Book events should always include live owls, full stop.
Jeff VanderMeer has been one busy guy since Acceptance, the final installment of the Southern Reach trilogy, pubbed in September. This spectacular photo (courtesy Kyle Cassidy) is from Jeff’s visit to Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences, but he’s done readings all over the east coast and we’re running out of fingers to count all the wonderful reviews that have come in.
For Slate, Mac Rogers calls the Southern Reach trilogy “the most uncompromising—yet most rewarding—genre series I’ve read in quite some time.”
The books have a mystery at their center, but it’s an apocalyptic mystery starring detectives who either don’t have the wherewithal to solve it, aren’t any good at solving it, or don’t care about solving it. Or all three. Because the concept of a “sleuth,” the one who pieces together the available data into a complete picture, is one form of human identity. And in the Southern Reach Trilogy’s naturalist Armageddon, your identity is the bad guy.
Illustration by Emily Carroll
In the New York Times Book Review, Scott Hutchins praises Jeff’s “incredibly evocative, naturalist eye, ” his prose—“precise, metaphorical but rigorous, and as fertile as good loam”—and his reckoning with environmental and “prickly political conversations”:
In the world of the trilogy, people are basically free to move about and say what they want, but are also under constant surveillance, the authorities able to swoop in at any moment. Sound familiar? And what about the extreme environmental degradation that may have caused Area X? Look at BP in the Gulf and BPAs in the drinking supply and what appears to be a human-generated great extinction. Suddenly, you wonder if the resistance in your reading is related to the books or to the wishful thinking that gets you through the day.
Illustration Martin Jarrie
The Guardian’s Adam Roberts calls the Southern Reach trilogy “a modern mycological masterpiece.” “This is genuinely dream-haunting writing,” he writes. “VanderMeer has arrived.”
And just today, Acceptance was featured prominently in The Casual Optimist’s very eye-catching round-up of book covers featuring birds.
Laugh it up, Portlandia. We’re on to something.