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.
The second volume of VanderMeer's trilogy (following Annihilation) continues to investigate the secrets of Area X, a mysterious zone somewhere in the United States, isolated from the rest of the world through (as-yet) inexplicable processes, and from which participants of multiple expeditions have returned enormously changed if they return at all. The narrator this time is John Rodriguez, who goes by the name "Control," the newly appointed director of the Southern Reach, the organization that has, for 30 years, attempted to discover basic information about the zone. The Southern Reach is in turmoil following the calamitous 12th Area X expedition, which was the subject of Annihilation. In this sequel, VanderMeer supplements his evocative descriptions of the unnatural Area X with the shadowy, dusty, seemingly half-forgotten offices in which Control spends his time, as he parses video footage and interrogation testimony in order to get to the bottom of the Area X mystery. The book strengthens and develops the narrative arc while remaining fully coherent on its own, revealing more and more secrets about Area X all the while. VanderMeer's masterful command of the plot, his cast of characters, and the increasingly desperate situation will leave the reader desperate for the final volume in the trilogy.
The Southern Reach Volume 2: Where the Pros Go Weird
In this second volume of the Southern Reach Trilogy, we get to look inside the shadowy government organization which is trying to both study and contain the mysterious Area X. Our protagonist is "Control" who is assigned by Central to replace the now-missing Director of the Southern Reach. We follow him as he tries to figure out the Southern Reach's eccentric staff, and to question the "Biologist" our protagonist from the first novel who has mysteriously returned from the previous expedition. Things are not at all in order in the scientific research station that has been studying Area X since it occurred. It reminds me of the saying that when one stares in to the abyss, the abyss also stares into you. As he begins to unravel the mystery, events begin to come to a head with significant and unexpected changes in the formerly stable nature of Area X itself.
The book introduces an new character, Control, and gives us a window into the mind and upbringing of a shadowy government agent. He isn't always a likable character, but is multifaceted, and you do empathize with him. His journey from secret government field agent, to administrative "fixer," then to director of the oddest scientific research facility studying a secret and mysterious area is both interesting and disturbing. Mr. Vandermeer can make what should be mundane bureaucratic detail ominous and dark. The surprising conclusion of the book has me anticipating the no-doubt exciting revelations of volume three!
It was so boring compared to book one.
An award should be given to those who finish it.
Annihilation was so good, and then there’s this book.
Book 2 of the Southern Reach trilogy seemed to be written by someone else. It’s hard to believe books 1 and 2 are by the same author. There’s very little here that’s fascinating, suspenseful, startling or even horrific, except for perhaps the overuse of the word “terroir.”
VenderMeer's main character “Control" just rambles on about minutia in his mind and fact-finding blind alleys that never provide insights, and the journeys he takes just always seems to end in an uneventful dead-end. Very little in the story teases us into wanting to turn the page and find out more about what’s going on inside Area X. For the most part, all the characters seem to be devoid of expertise or insights into what’s happening with The Anamoly.
This was one of the hardest books I’ve ever had to get through, and it’s only because I plan to read Booke 3 of the trilogy that I felt obligated to hang in there on this one. The last chapter almost redeems it, but I say almost.
I really hope Book 3 has more to offer because Authority was simply a bore.