Warning: slight spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the previous two novels of the Southern Reach Trilogy.

I should have taken the hint from the title. I would just have to accept what author Jeff Vandermeer was going to give me. But I really don’t want to.

Marking the only plot line that actually sounds like it comes from a normal series of books, Control and Ghost Bird (the fake biologist) have returned to Area X through a portal she created. Why? If there are any answers, they are there. Especially since Area X has consumed the Southern Reach and who knows what else.

They find probably the last person I expected them to find: Grace, the assistant director. Only she’s been in Area X for three years, whereas only three weeks have passed for Control and Ghost Bird. Will they work together to stop Area X? Or transform into something else before they can?

That’s the main plot. The best parts of the novel are two perspectives we haven’t seen before. That of the director (the psychologist), and the lighthouse keeper, Saul Evans. You see, the Director grew up inside Area X before it was Area X. And she knew the lighthouse keeper who turned into the mysterious “Crawler.” We see Saul Evans perspective as he tries to live his life until he is “infected” by…something. Something that came out of the lighthouses’ light. Something pulled out by the creepy Seance & Science Brigade. And we see the director’s perspective as she assembles expeditions, sneaks into Area X before her final expedition, and deals with the previous director’s crazy ideas.

It’s a bit hard to describe. The whole series is hard to describe. Again, the best word for it is Lovecraftian. Especially when the former biologist shows up, but she’s a massive living being operating on planes of existence and thought that we can’t dream of.

Ultimately, the ending, like a lot of horror stories, is inconclusive. What is it? Who knows. Did they stop it? Maybe. The author still has a way with words that defy convention. But after three books of mysteries I want some solid ground to stand on. There’s not enough in here, and I’m sorry if I can’t completely accept that.

2.5 out of 4 stars.

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