Authority, which is the second book of the Southern Reach Trilogy, picks up almost immediately where Annihilation ends, but instead of continuing the biologist’s narrative inside Area X, it follows John “Control” Rodriguez, who is 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 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, which is 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 at Area X and with 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, find out what she knew about Area X, and report everything to the Voice, who is his megalomaniac handler at Central. However, upon reaching the Southern Reach, Control learns that the agency and 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 tries to shed some light on the mysteries of Area X, which were introduced in Annihilation, and on the fate of past expeditions, including the 12th and 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 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 action packed, hits the ground running, mentally and emotionally disturbing and distressing, and set in the wilds of Area X, Authority is 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 style and layout 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 also not as engaging. At this point, I am not as excited to start Acceptance as I was to start Authority. I hope that the third and final novel will finally answer all the questions posed in the first two 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