Review: Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer

Author: Jeff Vandermeer
Title: Acceptance
Series: Southern Reach #3
Format/Source: Paperback/Sister’s copy
Published: September 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 338 pages
Genre: Dystopian scifi
Why I Read: Devoured the first book, trooped through the second book, excited for the final book
Read If You’re: Ready to get some answers about Area X!
Quote: “I could not come to terms with the possibility that one day I might put aside my vigilance and become the moaning creature in the weeds.” (164)
Rating:  ★★★★½ [ratings guide]
Links: GoodReads IndieBound Chapters | Amazon

Previously: My sister and I discuss the many mysteries of Area X presented in Annihilation (Southern Reach #1)  

I first read Annihilation because my sister selected it for Family Reads. I enjoyed the story so much I immediately jumped into Authority. Authority, however, greatly differs from Annihilation. I became less eager to read the final book in the trilogy. The fact that my library didn’t have a digital copy of it didn’t help! I contented myself to wait until I returned to Canada and could borrow my sister’s copy. In what felt like a reward for my patience with Authority, Acceptance gripped me from the first page. Broken into three parts – the light house keeper’s tale before Area X is fully Area X, the director’s tale before the 11th expedition, and Ghost Bird + Control’s tale in the present – VanderMeer has penned an intense conclusion to the Southern Reach tale.

I’d like to pause here for a second and talk about the differences between each book in the trilogy. Acceptance felt more similar to Annihilation (than Authority), but the two books still feel independent from one another. I found Acceptance more intriguing and more intense, whereas Annihilation felt more like an exploration. Authority I found mostly bureaucratic and mostly dull. Annihilation and Authority are brought together primarily via Acceptance, but each book has its own style. Don’t try too hard to make them match up with each other (i.e., don’t expect a consistent style of narration) – they’ll fit together naturally as you start connecting the dots.

In terms of pace, Acceptance steps away from Authority back towards Annihilation. I blazed through Acceptance, reading in a way I haven’t read for a long time. I forgot about that feeling! When you’re reading solely for the story’s sake, because it fills you with a fiery excitement and you just have to know what happens next. One scene that sticks in my mind because of this feeling is when Lowry confronts the director and I had to pause in the middle of it to go back to class. Acceptance kicks off with a quick start, hitting you with more questions, but then gives ANSWERS, to other older, questions you may have been wondering about since Annihilation. After the first two books, I had wholly resolved myself to not receiving any answers about Area X’s mysteries, so I was surprised but extremely pleased to find certain answers suddenly being dropped. Such answers were unexpected, but (appropriately, I would say) only a handful of questions are really answered and you’ll still have plenty to ponder about the bigger questions. The prose, understated compared to what I usually enjoy, works well in conveying the shocks, surprises, tensions and can’t-stop-now moments that I’ll remember this story for.

All my notes on this book can be divided into two categories: A) “AHHHHH OMG CAN’T BELIEVE I’M READING THIS” and/or B) “Ohhhh whoa I can’t believe I’m reading this!”. Both of these comment types I’ve discussed above (A = driving moments that suck you into the story, B = answers I wasn’t expecting). I don’t have anything else I want to write about! I think I would have to read this trilogy twice, back to back, to really get all the answers that are locked within. Some things are clearly spelt out in Acceptance, but I get the sense there’s so much more I would understand if I really paid attention… (for example, I think a lot to do with Whitby went over my head). But, this feeling doesn’t frustrate me. I don’t think you need to have all the answers to enjoy this trilogy. But I bet there is more to be mined if you’re willing to dig deeper! And now we’ve come full circle to what my sister and I discussed after finishing the first book…I can’t wait til she finishes the trilogy and we can hash out the entire thing.

The Bottom Line: Don’t let Authority keep you from finishing the trilogy! Acceptance is worth your time. 

Further Reading: