Acceptance is the final installment in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. It follows immediately after the disastrous ending to Authority, but once again VanderMeer offers us a completely different reading experience. Where Annihilation was a tight-knit narrative told from the point of view of the biologist as she experienced Area X, and Authority was a meandering look at one man’s attempts to gain and maintain control of the Southern Reach, Acceptance is something entirely different.
Told in turn from the points of view of the former director (the psychologist from the first book), Ghost Bird (the biologist’s double), Control, and the lighthouse keeper, Acceptance is sweeping in its scope and style. It’s told not just in the first person and the third person, but also successfully used the second person to narrate the parts of the former director. And through this style, we are finally given the answers we have so desperately hoped for in the previous two novels (like “What is Area X?” and “Where did Area X come from?”). Though some things remained unresolved by the end, the overall feeling at the end of Acceptance is one of relief and satisfaction.
Aside from finally learning the answers to all those burning questions , the best part of Acceptance is the characters. More specifically, it’s the female characters. They are all, without a doubt, some of the most badass female characters around. The men have their moments as well — even Control gets a bit of redemption by the end– but it’s the females that shine brightest and farthest.
And finally, it wouldn’t be the Southern Reach trilogy if I didn’t get the chance to talk about how creepy these books can be. While nowhere near the lines of psychological trauma drawn by Annihilation, Acceptance has some truly horrific scenes in it. One in particular, which takes place in a bar in Area X, continues to haunt me in its brutal, disturbing imagery. So, thanks for that VandeerMeer!
Acceptance is a strong ending to an intriguing series that more than makes up for the weakness of Authority. So, if you’ve made it that far in the series, have faith. The end is coming, with some of those long-awaited answers.