Struggling to Accept "Acceptance": Jigsaw Puzzle or Cabinet of Curiosities?

Acceptance (Southern Reach Trilogy, #3)Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jeff VanderMeer's final book in the Southern Reach Trilogy feels just as different from the first two books as the second book did from the first. As one would hope, "Acceptance" gives us some explanations behind the mysteries described in the first two books. But having read these explanations, I came away thinking they only look like explanations. I know a little more than I did before, but not nearly enough.

"Acceptance" was neither surprising nor scary nor completely satisfying. Unlike the first two books, "Acceptance" is heavy with multiple points-of-view. Characters from the previous books appear in both flashbacks and contemporary circumstances. We learn a number of different things about how Area X came to be, and the conspiracies it generated, and how secrets contained secrets like so many nesting Russian dolls. But there is much we don't learn as well.

The story of the TV show "LOST" comes to mind. By the end of the final season, we knew the puzzle pieces fit together, even if we couldn't quite visualize the cover on the puzzle box. The ending of "LOST" brought the story to a conclusion, however susceptible it may have been to different interpretations. (And admittedly, more than a few viewers were left frustrated.)

The ending of the Southern Reach Trilogy, however, seems to wander, as if the book itself were mirroring the minds of the people in the story, like the lighthouse keeper as he endures transformation. It makes me wonder if the author himself entered (and returned?) from Area X. In the end, the bits and pieces don't fit together. Rather than puzzle pieces in a box, they seem like a collection of artifacts in a cabinet of curiosities.

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