does have some dirt on some other characters, but those are his subordinates, essentially, not his superiors (who would actually have a say in whether he keeps his job).
(3) The Seance and Science Brigade. These folks showed up in Saul's sections. It is implied that some of Control's family members may have had a connection. Mostly they just seemed annoying. Their role in everything is not explained. It seems they exist to annoy Saul, to trespass and vandalize, etc.
(4) Control. I don't understand at all what happened to him. Or why he was driven to do what he did, at the end.
(5) I guess I understand that missions were sent into Area X to understand what was going on. Because it was clearly harmful to people who had been there when it was created/formed/whatever. But it sounds like potentially hundreds of missions were sent, with hundreds of people lost. It seems like, at some point, you would cut your losses. Especially since, when people do come back (if they do at all), they rarely have any useful information. They leave all their journals in the lighthouse. No one has brought physical samples back for a long time. What is it that people are hoping to accomplish by going in here? It seems like Area X might've stayed stable but for human interference. Granted, I guess the characters couldn't know that.
(6) We keep being told that the biologist is the psychologist's secret weapon against Area X. I'm not convinced the reason for this was established. Yes, she's socially awkward and interested in nature and yes, her husband was on a previous expedition. But given the biologist's ultimate fate, I guess the psychologist was just wrong?
(7) We find out at some point in the previous book, or early in this one, that the psychologist went on an unauthorized mission into Area X and brought back a plant (the plant is definitely in book 2). Why was she able to do this when none of the official expeditions were all that successful (her companion was clearly damaged by the experience, but she didn't really change)?
Anyway, there were enough dropped threads and missed connections that I was not terribly satisfied with the conclusion of this trilogy. (I pretty much only read speculative fiction these days so it's not like I'm new to the genre, so my issue is not lack of familiarity with the types of stories that are told.) I like Mr. Vandermeer's writing style and would definitely consider buying other books of his. I'm just a little disappointed with this book. The series started out so strongly!