Review: Authority by Jeff VanderMeer by Jeff VanderMeer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 352 pages, May)

This second book in the Southern Reach Trilogy...I can't...really...oh words...

*pulls herself together*

Ok, let me try that again.

Authority continues the story begun in Annihilation of an unexplained Event that has completely erased all human traces from a piece of land in the southern U. S. Thing is, it's a little too pristine there, and all expeditions sent to investigate have failed to understand it. Oh, and all kinds of terrible things have happened to those expeditions...

Also, to make matters worse, the "border" around this area may or may not be moving ever outward, threatening all human and animal life in its path. In Authority, we're given a different perspective on the uncanny situation at the Southern Reach outpost. This time, the narrator is a new director, who likes to go by the name "Control," and who has been living in the shadow of his powerful mama at "Central." She's gotten him this job, but soon enough he realizes that it might not be so great for his health.

As in Annihilation, VanderMeer patiently and carefully builds up a world permeated by fear, suspicion, and high anxiety. After all, didn't someone once say that the most frightening things are those we cannot see and name? And I can't really think of anything more anxiety-provoking than a nameless, shapeless, encroaching thing that erases anything it envelops.

*eats some chocolate to calm herself after that last sentence*

Moving on. At the Southern Reach facility, Control finds strange writing on walls (see Annihilation), a dead mouse and plant in a drawer, piles of papers that tell him nothing, and alternately hostile and unsettling colleagues who all have their own mysterious agendas.

But the biologist from the last expedition who's being held at the facility- she's the biggest cipher. Each time Control interrogates her, she transforms ever so slightly, just as Area X does for anyone investigating it. And she becomes Control's lifeline once everything starts to fall apart and Area X explodes outward. Oh, and someone emerges from Area X who really shouldn't...

So if you haven't yet read Annihilation, go read it now, then read Authority, and then gnaw your fingernails down to nothing waiting for September and the final installment, Acceptance.

1 comment:

  1. Weird and compelling. The mystery of annihilation gets some answers, and yet deepens. Control and the Biologist play off each other, each revealing different aspects of the mystery of Area X and themselves.