Do you like to read weird things? I suspect anyone who has read more than one of this gentleman’s posts probably does. Granted, I write in the conventional, easily parsed and comforting voice of a modern nobleman, but I often recommend novels wherein there is at least a modicum of the weird: perhaps there is a murderous tortilla chip or a ghost delivering a message to the wrong twin or a carnival full of haphazardly genetically modified human attractions. But this time I’m going to get real weird with it: I hereby recommend Southern Reach, the gripping trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.
Is it weirder than murderous snacks? Yes. After all, I sometimes feel, particularly after a sixth sack of candied bacon, that my snacks have it in for me. But I’ve never been on a classified expedition into a mysterious wilderness surrounded by a force-field that obliterates anything that touches it unless it enters through one particular (and invisible) entrance. Once there I’ve never encountered a “tower” that extends underground rather than above it, its walls harboring a massively creepy, moderately comprehensible never-ending sentence etched in otherworldly fungus. Nor have I taken a closer look at that fungus only to inhale a spore which imparts a “glowing” feeling and increasingly takes hold of my mind and body. Likewise, I did not later discover the harrowing extent of the hypnotic cues imparted on me before I began my journey. Never have I discovered that a previous expedition had ended in a bloodbath caused by its highly trained members turning on each other. Not once have I ventured to a lighthouse to find evidence of carnage and a tremendous cache journals whose content is more disturbing even than the fact that there are significantly more of them than the official count of expeditions into “Area X” would account for. And I have not experienced any of the other strange shenanigans that populate the remaining two books in the trilogy and which, as is my custom, I will not spoil.
However, if you prefer to have your reading material more thoroughly examined, I will provide a link to this glowing review. Here, have another. Want someone to more thoroughly elucidate what’s weird about this trilogy? Fine.
The book jackets and reviews compare this trilogy to “LOST.” One of the above reviews says it’s like “LOST” if H.P. Lovecraft had been brought in as a script doctor. And while there is an unfortunate lack of a jump-kicking Matthew Fox, I daresay anyone that enjoyed the show for any length of time will delight in these books. But, again, there is no jump-kicking Matthew Fox; maybe I am wrong.
There is more to recommend this trilogy than its strange and startlingly fun content. For one, there is an abundance of pretty nature writing: nature lovers might be inspired to lace up their nature boots for a more tangible look at nature. It could be argued (and is argued in one of the linked reviews) that there are some fancy metaphors embedded in this series. Also, while other authors harangue their readers for being too eager for the next volume in their massive book series, VanderMeer published this trilogy in two month intervals, which gave readers respites to digest the content and crave more. And, delightfully, at this point all three are published and you need not exercise the same restraint as some doctors recommend be paired with candied bacon.