It has been quite a while, followers and friends, quite a while… I slipped into a huge reading slump shortly after starting Authority. It has nothing to do with the book, and more to do with mind. But I think I’ll delve into that in a Saturday Sentiments post, maybe. Anyway, I’m just glad to be back, and with a review for a pretty great book.
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Series: Southern Reach, #2
Page Count: 340
Original Publication Date: 2014
Genre(s): Adult fiction, New weird
*Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t read the previous book
“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.”
After its director disappeared into Area X with the twelfth expedition and never came back, the Southern Reach must appoint a new director in her absence. John Rodríguez, who chooses to go by “Control,” is that new director. Control spends his days learning about the history of Area X, researching possible theories of its creation, and going through every tiny piece of information left behind by the previous director. Of the twelfth expedition, she was the only one not to return, but those who have returned are not the same. Especially not the biologist.
As Control delves deeper into the mysteries of Area X, he begins to lose himself in the mess and the confusion. What he doesn’t realize is that time is running out—not only for himself, but possibly for the whole world.
Authority is your typical sequel—not nearly as good as its predecessor, but winds up answering some of your questions and takes you on a new kind of journey. Authority shows us Area X from the assumed safety of an office building. Let me tell you: it’s not that safe.
We follow Control through his research, uncomfortable encounters with his employees, and his long, detailed inner monologues. Just as Annihilation was slow, internal, and subtle, Authority follows that trend. Much of the book is simply made up of Control’s observations of Area X, only this time they are formed outside of the border.
I do not like Control as much as I like the biologist, but he makes for an ok narrator. At times I don’t like him, and sometimes think he makes dumb choices, but he’s only human. And he’s actually pretty intelligent. Most of the time I really sympathize with him, because he’s dealt an impossible hand and has literally nothing he can do with it.
I’m not going to lie to you—this book is incredibly slow. There are some suspenseful scenes, especially in the last 50-60 pages, and I’m serious when I say the change between banal government office bullshit and crazy Area X shit is sudden and jarring (and absolutely welcome). But other than that, it’s a slow ride. It’s a ton of character development for someone you may or may not care about. Some of your questions from Annihilation are definitely answered, but you have to dredge through the 300+ pages for it all. And you’re left with more questions. If you’re dedicated to the series, you’ll love this book—I know I did, even if it was slow. The crazy, intense, revealing parts made up for any slowness, I promise. And it has really gotten me pumped for Acceptance, which will probably shatter my mind.
Authority may be your typical sequel, but this is not your typical book series. The Southern Reach trilogy has truly broken me out of my standalone marathon. Acceptance, here I come…
Also, fun fact: I found a typo and decided to be that obnoxious person who posts it on Twitter, and Jeff actually replied!
Biggest fangirl moment. I hope instead of remembering our awkward encounter a year ago, he instead remembers that I’m always available to be hired 👌