Sometimes failing and succeeding are different facets of the same coin, and whether you accept one or the other, the result is the same. Or more like, how many of us can actually see and acknowledge the very thin line between giving up, accepting failure, and moving forward and accepting the burden? How many of us can actually make the right choice? What is the right choice? Is there even a choice? Well, Acceptance (Southern Reach #3) by Jeff VanderMeer, as an unexpected conclusion to an eerie trilogy, will most likely send you spinning in circles while asking yourself questions about the book itself, but also eventually about your own self.
Some spoilers ahead.
We have a story unwinding from different perspectives and timelines: the former director of the Southern Reach/psychologist of the 12th expedition – her rise to power in the Southern Reach and her relationship with the enigmatic characters of Lowry and Whitby; Saul Evans, known as the lighthouse keeper, who sheds a little bit more light on the events that led to the beginning of Area X; Ghost Bird aka the biologist’s doppelganger who was created in/by Area X for some (yet) unknown purpose; Control – the director of the Southern Reach, who ends up following Ghost Bird on a journey back to Area X in search of an identity or just some sense of purpose regarding everything that’s been happening.
“A lighthouse was a fixed beacon for a fixed purpose; a person was a moving one. But people still emanated light in their way, still shone across the miles as a warning, an invitation, or even just a static signal. People opened up so tey became a brightness, or they went dark. They turned their light inward sometimes, so you couldn’t see it, because they had no other choice.”
The remaining gaps left after finishing the first two books are being filled slowly – so if you’ve been wondering (like me) about the moaning creature from the marches, you will find your answer here. And as always, everything is connected.
Each and every character gives us a most intriguing and essential piece of information, not only about what is Area X (a perfect ecosystem? just an alien organism that is bigger than our comprehension and is trying to invade Earth? both?) but also about who and what we are as human beings, as a species. The characters that accompanied us on this terrifying and breath-taking journey are being perfected (in a very imperfect way), more of their background is being revealed and some decisions that maybe seemed illogical now have a little bit more sense.
“Freedom could take you farther from what you sought, not closer.”
Eventually, we get to the finish lines with some questions answered and with some questions left. As anytime in life I guess. Can we define Area X? No, I don’t think we can, not even after finishing this. But what we can do is accept our limitation and embrace the unknown. And enjoy it.
What we do know is that a strange ‘brightness’ is how Area X operates. It affects each character at a different pace, and the transformation seems to be connected to the personality of the transformed, but most importantly to their acceptance, or lack of, of the brightness growing inside of them. I personally interpreted it as a parallel regarding our lack of acceptance in many matters of life, but also as a typical reaction humankind has when it encounters something it doesn’t comprehend.
Our perception of time is being challenged, our perception of now and then. Our perception of why and where. So pretty much everything, which in my opinion is a hard thing to pull nowadays, but VanderMeer somehow did it (*slow clap*).
“People make patterns all the time without realizing it. An organism can have a purpose and yet also make patterns that have little to do with that purpose.”
I had a very hard time trying to describe this book in words, mostly because a more detailed summary would spoil all the fun, but also because it is a very intimate and personal journey. It might awake in you feelings, memories or thoughts which it didn’t awaken in me or someone else. That’s the beauty of a good book. So in the end we should all remember one thing, in Area X there are always mysteries to be unraveled.