Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy is about a weird area on the forgotten coast in a future with nameless bureaucracies instead of specific governments. With all the namelessness what is named is important. In the first book, Annihilation the names were given to the specifics of the environment the biologist was witnessing. In Authority we go with the replacement director into the bureaucracy that sent the expeditions in the first book. By the third book, Acceptance, we’re discovering the depths of what came before and putting names to the weirdnesses.
While each book has delved into the mystery of Area X, the characters are the reason to keep reading. I found that Acceptance, because it had worked up to four viewpoint characters in three timelines, was a bit less drag-me-along I need to finish this last night than the first two. They were all really good, but if you want to stop after the first I think that’d be okay too.
I wasn’t sure what my reading life would be like after my kid was born (a little less than 4 weeks ago now). So far, I’ve been getting through things all right, though the dead time when your job is simply holding a screaming grub trying to let it be quiet again isn’t as conducive to in-depth concentration as I’d prefer. If I could listen to audiobooks I’m sure that’d work a bit better, but someone would always be distracting me. In any case, huzzah for ebooks that let me turn bages by tapping something that’s always lying flat where I put it.
One of the things about books you remember reading as a kid is that a lot of them are super short now. I remember Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time being a huge epic story, but rereading it for my SF class I learned how short and straight-forward a story it is, even if the entire first third wastes a lot of time introducing characters.
Meg is awkward and has a 4 year old brother who acts like no four year old. Their father is off somewhere and the family gets a lot of flak about it. Then these three witches kidnap her, her brother and a random vaguely nerdy boy from their school and they go off gallivanting around planets to learn the importance of being an individual and how efficiency can be terrible.
One of the things I’m finding a lot in these books is how un-nuanced a fashion evil can be portrayed in. They can see the evil cloud of darkness that’s so evil and so shadowy. What it did really well (apart from popularize the idea of a tesseract and its explanation) is really show how finding an adult to solve all your problems doesn’t really work. You can’t devolve responsibility for your life to some authority, and how that’s actually a kind of terrifying idea.
I liked it, but was kind of disappointed at how simplistic the whole thing was. There are some attitudes that’d seem really weird to modern kids I think, though I don’t remember noticing them when I was reading this as a kid (not in the 1960s). There are some very old-style gender roles but Meg’s mom is a scientist, which is cool. And Meg’s a sciencey heroine, which is good.