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Area X
The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance
Jeff VanderMeer
read on March 3, 2018

All three of these books have fantastic covers, and the one for the full trilogy, shown here, is amazing. The series explores a biological phenomenon vs a system of control - this is remarkably well illustrated here, and I just adore the lack of all text (though, it is admittedly grandiose). "Area X" is itself a terrible name, so this is a really spectacular treatment. The US individual book covers were pretty good as well, but the UK versions are spectacular.

I started reading Area X about three years ago, while still living in Luxembourg. I really enjoyed the first few chapters, but knowing I was signing myself up for a three book marathon, I decided to bail and focus on more European history books that would give me better perspective of my limited time there. During those three years, the first few chapters of Annihilation stuck with me. The writing style was good, and the book was an interesting blend of mystery and biology. I wondered for years how things would turn out, what the nature of the tower would be, the writing on the wall, etc, etc.

Turns out, the whole thing was a mess. Annihilation was pretty good, but mainly in that it setup a lot of great plot points and mystery and intrigue that were just never and/or poorly executed on. It's goodness is actively undone by books 2 and 3. Authority (book 2) was garbage. Really bad. Reminded me of the (third?) book of War Against the Ctorr, where the writing style and characters are totally different, and it just absolutely kills the momentum built up earlier in the series. I was fine with the idea - in fact I really liked the concept, but the execution was off. Acceptance (book 3) was just a zero. It was very neutral, didn't answer anything, no big questions or big answers, and didn't really make me care more or less about anything. It seemed very much detached from the first book, and sprawled out in ways that weren't interesting. There was just never any payoff on the things that book 1 had gotten me vested in. Everything just moves on.

Overall, a big waste of time. I like sci-fi for its opportunity to pose big questions, thought experiments, etc. These books, particularly 2 and 3, don't execute well in any regard but the covers. I think Annihilation is itself a great stand-alone book, but it's really soured by the followups.

Author Bio:

Jeff VanderMeer is an American author, editor, and literary critic. Initially associated with the New Weird literary genre, VanderMeer crossed over into mainstream success with his bestselling Southern Reach Trilogy. The trilogy's first novel, Annihilation, won the Nebula and Shirley Jackson Awards, and was adapted into a Hollywood film by director Alex Garland. Among VanderMeer's other novels are Shriek: An Afterword and Borne. He has also edited with his wife Ann VanderMeer such influential and award-winning anthologies as The New Weird, The Weird, and The Big Book of Science Fiction. VanderMeer has been called "one of the most remarkable practitioners of the literary fantastic in America today," with The New Yorker naming him the "King of Weird Fiction." VanderMeer's fiction is noted for eluding genre classifications even as his works bring in themes and elements from genres such as postmodernism, ecofiction, the New Weird and post-apocalyptic fiction. VanderMeer's writing has been described as "evocative" and containing "intellectual observations both profound and disturbing," and has been compared with the works of Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, and Henry David Thoreau.