Finally, we come to Acceptance, the last part of the Southern Reach trilogy, and it has quite a lot to live up to and possibly explain. I was really looking forward to finding out how everything would be tied up, and tucked into this with cautious enthusiasm. Spoilers will follow for Annihilation and Authority.
Following the collapse of Southern Reach when the border of Area X suddenly expanded, Control and the clone of the biologist, answering only to Ghost Bird, travel to the as-yet-uncharted island. Together they hope to find answers about how to get back home and what happened to the original biologist. The narrative also flashes back to the perspectives of Saul Evans, the lighthouse keeper who will eventually become the Crawler, and the former director as she prepares herself for being part of the first and final twelfth expedition into Area X.
I had a quick look over the reviews for Acceptance before starting my writing again, and I have just one thing to say about the main criticism that I saw levelled at this last installment. To those who have read Acceptance and were disappointed that everything wasn’t explained in minute detail: were we reading the same series? I mentioned in my review of Authority that I didn’t have more of an idea what was happening, I had a firmer grip on how the world and the people in it worked, and I’m quite happy to say the same for Acceptance. And honestly, I’m okay with that as an ending. For me, the Southern Reach series was never about explaining Area X, it was about how humans fare when they inevitably try and make it into something tame and conquerable. A novel, at it’s best, is about documenting how people react to unusual, challenging settings or situations. And honestly, it would have been more disappointing if VanderMeer had just shoved in a load of last minute, bullshit answers just to placate readers who can’t handle a bit of uncertainty. The Southern Reach series has never been super-detailed science-fiction, so why anyone would think that it would suddenly turn into that in the final installment is beyond me. For me, it was always about the journey of the biologist/Ghost Bird and Control. It was about how they both adapt to their new situation in their own separate ways. And in that sense, Acceptance more than succeeded.
For those people looking for concrete answers, look elsewhere. That wasn’t the style of Annihilation or Authority, so to expect details at this stage is just baffling. The character arcs are the most important aspect of Acceptance by far, and they are handled perfectly. This conclusion is about as open-ended as you can get, but that is just fine with me. 5/5
Next review: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie