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Bookworm 2014: Triple A

Posted on | December 31, 2014 | No Comments

To cap off the year in review, I must now turn to the finest novel of 2014. It is, in fact, a trio of novels, a.k.a. the much lauded series of Southern Reach short novels by Jeff Vandermeer.

Jeff Vandermeer - AnnihilationAnnihilation, the first one in the trilogy, came out without much fanfare, but word-of-mouth quickly spread – growing into a wave of hype. There were comparisons with Lost, in that there is a lot of mystery with very little explanation in the first book and vague promises of a meaningful resolution later down the line. I was weary of giving it a shot (partly because of the Lost thing, but also because for some reason I kept mixing up Vandermeer with Di Filippo, whose work I detest), but when I saw the page count, I thought – why not? – and a good thing I did. Annihilation was, indeed, captivating. The language was beautiful, and what should have felt like gimmicks (i.e. none of the protagonists have names, merely professions) flowed naturally within the story of the twelfth expedition to a weird roadside-picnickian region of unexplained weirdness called Area X by a team from the shadowy Southern Reach Authority that left me on tenterhooks for the second part of the story.

Jeff Vandermeer - AuthorityAuthority delivered, and delivered hard. A look into the inner workings of the titular Southern Reach Authority from the point of view of its newly appointed director, dubbed Control (despite the fact that real names slowly start floating to the surface in this one), taking place after the twelfth expedition, very slowly uncovers both the inner workings of the organization, as well as some of the key people involved in the expeditions, both in the field, as well as in the not-too-cushy offices. We are given more, but not too much, retaining much of the mystery surrounding the phenomenon of Area X, but providing heaps of unsettling ambiance that actually left me feeling uneasy the way few actual horror stories manage to.

Jeff Vandermeer - AcceptanceAcceptance is the final part of the trilogy, and after a lengthy wait, it delivered. There is another expedition into Area X, this time with enough context and background information to unravel the mystery, but by this point, the mystery of what Area X is and why it came to be is falling far behind the issue of how it is. The surreal grinds against the scientific, multiple points of view uncover the history of it all, and both the protagonists and the reader are led to the titular acceptance in a cathartic conclusion that left me thoroughly satisfied.

However, the series is not for everyone. It seems to really divide people in two camps, those enthralled and captivated by the eerie atmosphere, the gorgeous language, the sense of dislocation and the introspective philosophical ramblings, and others, either annoyed at the lack of an obvious “rational” explanation for Area X (there either is one or I’ve read far more into the words than Vandermeer ever put in there) or just bored and annoyed by the never-ending gush of inner monologue, doubts, fears and insecurities of the never too likable protagonists. For me, its mix hit just the perfect spot.

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    Written in minutes and fact-checked in seconds via Google. May contain unsafe levels of self-righteousness. Past cleverness is no guarantee of future results.
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  • Goodreads

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time
    The Ophiuchi Hotline
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
    Green Eyes
    Crackpot Palace: Stories
    The Fractal Prince
    The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter

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