Top positive review
For The Subliminal Existentialist Speculative Fiction Reader Who Mines For Mind Material
Reviewed in the United States on March 14, 2018
While I do not show up on these reviews as a "verified purchaser" I have indeed received this book from Amazon via my wife as a gift and up front: the quality of the hardback cased set is beautifully artistic and well manufactured. If you like quality books on your shelf, this set is top of the line from FSG Originals publishers.
VanderMeer's trilogy seems to draw both love and dislike from a various assortment of reviewers. I will have to say up front that I can understand the nay-sayers because I presume they are the subset of readers who need stylistic novels that follow a standard plot-point path narrative with a problem to be solved, a struggle to solution, and a final resolution, all crafted in whatever necessary web entertains and exhilarates. This is the fictional prose of literature, both classic and modern, literary or pulp.
However, there are artists in the literature community. If you are not spectacularly comfortable with pastoral symphony (like Debussy), impressionist art (like Van Gogh), stream of consciousness writing (like Kerouac), then these novels will not be much to your liking plain and simple. If this is not your bag, don't attempt. The Southern Reach trilogy has more in common with Cormac McCarthy's The Road than with Stephen King's The Stand, and that commonness is the delivery, the nearly poetic prose that flows from mind to page without rules from The Elements Of Style. The narrative is indeed existential, a Kafka-esque Lovecraft with a sense of dread, loneliness, and brooding. Like Cormac, there is a dreamlike quality to the prose, it is at once haunting, ephemeral, and contemplative, without being abrasive or dragging the speed. You flow along with the words, you absorb the narrative rather than consciously read it. The story moves you along a path, it urges you on of your own volition, and you become addicted. All this if you let it. But again, if the style of writing is not your cup of tea, you will not fully enjoy the taste. For all others, those who lap up this kind of conveyance, Those who read The Road and loved it, those who can immerse themselves On The Road or with the Dharma Bums, those who really see French Impressionism with their ears, and hear Afternoon of a Faun with their eyes, well those are the readers who will dearly love this work!
At this writing, the first of the three novels, Annihilation, has been made into a film and is being released in theaters. I am sure there will be a resurgence of interest in the book and books, so with that, those of you who have seen the spectacular vision and are looking perhaps for more enlightenment from the author, warning to you all: Annihilation was made into a "closed" movie with the full consent of the author to the director. That means it is unlikely there will be an attempt to make all three into movies, since Annihilation (the movie) will have a completed ending, whereas the novel leaves you hanging in the balance for the next book and the one after that, and as many have pointed out, the completeness of reading this trilogy is all in the heart and in the imagination. Area X is elusive and ephemeral, a Will-o'-the-wisp, a spectre, that once entered breeds conjuring of the mind for each reader on a personal level. What you gain from these books may be entirely different from my experience. That is the beauty of this reading experience. Remember a long ago haunting voice. “You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into… the Twilight Zone.” And like any good speculative fiction, as with The Twilight Zone, what is left unsaid, what you don't readily see, is often as important, or more important, than what is right in front of you. This where Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance work as a masterpiece. They are beautiful prose, darkly poetic, mysterious and ethereal, imaginative and visionary, profound and haunting.
Last word: if you have somehow read my review before reading other more descriptive accounts, enjoy this work without spoilers, jump in blind and start swimming. If you enjoy the kind of prose described above, you only need to take the plunge and revel in the discovery. Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance are for readers who like to think outside the box and who appreciate art on a level beyond the confines of stone tablet rules. Be adventuresome! There is uniqueness here, a uniqueness which is different for every participant. That is the glory of Area X The Southern Reach Trilogy. In the same way it affects the characters in the novels, it affects each individual reader, uniquely for that individual reader alone.