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The bone-chilling, hair-raising second installment of the Southern Reach Trilogy

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 Rodríguez (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.

341 pages, Paperback

First published May 6, 2014

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About the author

Jeff VanderMeer

231 books13.2k followers
NYT bestselling writer Jeff VanderMeer has been called “the weird Thoreau” by the New Yorker for his engagement with ecological issues. His most recent novel, the national bestseller Borne, received wide-spread critical acclaim and his prior novels include the Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance). Annihilation won the Nebula and Shirley Jackson Awards, has been translated into 35 languages, and was made into a film from Paramount Pictures directed by Alex Garland. His nonfiction has appeared in New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, Slate, Salon, and the Washington Post. He has coedited several iconic anthologies with his wife, the Hugo Award winning editor. Other titles include Wonderbook, the world’s first fully illustrated creative writing guide. VanderMeer served as the 2016-2017 Trias Writer in Residence at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He has spoken at the Guggenheim, the Library of Congress, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination.

VanderMeer was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, but spent much of his childhood in the Fiji Islands, where his parents worked for the Peace Corps. This experience, and the resulting trip back to the United States through Asia, Africa, and Europe, deeply influenced him.

Jeff is married to Ann VanderMeer, who is currently an acquiring editor at Tor.com and has won the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award for her editing of magazines and anthologies. They live in Tallahassee, Florida, with two cats and thousands of books.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,837 reviews
Profile Image for Richard.
227 reviews7 followers
May 26, 2014
I can't give this more than 2 stars because the center of the book drags along like a sacked brick. I tried and tried to get into it, but I couldn't remain interested.

It just doesn't need 200 pages to get across the idea of the Southern Reach. Relationships barely develop past the first meetings and the whole thing feels stuck. I guess this mirrors the feelings the main characters are supposed to be experiencing in the least fun way possible.

None of the little mysteries really go anywhere exciting, and the good stuff that happens is pretty random and not driven at all by the events that precede it. The main event near the end of the book could have just happened on page 50 and spared us the main part of the book.

Maybe I'm being harsh! There is another book on its way after all. It could all slot together and be a satisfying adventure story - but my interest is pretty dented.

Annihilation, was a fun, really short, little mystery that flew along. This book is work, and you don't get much in return. (yet?)
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
March 6, 2019
”In the black water with the sun shining at midnight, those fruit shall come ripe and in the darkness of that which is golden shall split open to reveal the revelation of the fatal softness in the earth.”

 photo AreaX_zps424bf064.jpg

John A.K.A. Control has been made director of The Southern Reach Facility. The last director finagled her way onto the last expedition into Area X and has never been seen or heard from again. The assistant director doesn’t only dislike him, but is working actively to undermine him. I’ve been in a similar circumstances before with a job. It is time consuming winning everybody over so that the work environment can settle into a new normal.

As it turns out Control doesn’t have months to convince anyone of anything.

There is something wrong with the building...it smells like rotting honey.

Some of “the twelfth” expedition which were all women have returned, remembering next to nothing, scattered thoughts. Soon he is focused on The Biologist, the main character from Annihilation, whose answers are not...quite...right. There is blue sky in the amnesia that makes Control suspicious that she remembers more than she is letting on.

”They were beginning to exist in some transitional space between interrogation and conversation, something for which he could not quite find a name.”

She is bemused by him.

He discovers notes by the original director about The Biologist that he hopes will offer some clarification, but they only create more questions.

”Not a very good biologist. In a traditional sense. Empathic more toward environments than people. Forgets the reasons she went, who is paying her salary. But becomes embedded to an extraordinary extent. Would know Area X better than I do from almost the first moment sets foot there. Experience with similar settings. Self-sufficient. Unburdened. Connection through her husband. What would she be in Area X? A signal? A flare? Or invisible? Exploit.

 photo SouthernReachRabbits_zpsecd7cbfe.jpg

Control has been resurrected from what should have been a career ending disastrous string of decisions on his last assigning. The type of judgment calls that haunts your career for the rest of your life. His mother, Severance, currently works for Central in some nebulous position deemed Classified. His grandfather also used to work for Central as well and filled Control’s head with all kinds of platitudes.

”So long as you don’t tell people you don’t know something, they’ll probably think you know it.”

Gramps didn’t pass along anything original, but as his situation becomes more and more tenuous Control finds his grandfather’s voice in his head very reassuring.

”Is your house in order?” the Voice asked. “Is it in order?”

That voice is not grandfather, but his contact at Central. The entity that is supposed to be running interference for him at Central and buy him time to work his way through this puzzle. But why does he always feel so damn funny after talking to him?

Then there is the plant in his desk drawer; the plant that won’t die. It is obviously from Area X. Somebody gave it a dead mouse to eat.

 photo 8f39617e-e0aa-4082-995c-6fbbe777d8e8_zpse92bde9c.png
Rabbits will do what rabbits do best, but what will Rabbits do best in Area X?

And then there is Whitby talking about the terror, the terroir. The French word meaning the set of special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place possess and how it is interacting with plant genetics.


Why don’t we agitate it? Make it do something.

Will it bring him ”closer to the truth about Area X, and even if the truth was a fucking maw, a fanged maw that stank like a cave full of putrefying corpses, that was still closer than he was now.”

Control is opening that door that defies the first rule of every horror film…DON’T OPEN THE DOOR.

 photo ScullyandMulder_zps1f332b23.jpg
Control would have been so much more focused if he’d had Dana Scully licking his face.

This was such a surprise after reading book one. I was expecting to be up to my armpits in malicious people eating foliage, attempting to keep my brain from going completely Gonzo, and hopefully finding answers to some lingering questions about Area X. Jeff Vandermeer switches gears on us and puts us in the middle of an X-File with a Fox Mulder without the steadying influence of a Dana Scully. The suspense builds beautifully with many moments of...that was odd...until finally it reaches a crescendo with Control on the run not only from Area X, but also from the people at Central. And now I MUST read Acceptance.

ANNIHILATION review Book one of the Southern Reach Trilogy

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visithttp://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for carol..
1,537 reviews7,880 followers
June 24, 2017
If Annihilation reminded me of Jeanette Winterson’s writing, then Authority reminded me of Kafka, but not the interesting Kafka, one of the boring ones, which surely if I say which one, my dear friends are going to quickly assure me that I’m quite wrong and there is no way Kafka could ever be boring with such Big Ideas. So maybe I don’t mean Kafka. Maybe I mean one of those other stodgy old writers from Advanced English who was clearly writing about the Human Condition in Big Fat Metaphors. Maybe Moby Dick. Is it safe to call Moby Dick boring? It also reminded me a little of Joseph Heller, in Something Happened, when, of course, nothing does happen. Or Waiting for Godot, only more like Waiting for Area X. Or maybe I’m thinking of that movie Brazil, which is what I always think of when I think of big, boring films about Meaning of Corporations. Which is probably not what Brazil is even about, but you’ll never get me to watch it again, so it doesn’t matter. In my mind, it’s always about a faceless bureaucracy. Anyway, just think of some story from your memory of something that was well-done, full of Deep Meaning about the Human Condition, with a confused narrator, a whole lot of navel-gazing about Ineffectual Man, and you’ll about have it.

Authority is clearly the next side to the prism that composes the Southern Reach Trilogy, but this installment is focused a new character, government official John Rodriguez. He’s been transferred in as replacement of the missing Director of the Southern Reach. In keeping with the tradition of roles superseding names, John adopts a childhood moniker ‘Control.’ His arrival occurs shortly after the Biologist and her team have returned to the Reach (!) sans memories and missing the psychologist. As Control seeks to puzzle out the mystery of the Biologist and the Reach, he also faces inter-agency status conflicts, with antagonism from the Voice above as well as from below, in the form of Assistant Director Grace:

“But Control preferred to think of her as neither patience nor grace. He preferred to think of her as an abstraction if not an obstruction. She had made him sit through an old orientation video about Area X, must have known it would be basic and out of date. She had already made clear that theirs would be a relationship based on animosity. From her side, at least.“

Maybe the transfer is a plot to get rid of him. Maybe its a plot his mother has to advance his career. Maybe it’s just the only job available to a man who compromised his cases. It is hard for both the reader and Control to tell, and honestly, I don’t know that I cared. He’s not an anti-hero, just an everyday bureaucrat trying to do the best he can and survive complex corporate politics. And complex family politics. ‘Control’ is clearly an irony for a man who has none.

We experience the rotting-honey smell of the Reach (!) through the new eyes of Control, as he almost but-not-quite bonds with both the Biologist held in isolation and the ghost of the former Director (I’m not spoiling anything; I’m not being literal here, people. I think). If I enjoyed Craig Johnson‘s show-don’t tell mysteries, this is pretty much the opposite; not a lot happens except in Control’s head, with a few bizarre incidents spurring him onward.

But the writing! I love the writing, so vivid and clever and allegorical, except that almost every little bit is vivid and clever and allegorical so it really does need a bit of a driver to engage my emotions:

“Before he’d arrived, Control had imagined himself flying free above the Southern Reach, swooping down from some remote perch to manage things. That wasn’t going to happen. Already his wings were burning up and he felt more like some ponderous moaning creature trapped in the mire.“

Remember the swamp creature from Annihilation? Of course you do! What does it mean? Is Area X is the Reach, and the Reach is Area X? Maybe. I don’t know, and am not entirely sure I care. Enough navel-gazing, Control.

Much like Zone One, Colin Whitehead’s brush with zombie Metaphorical Fiction, this book missing the five star despite truly excellent writing, purely out of personal taste and enjoyment. Well written, well-crafted, I read it because I’d like to see Vandermeer’s gestalt, as well as know more about Area X. Onward!

Really, more a three-and-half star book, but no option for that here.

Review forevermore posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2014/0... where it can't be deleted for being off-topic
Profile Image for Stuart.
718 reviews268 followers
July 28, 2015
Holy crap, this book was unbearable! I'm trying to think of something good to say about this book...and failing. It reminds me of an unholy blend of the final season of Lost, The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, The Office, and Waiting for Godot. Endless trivial descriptions of bureaucracy, oblique dead-end details, and an obstinate refusal to further the plot in any way, other than with fruitless clues. It seems that fans of Annihilation were enthralled by the ominous Lovcraftian horror of Area X and the unreliable narrator, but the real horror is the unreliable author who writes well and teases with no intention of delivering the goods.

I am a prodigious reader of SF&F, but I am not a fan of ambiguity or metaphor. I want a novel with compelling characters, fascinating world-building, and a propulsive storyline that makes we want to know more, but whatever Jeff VanderMeer was aiming for, it went straight over my head. This book smacks of Serious Literature Filled with Deep Meaning that Average Joes cannot possibly grasp. As I read for entertainment and to stimulate my imagination, I cannot go another step. I was hoping this book would provide some illumination of the events of Annihilation, but after getting to the 50% mark without the slightest clue, I cannot justify wasting any more precious reading time. People often say, just hang in there and the book will pay off at the end, but I would counter, why can't a story be interesting and exciting from the get-go? Is that too much to ask? Having read fairly widely, I'm pretty certain of what I will like or not, and this series is about as far from my tastes as I've encountered in a long time. My apologies to all the GR readers who loved this book, I respect your opinions and tastes and I hope you won't think less of me, but why torture myself anymore? I'm moving onto something else.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,056 reviews1,862 followers
March 29, 2016

"Imagine a situation, John, in which you are trying to contain something dangerous. But you suspect that containment is a losing game. That what you want to contain is escaping slowly, inexorably. That what seems impermeable is, in fact, over time, becoming very permeable. That the divide is more perforated than unperforated. And that whatever this thing is seems to want to destroy you but has no leader to negotiate with, no stated goals of any kind."

Control, also known by his birth name: John Rodríguez, is CIA. The CIA have been concerned lately about what is going on at the Southern Reach, a special branch of government dedicated to investigating Area X, the mysterious and deadly portion of the United States that is surrounded by a shimmering, intangible border. Anything and anyone that passes that border is never seen again. They disappear, kill themselves, kill each other - or return. Return as empty husks of the people they once were: with no memories, no personalities, and no hope of a future.

After 30 years of trying to figure out what Area X is, what caused it, why it exists, how it exists - the government still has no answers. And there is blood on their hands. After the 1,500 people were killed when "the border" around Area X suddenly appeared three decades ago, the government has insisted on sending in expedition after expedition of scientists and experts into the festering, unknown vastness - the pristine, uncontaminated wilderness that seems to be slowly expanding - that exists beyond "the border," with disastrous results. Quite often, everyone dies. And on the rare occasions someone comes back, death seems like a merciful option.

Called in by not only his job with the CIA, but by his powerhouse agent of a mother, Control is plunged into the fetid, putrid recesses of the Southern Reach.

And what he finds there is horrifying.

Things I Can Tell You Without Spoiling Anything:

1.) This is a strong horror entry. It could also be classified as science-fiction, but it is leaning heavily toward horror. Expect creepiness and growing horror.

He had been standing there recognizing that there was a draft in the loft. He had been standing there without realizing that it wasn't a draft.
Someone was breathing, behind him.
Someone was
breathing on his neck. The knowledge froze him, froze the cry of "Jesus fuck!" in his throat.
He turned with incredible slowness...

2.) You MUST read Annihilation first. This is a sequel to Annihilation and NOT a stand-alone. This WILL NOT make any sense or pack the kind of sickening realization you are seeking if you do not read Annihilation first.

3.) Annihilation is a stronger and better novel than Authority. And, as an added bonus, Annihilation can stand on its own two feet. You can read Annihilation, be severely creeped out by it, let it rock you to your core, and then leave. There's no need to continue on in the rest of the trilogy if you don't want to. You can leave it there. It is a perfectly self-contained and wonderful novel on its own. Authority is NOT. You cannot read and enjoy Authority without having first read Annihilation. The book will not make sense to you.

Whereas Annihilation is primal, feral, taking place in the festering swamplands and filled with terrifying beasts that remain just out of your line of vision - Authority relies on the horror of this kind of merciless and relentless wilderness slowly creeping into an urban environment. It's very different. I like the small-scale, humid, murky, desperately insane feel of Annihilation better than the feel of an insidious force of plants, creatures, and mental breakdown invading an urban setting that is created in Authority. Both books are excellent - it's just a personal preference here.

4.) This book has humor. It is actually funny at points. I laughed out loud more than once. This was shocking to me. It was shocking because there is almost no humor at all in Annihilation. None. Which doesn't make Annihilation any less good - it's a horror/sci-fi after all (humor not necessarily needed). But I was surprised VanderMeer chose to include so much humor in this sequel. And it's funny. It's not as if VanderMeer is attempting to be funny - he actually is funny. Very surprising and refreshing.

Grace was joining him at his request, to assist him in staring out at the swamp while they talked about Area X. Because he'd thought a change of setting - leaving the confines of the concrete coffin - might help soften her animosity. Before he realized just how truly hellish and prehistoric the landscape was, and thus now pre-hysterical as well. Look out upon this mosquito orgy, and warm to me, Grace.

5.) Great, amazing, thorough character study of Control. Control is a fully-formed person. The reader gets to know him intimately. Every facet of him. It was astonishing. He's an asshole, but he's vulnerable. He's compassionate but he's ruthless. He's a CIA agent who is brutal - but also an empathetic person who feels more than a weapon of the government should. His family life, his romantic life, his strengths, his weaknesses - it's AMAZING to me how much and how well VanderMeer crafted this character seeing as the book was also crafting and describing a horrific situation as well. It is brilliant. Rarely do I feel so familiar with a character as I did with Control.

6.) Great depiction of a realistic, fully realized Latino character. Control is Latino, but not: "Oh, this character is latino, look at his latino-ness, oh, message, blah blah blah." But neither does VanderMeer ignore or negate the realities of living as a Latino in the U.S.A. A perfect balance, in my opinion.

7.) Great vocabulary. I even had to look up two or three words and I am VERY well-read. Excellent - I love when books challenge me like this.

8.) VanderMeer is really a beautiful writer, in a way that escapes you at first glance. Of course, if you've already read Annihilation, you will have no doubt as to what I'm talking about in this regard. It might take a while to see the beauty in his writing, but after a while it is undeniable. That doesn't go away in Authority, although I do think Annihilation was more beautifully written.

9.) The paperback English version of this book is a thing of wonder. The front cover, inside covers, and title page are magnificent. I want to own a copy of this book. (All three in the trilogy make a gorgeous set.)

In summary, I can't talk about the plot too much without giving it all away. From my rating you can tell that I loved this book. I read it twice in 3 days. Don't read it if you haven't read Annihilation first.
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,377 reviews1,437 followers
June 23, 2017
The mystery of Area X continues with an FBI agent's entry into the Southern Reach. What's going on? Why can't anybody remember anything? Why is everyone so antagonistic? And why does everything smell bad?

Rarely have I been so disappointed with a book as I was with Authority. The first entry in this series is a gripping, psychedelic adventure that reads like a nature-gone-wild acid trip. This book, on the other hand, is like going to work with a punishing hangover. You don't know what's going on and everybody is pushing piles of paper at you.

"A shadow had passed over the director's desk then. He'd been here before, or somewhere close, making these kinds of decisions before, and it had almost broken him, or broken through him. But he had no choice." pg 18. On and on it goes. No answers, only confusion and bewilderment. I honestly thought, up until the very end, that something mega-cool was going to happen to make up for all of the so-so stuff that had happened so far. Unfortunately...

I also got super excited anytime Area X was mentioned, sort of like passing an old fling on your way to a funeral. Take this passage: "But the truth did have a simple quality to it: About thirty-two years ago, along a remote southern stretch known by some as the "forgotten coast," an Event had occurred that began to transform the landscape and simultaneously caused an invisible border or wall to appear." pg 35. Yes! And then we were immediately back into the boring office work/politics stuff.

"You've heard of the Southern Reach?" He had, mostly through a couple of colleagues who had worked there at one time. Vague allusions, keeping to the cover story about environmental catastrophe. Rumors of a chain of command that was eccentric at best. Rumors of a significant variation, of there being more to the story. But, then, there always was. He didn't know, on hearing his mother say those words, whether he was excited or not." pg 71. And that, my friends, is pretty much the whole book. Let me save you another 250 or so pages.

I exaggerate. A bit. It's just that I'm incredibly disappointed in the turn this story took. I suppose I'll read the last one in this series because I'm a completionist, but that is the only reason.
Profile Image for Fabian.
947 reviews1,565 followers
October 26, 2020
One cardinal rule of trilogies is thoroughly broken with "Authority," Book Two in the Southern Reach Trilogy. That which states that the second tome must build something out of the previous one, that its limits are expanded, that the adventure is transmogrified to its very apex (see, Star Wars episode 5, Godfather II, "Senor Vivo & the Coca Lord" in Louis de Bernieres' Latin American trilogy... heck, even Catching Fire was the better of all the Hunger Games books). "Authority" does none of this--it extinguishes the fire that was barely coming to light in book one. It's almost as if a happy camper, too content with what's transpired in the wilderness outside his home, just pisses on the ashes of his very own creation.

Wow, man. Devastating news: VanderMeer only submerges into more murky waters a plot that's convoluted if barely there. Mysteries piled on top of mysteries--this is as thrilling (&, I guess, as important, structurally) as drying cement.

Will I accept book three, "Acceptance"? Probably not. I don't feel like venturing into terrain that's very promising but yields miserably little.
334 reviews1 follower
May 16, 2014
The author, evidently paid by the word, tells a very long and atmospheric tale, approximately 200 pages overlong. An intriguing last few chapters and ending could stand alone as prelude to the final book.
Profile Image for Hannah.
592 reviews1,052 followers
December 5, 2017
My thoughts on this are, you guessed it, complicated. This follow-up to Annhililation (which I LOVED.) is a very different beast. Set shortly after the events of the first book, it is completely different in feeling and in genre. It does not take place in Area X but rather in the Southern Reach itself where a new director has been placed who will have to try and figure out what is really going on.

There is one thing I am absolutely sure of: Jeff VanderMeer is a genius. He has a way of writing that I find exciting and fresh and original and super brilliant. I adore the way he writes weird books where the weirdness is always grounded in what we know of the world he creates. The world he created here is unsettling and just on the edge of ours; close enough to upset, far away enough to intrigue.

But there were lenghty parts of this book that I was bored to near tears. It felt much longer than it is and reading it often felt like a chore. I have a sneaking suspicion though: maybe that was the point; maybe I was supposed to be bored; maybe this was supposed to drag. Of course, I can never know for sure if that is the case – but then I don’t think an author’s intent is all that important when compared to what the reader gets out of it. This boredom feels intentional – it fits into the themes of bureaucracy and lack of autonomy. It is in direct contrast to what we know of Area X: which is untamed and unblemished by humanity – this feeling is mirrored in the sprawling, unfocussed, fascinating narrative voice of the first book. But this book is set outside of Area X, in the organization that is trying to contain whatever is happening; and doing this in an increasingly rigid way.

So yes, I do not even know what I make of this book. Again, Jeff VanderMeer keeps me at arm’s length from the characters – who do not know who they are themselves (or if they are themselves even), but impresses me with his vivid language.

First sentence: “In Control’s dream it is early morning, the sky deep blue with just a twinge of light.”
Profile Image for Timothy Urgest.
507 reviews264 followers
July 24, 2020
The aftermath of Annihilation is dealt with in Authority. Questions are answered with questions. And minds are forced to open.

This book takes a very different direction from the first book. I thought I was going to be disappointed, but halfway through and to the end I came to highly enjoy it. There is a lot of setup. Every little detail is significant.

Maybe I’m a masochist, but I enjoy the confusion.
Profile Image for Sarah.
639 reviews148 followers
August 26, 2018
I was originally going to give this one star out of spite. I felt like I had to read it even though 30% in I hated it and knew it wouldn’t change. I don’t think the ending was worth holding out for if you don’t want to read book 3, but the ending was good. Therefore- 2 whole stars.

Why didn’t I like this? Let me tell you!

1. Do you like reviewing reports all day? Filing paperwork? Do you like complaining about the rotten honey smell of your office’s cleaning agents? Do you like office politics?

Congratulations! This book is for you.

2. Do you want to read 340 pages of inner monologue of a man with mommy and grandpa issues who refers to himself as “Control” for some idiotic reason beyond my ken?

Congratulations! This book is for you.

3. Do you like being confused beyond belief? Having no idea what is going on, what is being described, and not comprehending the setting? Well do you like feeling delusional?

Congratulations! This book is for you.

I have literally never been more disappointed by a book or an author in years.

Borne was pretty good. Annihilation was even better. Which is why I’m so completely baffled as to how Vandermeer churned this one out. I don’t know if he just didn’t realize that nothing about working a 9-5 office job is fun (or interesting), or if he genuinely thought he was dropping enough breadcrumbs to keep readers interested, but this book was a spectacular fail.

I’m sorry. Usually I have more tact than this- but I’m pretty bitter about the whole thing.

And it says a lot that I’m still willing to give Acceptance a try. But dear God, please let the next book be from the Biologist’s POV. Or literally anyone else’s. Hell- tell it from Mord’s POV, I don’t care. Just please give me something that isn’t paperwork and “rotten honey” cleaning smells. (Which by the way- makes no sense since I’m pretty sure honey mostly doesn’t rot.)
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,976 followers
September 11, 2015
Honestly, I wanted to stay longer in Area X, not get relegated to an almost sterile administration building for most of the novel.

Control (the man, not the action) didn't even really begin to grow on me until well-past half-way mark. At least there were elements of spy-fiction, but in all honesty, the conflict in the novel was rather too light.

I know we're not supposed to have answers in this kind of novel. I don't really expect them. It's all about the journey and cultivating a sense of wonder as a reader, trying to figure out the rules for yourself, seeing if you can do any better than the poor characters actually having to live it. (So to speak.)

And yet, I had to wait until almost the very end to get that mere glance I was hoping for, and then it slipped beneath the water again.
Too little happened. Most of what teased me were the long conversations with Ghost Bird on the other side of an interrogation table, and I did look forward to each and every one of those, but it wasn't until Control had to leave the administration building that I started to gel with the novel, and that's a shame, because I actively started LIKING the novel at that point.

I'm partial to being thrown into the actual action, not just having a taste of squabbling coworkers making a hash of sending so many damn people into Area X.

If I were a more critical reader, not willing to give credit where credit is finally due, I might have said I didn't like this book. Most of it bored me.

Fortunately, I'm not a super critical reader. It did progress my understanding of Area X by way of the people on the outside, and even if they, also, are stumped, then at least they came by it honestly. Or dishonestly. Whatever. :)

Ghost Bird, even for being placed on a pedestal and turned into an Object Of Understanding by everyone else, still remained my favorite character in either novel.

Now, here's the tricky part: It's become painfully obvious to me that we're dealing with the themes of unconsciousness and Id (Annihilation) and consciousness and SuperEgo (Authority), both exploring the physical manifestation of the subconsciousness and how it rises out of the bog into consciousness. Annihilation was floating up, and Authority was sinking down. By extrapolation, Acceptance is going to be all about finding a workable balance, ending in EGO.

Of course, I'm already of the opinion that Ghost Bird already has a pretty good grasp on it, I'm just going to go out on a limb that the tale will be about someone else. Perhaps Control, but probably a third we haven't met.

Truly, the novel IS good if you analyze it. Too bad that it kinda fell flat in execution. Or perhaps that's my own SuperEgo being super critical because it knows, in a deeper sense, that super intellectualization is such a damn bore. :)

Am I right?
Profile Image for Emily B.
426 reviews421 followers
October 23, 2021
Ultimately I wanted some answers and didn’t really get any. Reading it felt like a bit of a drag as I wasn’t very engaged. The reason I kept going was so I could get to book three with the hope that it will be better.

I’m not sure why a whole book focused on office politics and strained family relationships which were barley connected to the original book.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,894 reviews1,927 followers
April 7, 2016
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: 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.

My Review: We're not in Area X anymore, Toto, and therein the problem. Control, our PoV character, is hastily tossed together to provide a camera platform for the bureaucratic machinations and clandestine-agency wars.

It's so frustrating to read a good book that's encased in a less-good book. Like those canned hams from the 1960s, the meat is tasty but who put this weird spoodge all over it?

After much hither-and-thithering, not to mention an amazingly large amount of dithering for an executive, Control runs away from (almost) everything...and the ending makes up for most of the beginning. But really, editor, couldn't a few of those go-nowhere side trips have been pruned? (eg, Whitby's art project, Cheney's existence) It takes such a boatload of attention to track them.

I think the slightly different angle on the same basic story as Annihilation is simply not a strong enough framework to bear the expectations raised by it. The very fact that the main character is known to all and sundry as "Control" is perhaps the single most telling tiny clue: it feels as if Vandermeer wasn't terribly interested in him or in this angle on Area X. Still and all, the sheer...audacity, bravura, something in that family...of the series can't be denied or ignored. Thus a half-star higher rating than I felt the novel qua novel earned.
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.6k followers
January 12, 2022
“It is superstition. But it might be true.”

After the genius that was Annihilation, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Authority. Annihilation posed so many questions and left all of them unanswered. I hoped that its sequel would help offer some answers, but I already knew and feared that it wouldn't. So here we are, at the end of book II, none the wiser.

Authority was weird. It was a huge mess, weird people and situations all over the place without an explanation of what was going on. All we have on our side are few assumptions that may or may not be true. And the rest is confusion.
Plotwise, Authority could even be called boring. There really isn't much going on. The main character is supposed to make some light of the darkness but he keeps running into closed doors. No one really wants to tell him what's going on and the things he does find are super weird and also do not make any sense.
The only intriguing parts of this novel were the meetings with the biologist, the main character from Annihilation. She is such an interesting character and the only one that seems to have clear motives, even though they might not always be obvious to the reader.

Authority kept me reading because I wanted answers. I think the reason this book works is that it's the second book in a trilogy. If it was the first one, I'm not sure it would have kept my interest.

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Profile Image for Trish.
1,947 reviews3,404 followers
February 16, 2018
To enable a new beginning the old has to make way.

This continues the story of Area X, a part of what we now know is in the southern United States of America (somewhere in Florida to be more precise), that suddenly changed about 30 years ago. If the change really was sudden; there is still dispute about that. Anyway, about 30 years ago something happened and a form of border came down, shutting Area X off from the rest of the world. An agency, called Southern Reach, was formed to investigate and that's what they've been doing ever since. Or have they?
After the disastrous end to expedition #12 at the end of the previous book, we're at Southern Reach's headquarters now. The biologist suddenly appeared in an empty lot, the anthropologist and surveyor somewhere else, the psychologist hasn't returned. All three returnees are being held and questioned.
Control (John Rodriguez) is sent by the government to investigate for several reasons (layers upon layers upon layers).
From the get-go, there is some friction with the staff at Southern Reach, who are less than happy to have him question their every move. This also leads to all expedition members but the biologist being sent away "due to a clerical error", effectively hindering the investigation, which isn't too bad, however, since the focus was on the biologist anyway.
Thus, we get to witness some sessions between Control and the biologist, some interactions between him and the staff, some discoveries, some flashbacks into Control's family history and career, his methods changing as much as Control himself until the quite surprising end.

From the beginning, this book was slightly different. Not just the audiobook's narrator (male this time to fit with the new protagonist) or the setting, but subtle things like the reader being told the true names of people before some of them adopted the designations known from book 1. Sadly, it didn't quite manage the sense of unease I felt while reading the first book.

Despite my hope of getting back to Area X, I was very happy with this second installment. The games these people play with one another and themselves, the hypnosis ploy, the further mystery not only of what created Area X but also of at least the last expedition (such as the fact that ) - I felt like a sleuth and very much enjoyed piecing together yet more elements to form the big picture.
Through Control's investigative work we get to know what we already deduced from the ending of the last book: that there have been many more than 11 expeditions in total; that Area X is not really contained (the rabbit story had me bang my head against the wall); that there was something weird about the psychologist (apart from the usual). I quite liked the story of although I had guessed that early on.

What is definitely clear is that Area X, whatever it is, whether it's sentient on its own or has been created/placed by something, has been influencing all kinds of people all over the place for a long time. We're still not quite sure what that "border" is supposed to look like although we get a better image here (and yes, it was described a bit like what it's apparently shown as in the upcoming movie). Nevertheless, the fact that "we" didn't create the "door" into Area X is another very intriguing puzzle piece and I liked the theories, no matter how wild. Area X's influence on people also is the only way I can explain the sheer incompetence and stupidity of everyone, to say nothing of them apparently being unaware of their incompetence in the first place! That and the hypnosis strategy felt very weird. Not only because this kind of conditioning and hypnosis is not possible in real life (I think), but also because I still can't understand why they wouldn't see that this is actually hindering more than helping - they had more than enough experience by now!

Thus, the story gave some answers while leaving us with further questions that might, in the end, form a better picture. Who knows. Sometimes the answers are in the subtext. Like the author seemlessly going from the conditioning / hypnosis to how we get brainwashed in real life too (by social media for example) and the consequences thereof. Or his exploration of Area X's fauna and flora, the biologist's emphasis on the descriptions during the debriefings, only to come back to what we're doing to our environment. These criticisms, of course, also pose important questions for the reader and the world around us, giving further depth to an already very complex tale.

No idea if we will indeed get answers (or satisfying ones at any rate) but the journey certainly has already been very entertaining and enlightening and this could be the kind of story where everyone needs to take away what they can and need. After all, every character here is not only influenced by Area X itself, either, but by their past and people surrounding them as well.

Profile Image for Sheila.
953 reviews85 followers
May 3, 2016
2.5 stars (somewhere between "meh" and "I liked it").

This is a middle book and it shows. The last 20% of this book is great--full of action. But you have to slog through the first 80% to get there. Specifically, what I didn't care for:

* I couldn't connect with the narrator.
* Repetitive, slow-moving plot.
* Instead of answers about Area X (Lovecraftian monsters? Aliens? A parallel dimension?), this is a book about government conspiracy/bureaucracy.

What I wanted was to find out what was going on at Area X, so I'll definitely read the next book, and like I said, this does pick up at the end. There are some creepy hints dropped in this book, which I hope will be expanded upon. But this book lacks, in my mind, the fascination and horror of book 1.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
July 4, 2014
I read this book twice. I was 1/3 of the way through in the print and downloaded the audio because it is read by Bronson Pinchot, who I think is amazing. After finishing the book in audio, I went back and re-read the last 2/3, kind of backwards, starting from the last section and then deciding I should go ahead and re-read all of it to see what I had missed. I'm glad I did as there was a key scene I must have drifted off from in the audio.

Area X is scary and still very unknown when this installation of the Southern Reach Trilogy ends.

But may I make a list of things I find scarier than Area X?

-Crumbling government buildings with sickly smelling chemicals (if that's what it is)
-Controlling mothers who give you strange nicknames and don't want you calling them Mom
-Phones that crawl across roofs
-Lost time

I think that's what Jeff VanderMeer does best in this book. The core story moves forward, but I'm more unsettled by the small details.

Profile Image for Lauren.
548 reviews14 followers
May 5, 2017
This book was frustrating to read. I did not find Control as intriguing a viewpoint character as the biologist, and he spent the vast majority of this book running from place to place not finding any answers. There were occasional moments that were engaging, such as Control's interviews with "the biologist", and much of the last quarter of the book. I still think that Vandermeer's writing is fantastic, and the creepy moments in the book are genuinely creepy, I just wish that the book had spent less time treading water without actually going anywhere.
Profile Image for Josh.
1,636 reviews148 followers
March 19, 2018
In Annihilation, we were exposed to the strange and dangerous other world of Area X; terrain cut-off from the rest of land by some mysterious event. We followed the latest exhibition consisting of a biologist, surveyor, psychologist, and anthropologist into the unknown and watched the breakdown of sanity in big brother-like live streaming. In Authority, the ambiguity is as abundant as it was in the first book yet the characters are a little more personable. Chiefly, they have names not just titles (Note. I do like the concept of ‘Control’ if nothing more than the ironic elements the nickname brings to the character) which add another layer of depth to what already is a deep spanning mystery.

Right from the get-go author Jeff Vandermeer unleashes a big reveal that adds perspective and context to Annihilation. I won’t delve into that as to not spoil prospective reader experiences other than to say I loved it – and the revelations (for lack of a better term) continue throughout the book as small puzzle pieces are formed and jaggedly dropped together.

Review first appeared on my blog: http://justaguywholikes2read.blogspot...
Profile Image for Kaila.
821 reviews102 followers
December 29, 2017
"I need this book to be creepy. What should I add?"


"Middle Management!"

Scribbling furiously. "Oh, this is great stuff. Next, I have a lot of information I need the reader to know, how can I tell it to them without being obvious?"

"Disguise info dumps as interrogations!"

"Convoluted backstory for a milquetoast main character!"

"Yes! I love it. I want everyone who reads this to love it, too. What do people love most?"

"Vague, yet menacing government agencies that are actually fumbling idiots!"

"Excruciating detail!"

Gazes into the distance. "I bet I could sell Hollywood this story."
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,234 reviews169 followers
April 16, 2018
And further down the rabbit hole we go...

After the surreal narration of the first book, I did wonder what VanderMeer had in stock for us. Authority is very much different in the sense that we are not in the marshes anymore but seeing what is going on at the Southern Reach, government body in charge of investigating Area X. We are given some glimpses in their futile trials to understand what it is, its purpose and goal. There are other contrasting aspects too: instead of a first person narrative, we are met by a third person one; cast have names, not just appellations; we even get background stories for some of them; and all this takes place in ordinary offices. Or is it?

The feeling of the Uncanny followed me from the previous novel. Meetings, interviews, dealing with a new boss/team, office politics, etc. - all this is so familiar, and yet, the feeling that something is extremely wrong grows on you, making you doubt and distrust everything. On one hand, you become lulled by all the banality until one tiny element makes you reconsider everything! Parallels between the two books exist too, when you look.

We do get some answers but these open a plethora of other questions. If the first book dealt with destruction of the self, physically and/or mentally, this one crushes the notion of any control, embodied in the main character. This second instalment also carries on the attack on Reason, in a very ’Alice Through the Looking Glass’ kind of style. And what is the importance or rather meaning of all the avian details?
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews256 followers
May 18, 2014
5 Stars

Authority by Jeff Vandermeer, book two in the Southern Reach series is a fantastic read. This book is not your typical middle novel as it is a very different book from Annihilation. Vandermeer continues to prove to me what an amazing author that he is, versatile, verbose, and a gift for painting the vivid picture.

Control is the star of this book and it takes place almost exclusively at the Southern Reach. This book is more of a mystery and a puzzle to solve than the adventure that was book one. Control slowly uncovers pieces of the puzzle and along the way fills in a great deal more of the background and the world that Southern Reach lies in.

I loved this book…I love how different from book one it is. Control is a character easily able to carry this story. The ending of this book was a fabulous on its own even though it was clearly the setup to the final installment.

The strange writing that haunts our heroes will haunt you as well:

“Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives while from the dim-lit halls of other places forms that never could be writhe for the impatience of the few who have never seen or been seen. In the black water with the sun shining at midnight, those fruit shall come ripe and in the darkness of that which is golden shall split open to reveal the revelation of the fatal softness in the earth. The shadows of the abyss are like the petals of a monstrous flower that shall blossom within the skull and expand the mind beyond what any man can bear …”

““Is your house in order?” the Voice asked. “Is it in order?”
Two thousand white rabbits herded toward an invisible door. A plant that didn’t want to die. Impossible video footage. More theories than there were fish in the sea. Was his house in order? An odd way for the Voice to phrase it, as if they spoke using a code to which Control did not have the key. Yet it made him feel secure even though that was counterintuitive.”

“Control didn’t know where to start because he didn’t want to start at all. What he wanted to talk about was the video footage, but that was impossible. The words would linger, form in his mind, but never become sound, trapped between his need and his will. He couldn’t tell any human being, ever. If he let it out, contaminated someone else’s mind, he would not forgive himself. A girlfriend who had gleaned some sense of his job had once asked, ���Why do you do it?”—meaning why serve such a clandestine purpose, a purpose that could not be shared, could not be revealed. He’d given his standard response, in a portentous manner, to poke fun at himself. To disguise the seriousness. “To know. To go beyond the veil.” Across the border. Even as Control said it, he had known that he was also telling her he didn’t mind leaving her there, alone, on the other side.”

Amazing writing…amazing author…and a fabulous series not to be missed.

Profile Image for Melki.
5,802 reviews2,342 followers
June 3, 2014
About thirty-two years ago, along a remote southern stretch known as the "forgotten coast," an Event occurred that began to transform the landscape and simultaneously caused an invisible border or wall to appear.

The women seem to recall little about Area X. They say almost nothing about what they saw and what happened to them during their expedition. John Rodriquez/Control is tasked with finding the facts.

"What do you remember about your husband?"

"That I had one."

"Did you know he came back, like you?" he asked. "That he was disoriented, like you?"

"I'm not disoriented," she snapped, leaning forward and Control leaned back. He wasn't afraid, but for a moment he'd thought he should be.

Book Two of the trilogy is an after-the-fact investigation, more expositional in nature, and does not have the same immediacy of the first book. I was just not engaged like I was with the previous adventure. On the plus side, there are a few moments of genuine creepiness in the latter third of the story and a lingering sense of foreboding. The slam-bang cliffhanger ending promises the third installment should be a doozy.
Profile Image for Mike.
483 reviews376 followers
August 29, 2016
The Floor beneath his shoes was grimy, almost sticky. The fluorescent lights above flickered at irregular intervals, and the tables and chairs seemed like something out of a high school cafeteria. He could smell the sour metal tang of a low quality cleaning agent, almost like rotting honey. The room did not inspire confidence in the Southern Reach.

Far from the formidable, shadowy, mysterious organization it was portrayed as in Annihilation, the Southern Reach is actually a painfully prosaic government bureaucracy that suffers from all the usual large organizational problems. Problems that Control, the POV character in this installment of the Southern Reach Trilogy, has to tackle.

(Spoilers for Annihilation below)
About thirty-two years ago, along a remote southern stretch known by some as the "forgotten coast," an Event had occurred that began to transform the landscape and simultaneously caused an invisible border or wall to appear.
Into this Area X the Biologist from the first book ventured, looking for answers about what happened to her Husband, who was part of a previous expedition. What she found was pristine nature, strange creatures, and an even stranger subterranean "tower" habitated by a strange creature that wrote bizarre prose on the wall:
Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives...
By the end the rest of the Biologist's team has died or been killed and she sets off to an island described in a journal by her husband she found, along with journals of countless (many more that were reported) expeditions.

Flash forward several months and there is a new Director of Southern Reach who goes by the name Control.
While Control came with whispers about being part of a kind of invisible dynasty, which naturally bred resentment, there was no denying that fact, even if, up close, the dyansty was more like a devolving franchise.
Control had developed a reputation as being a fixer after blowing several field assignments, one of which ended with an innocent person's death due to Control. His mother, high up in Central (Southern Reach's parent organization), placed him in his new position to get Southern Reach straightened up and figure out just what was going on in Area X.
But if he was here to assess and restore, he needed a better idea of how badly it had all slipped-and as some sociopath at another station had once said, "The fish rots from the head." Fish rotted all over, cell corruption being nonhierarchical and not caste driven, but point taken.
Turns out the former director was in fact the Psychologist that accompanied the Biologist on her expedition. Her disappearance, along with the reappearance of the rest of the expedition, has thrown Southern Reach into some disarray. The existing assistant director has no love for him, resenting his presence and carrying a torch for the previous director, insisting she will return. As an organization the Southern Reach had become calcified, operating almost on inertia:
It [the carpet] was as worn down as the Southern Reach, as the agency moved along its appointed grooves on this fun-house ride that was called Area X.
With budget and staff being cut ("..soon enough they might have a situation where subdepartments consisted of one person writing themselves up for offenses, giving themselves raises and bonuses, celebrating their own birthdays with custom-made Southern Reach-shaped carrot cakes.") as the powers that be lost interest in Area X (whose borders had remained fixed since the event), and as little to nothing new had been discovered about Area X, the employees clung to the familiar, fighting to maintain their niche within the organization. Instead of boldly pursuing the nature of Area X, decades of failure, death, and budget cuts had sapped whatever vital energy might have once resided in the agency, an Agency that just might be the only thing standing between humanity and something vastly more powerful and alien than we could imagine:
Idly, he wondered what they called it-whoever or whatever had created that pristine bubble that had killed so many people. Maybe they called it a holiday retreat. Maybe they called it a beachhead. Maybe "they" were so incomprehensible that he'd never understand what they called it, or why."
This book comes down to a bureaucratic mystery. Control has somehow figure out not only what is going on in Area X (a job made difficult by the previous director's... unorthodox data storage methods), but also wrest control from the assistant director all while caught up in factional conflict taking place higher up in Central:
He had a vision, again, of Grace[the assistant director] spiriting away the biologist, of multiple mutual attempted destructions, until somewhere up in the clouds, atop two vast and blood-drenched escalators, they continued to do battle years from now.
Where the first book took place exclusively in Area X with some flashbacks, this book mostly takes place in the Southern Reach complex with some flashbacks about Control's relationship with his family. What I found striking about this book, compared to the first one, is just how different the settings were: Area X's pristine wilderness to Southern Reach's suffocating, decaying offices, both inimicalable to human life.
It [naturey area near a town] wasn't true wilderness, was comfortingly close to civilization, but existed just enough apart to create a boundary. This was what most people wanted: to be close to but not part of. They didn't want the fearful unknown of a "pristine wilderness." They didn't want a soulless artificial life, either.
Both Control and the Biologist faced a mystery, but on different sides of the boundary: what was the nature of Area X and how does it impact humans. When the boundary arose during the event, thousands died, nature was restored to a pristine state, free of human contamination. Some expeditions were wiped out, others returned unharmed, and others, like the one the Biologist's husband was a part of, returned as cancer stricken zombies.

This book once again has a very fulfilling slow burn as we are eased into the alienating atmosphere of the Southern Reach. Something always seems a bit off, be it the long time employees there who have gazed into the abyss, the decaying building, the mystery of the former director, or all the history of Southern Reach we discover. Answers give way to deeper, more unsettling questions. control is no green, wet behind the gills agent, he is a professional and knows a bad situation when he sees it:
Because as far as he was concerned, the agency was fucked and he was now an undercover agent in the field, entering hostile territory.
The tension between Control, his handlers at Central, and the existing bureaucracy (not to mention the inherent strangeness of Area X) create a very creepy, paranoid atmosphere that slowly seeps into the reader's awareness until it bursts forth in an eruption of craziness at the end, setting the stage for what could be a damn awesome conclusion.

All in all this was an enthralling book and a great sequel to Annihilation, even if it wasn't quite as good.

Some additional notes:

-I think this book sort of suffered from secondbook-itis (though not nearly as bad as The Children of the Sky). Yes, we learned a lot more about the Southern Reach but felt like we were mostly in a holding pattern until the very end. Not that this is a critical flaw, this book did a great job introducing and developing the Control character, and this book is sort of meant to be the middle part of one cohesive book, but the weakness of this role did creep in a bit.
-While there was quite a bit of tension, I also liked how VanderMeer would give us the equivalent of cat jump scares yo would see in horror movies. For instance:
Now it [the Director's old phone Control had chucked into the words after mysteriously finding it with his stuff] looked more like something alive that it had before. It looked like something that had gone exploring or burrowing and come back to report in.

Under the phone, thankfully, was a note from the landlord. In a quivering scrawl she had written, "The lawn man found this yesterday. Please dispose of phones in the garbage if you are done with them."

He tossed it into the bushes.
-You are never sure just what world this takes place in. There are theories about the multi-verse bandied about, but no specific, identifiable names are given; no national governments are mentioned, no countries are named. What does appear to be the case, though, is this world is majorly screwed up. "The TV was on low, showing the aftermath of massive floods and a school massacre in between commercials for a big basketball series."
-There were some great creepy scenes and revelations in this installment, on par with Annihilation.
-Oddly enough, the biggest message I got out of this book is the problems with large organizations. Southern Reach should be staffed with the very best of the very best, galvanized by the unquenchable desire to figure out Area X. But even if started with the best intentions, organizations need either strong, inspiring leadership, a constant influx of new ideas, or a series of successes to keep humans engaged in the task. But decades of failure and neglect will do a number or any organization (just look at the Cleveland Browns).
Profile Image for David Katzman.
Author 3 books450 followers
June 1, 2014
An unsettling study of the ineffable. The indescribable. A slowly constricting knot. Our human edifices are evanescent. Or as I say in my novel A Greater Monster , "A home is paper thin."

Nature is a harsh taskmistress. Nature is implacable. We have been playing with fire for a long time now. Humans think they own the land. The clouds. The air. The water. We do not own it. It owns us. We've been borrowing it without paying back the principal. And it's going to come due soon.

Authority is the second book in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy. I urge you to pick up Book 1, Annihilation, which I reviewed here.

Book 2 exudes a slow burning tension that builds a sense of claustrophobia and mystery. It is again a sort of hybrid fantasy (that's literature for you, doesn't always fall into neat categories) with elements of fantasy horror mystery and psychological thrillers combined. The horror, like in Book 1, has a rather a Lovecraftian quality—which embodies this theme of the indescribable I mentioned at the outset. Lovecraft presents a horror behind our dimension, insane indescribable entities that lurk behind all things and that we can never understand. Life itself, even that which is beautiful, is inexplicable. Life just is. No matter the bones of the matter, the physical attributes of animal and plant matter...existence is a mystery. When you look at atoms and electrons and quantum particles...and the mysteries of the big bang and.... In some ways, the Southern Reach trilogy, at least so far in Books 1 and 2, is about that ineffable mystery of existence. And in other ways, it is about the horror of not understanding. That which cannot be named. We all know how the story ends. We all die. No one likes that ending. And it might come for our species, when? A few years with a nuclear surprise? A couple centuries when global warming creates another ice age and clean water shortage? Blink of the eye.

Before getting on to the specifics, I'm simply going to say these are the best fantasy novels I've read in a long time. Erudite and masterful in the writing itself and with honest human characters. VanderMeer is a master of atmosphere, and both books conjure up a haunting, creeping dread that is both frightening and delicious. They were both hard to put down. Highly recommended.

What follows is marked as Spoiler for those who haven't read Book 1. If you have read Book 1, then I won't reveal any major surprises from Book 2.

Profile Image for Kristin  (MyBookishWays Reviews).
601 reviews205 followers
April 21, 2014

I’m betting, if you’re like me, you had a ton of questions at the end of the wonderful ANNIHILATION. If so, you’ll be glad to know that Authority answers quite a few of them. Not all, but a few, and it’s a perfect filling in the sandwich of awesome that is the Southern Reach trilogy. Authority picks up a few months after the disastrous events of Annihilation and the biologist is in the custody of Southern Reach after being found standing in an empty parking lot after returning from Area X’s twelfth expedition. John Rodriguez, aka “Control” has been brought in to replace the missing Director and question the survivors. As soon as he arrives at Southern Reach he encounters pushback from the Assistant Director, who fervently believes the Director is still alive, a scientist named Whitby that may or may not be hiding something, and of course, the biologist, who gives cryptic answers to his questions and seems intent on stonewalling him. He has access to the former Director’s files and her office certainly yields more than a few oddities. He must report to an entity that he only knows as The Voice, but as he digs into the mysteries of Area X, he seems to only have more questions, and not many answers. Soon, things begin to fall apart around him, and he starts to suspect that the forces that are guiding him are much closer to him, and his past, then he could ever have imagined.

For those that haven’t read Annihilation, Area X is a vast coastal area that was inexplicably changed at a time known as the Event, and an invisible border appeared. For 30 years, Southern Reach has been sending in teams of scientists, linguists, psychologists, you name it, to explore Area X and report back with their findings. Some didn’t make it back, and some that did came back…different somehow. Authority explores the aftermath of the 12th expedition, but it’s more than that. Authority is Control’s book, and we get to know him almost as well as we got to know the biologist in Annihilation. If, after reading Annihilation, you expected more of the same in Authority, put that thought out of your head. Authority takes place almost entirely at Southern Reach HQ and gives its reader a tour of an off the books clandestine government agency (with frequent detours into weird territory.) I love VanderMeer’s brand of weird though, and he layers Control’s story with very creepy moments during his research into Area X . This is what VanderMeer is really, really good at: creeping, crawling dread that plucks at your sleeve when you’re not looking and scuttles back into the shadows when you finally get up the nerve to face it head on. Annihilation had some real scares, but Authority is built of subtler stuff, a mounting dread that slowly increases in intensity until culminating in something that I wouldn’t call an end. To me, it was more of a beginning, but, well, you’ll see. Giving away too much would be to ruin this creepy gem of a book. It’s a worthy, if different companion to Annihilation, and while it stands just fine on its own, to read it without Annihilation is to deny yourself a near perfect reading experience. I imagine the author has some great stuff in store for Acceptance, and I can’t wait.
Profile Image for Ryan.
137 reviews52 followers
July 15, 2017
The Good:
As with Annihilation, this is wonderfully tense. The prose is great, conveying this small town mystery/thriller with humour and creeping dread. Excellent setting, great ideas, and some very good characters.

The Bad:
Once again, there is almost zero resolution. It’s frustrating, and turns an excellent book into a merely good one. It's also a bit slow.

'Friends' character the protagonist is most like:
Control is a failed spy turned incompetent administrator. He is dumber than he thinks he is, and on the precipice of losing all faith in himself. He’s like a late 30s, paranoid Joey Tribbiani.
Profile Image for André Oliveira.
169 reviews56 followers
March 11, 2018
2.5*, 3* ?
What a mess.

This book is so boring and slow and uninteresting.
I just kept reading it because I loved the first one, Annihilation.

The ending is exciting and now I want to read the third and final book in the series.
But the truth is: My expectations are really really low.
Profile Image for Char.
1,638 reviews1,488 followers
July 15, 2015
I liked the narration but this story isn't working well for me. I'm playing with the idea of not reading the last one at all.

I probably will though, because I feel the need to finish the series after investing all this time.
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