Authority, the second book of the Southern Reach Trilogy picks up almost immediately where Annihilation leaves of, but instead of continuing the biologist’s narrative inside Area X, it follows John “Control” Rodriguez, the new Director of the Souther Reach government agency.
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….
A former local terrorism operative at with a sketchy past, Control has been given a second chance by Central, an enigmatic government military agency tasked with highly confidential operations, to prove himself as the new Director of the mysterious and almost derelict Southern Reach agency. At the Southern Reach, located just a few kilometers from the border of Area X, Control is met by the hostile and uncooperative Assistant Director, Grace, scientists, and other personnel whose experiences working with Area X and its expedition members have made them secretive, distrustful, and even a little crazy.
Control’s orders from Central is straightforward: to carry out the duties of the former Director, to find out what she knew about Area X, and to report everything to The Voice, his megalomaniac handler at Central. However, upon reaching the Southern Reach, Control learns that the agency and its employees have more secrets and mysteries than he expected, which he may never be able to solve. As Control tries to uncover the truth about the former Director, Area X and the Southern Reach, he also learns the disturbing truth about himself, the Voice, and the real reason he was assigned to the Southern Reach.
The second book of the trilogy, Authority tries to shed some light on the mysteries of Area X introduced in Annihilation, and also on the fate of the past expeditions such as the 12th expedition, and even the very first expedition sent in a few years after the border came down. However, it seems like for every question Authority answers, it poses two more for the readers to ponder. I shouldn’t compare Authority to Annihilation because technically they are parts of one long story, but I couldn’t help but notice the marked differences between the two; Where Annihilation is more action-packed, hitting the ground running, mentally and emotionally disturbing and distressing, and set in the wilds of Area X, Authority is more subdued, set mainly inside the Southern Reach agency, and follows Control’s investigations into the agency’s administration, processes, and theories regarding Area X. Though not as intense as Annihilation, Authority’s peculiar, disorienting narrative and layout style will leave readers a little confused and unsettled.
It took me longer to read this novel than Annihilation, mainly because it’s almost twice as long, but it’s also not as engaging. At this point, I am not as excited to start Acceptance, as I was to start Authority, but I hope that the third and final novel will finally answer all the questions posed in the first 2 books and give me some closure on this strange and bizarre story.
Authority (2014) – Book 2 of The Southern Reach Trilogy – Jeff VanderMeer
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG Originals); 340 pages (tpb)
Personal rating: 2.5/5