After thirty years, the only human engagement with Area X—a seemingly malevolent landscape surrounded by an invisible border and mysteriously wiped clean of all signs of civilization—has been a series of expeditions overseen by a government agency so secret it has almost been forgotten: the Southern Reach. Following the tumultuous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the agency is in complete disarray.
John Rodrigues (aka “Control”) is the Southern Reach’s newly appointed head. Working with a distrustful but desperate team, a series of frustrating interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, Control begins to penetrate the secrets of Area X. But with each discovery he must confront disturbing truths about himself and the agency he’s pledged to serve.
In Authority, the second volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Area X’s most disturbing questions are answered . . . but the answers are far from reassuring.
“We live in a universe driven by chance,” his father had said once, “but the bullshit artists all want causality.”
In a lot of ways, I don’t have much more to say than what I already said in Annihilation. Authority wasn’t much different than Annihilation in pretty much every way: the characters, the way I felt while reading it, and even the ending was similar. It was just longer, with a lot more of what at the time felt like procrastination.
Authority follows Control, who has been recently appointed to the head of Southern Reach after the last Control was removed. Control has to figure out just exactly Area X is – or what they think it is – and work with a team that is distrustful of him. Southern Reach is not in a position to remove him themselves.
And also Control is fascinated by the Biologist from the previous mission, the only survivor. Yes, the Biologist from the previous book. The Biologist who stayed in Area X to try and find her husband. Yeah you know where this is going if you read Annihilation. The interactions where Control interviews the Biologist are far and away the best part of the book. He is fascinated by her and the mystery she presents. Heck, he is fascinated by Area X, which is the next best part of the book.
Unfortunately, most of this book isn’t any of that. There is a lot of bureaucracy interspersed with weird shit going on. We try and track down answers to questions that have no real answer. Things go in circles, and despite being in a different place with different people, people who are tasked to research and understand Area X, we… still don’t really learn anything new. It was acutely frustrating. In parts I wanted to stop the book because of how frustrating it is. Every time we would get close to answers it would be snatched away.
I enjoyed Authority, to a point. I really enjoyed the creepy atmosphere and the slowly unraveling situation. The mystery is one I’m incredibly interested in, even when I’m learning nothing. It was a difficult for me to read, as I never really felt any drive to pick it back up again. And because I was reading in audio, I did end up with gaps in my memory of what the book was about as a result of the time it took to read and the format. I want to know where this is going. I just don’t love this.
Unfortunately, while I tried to make it through book three, I just couldn’t so this is where the reviews end. I just lost too many threads of the story. Maybe someday I may pick this up in ebook instead of audiobook and be able to follow everything better.