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Authority: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy) Paperback – May 6, 2014

3.8 out of 5 stars 239 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the second installment of the Southern Reach trilogy, Vandermeer continues to unravel the mysteries surrounding Area X, an isolated dystopia where unknown powers either disappear its inhabitants or return them to humanity brainwashed and useless. The sole surviving member of the twelfth expedition undergoes questioning by one of the government’s most experienced investigators, a man named Control. Control is sent to the Southern Reach to investigate the disappearance of its director into Area X and to interrogate the psychologist who returned from the expedition; but while he’s there he discovers the true dysfunction of the scientists and staff studying Area X. Authority should not be read in isolation from the first installment of the trilogy, Annihilation (2014), because much of the backstory of the Southern Reach expeditions is explained in the earlier volume. Those familiar with the series will understand the subtle foreshadowing that points to an action-packed conclusion to the trilogy. Compelling science fiction for those who can’t get enough dystopia. --Heather Paulson

Review

Authority isn't a book that just picks up where the last one left off. Instead, it's packed full of new pleasures, not only new characters and settings but whole new kinds of writing. If Annihilation is an expedition novel painted with a thick coat of weird, then Authority is a spy novel given the same dark lacquer . . . Which makes me desperate to know what the third book is going to be like--whether it will be some mixture of the two, Jurassic Park meets James Bond, or some third thing entirely.” ―Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

“The great thing about Annihilation is the strange, elusive, and paranoid world that it creates. The great thing about Authority is the way it takes the premises that we think we know about that world and turns them inside out, destabilizing everything in a way that makes it even more strange and elusive, and makes us the ones who feel paranoid. A stunning book, followed by a second stunning book that makes you rethink the first.” ―Brian Evenson, author of Last Days with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

“A clear triumph for VanderMeer, who after numerous works of genre fiction has suddenly transcended genre with a compelling, elegant and existential story of far broader appeal.” ―Lydia Millet, Los Angeles Times with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

“Unsettling and un-put-downable--like an old-fashioned adventure story, only weirder, beautifully written, and not at all old-fashioned.” ―Karen Joy Fowler, BookPage with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

“Chilling.” ―Julie Bosman, The New York Times with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

“Ingenious.” ―Laura Miller, Salon with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

“Enthralling.” ―Tara Wanda Merrigan, GQ with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

“Fans of the Lost TV series . . . this one is for you.” ―Molly Driscoll, The Christian Science Monitor

“[Annihilation] will make you believe in the power of science mysteries again.” ―Annalee Newitz, io9 with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

“Successfully creepy.” ―Sara Sklaroff, The Washington Post with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

“Fascinating.” ―John Domini, Miami Herald with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

“[Annihilation] teases and terrifies and fascinates.” ―Kevin Nguyen, Grantland with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

“Dazzling.” ―Peter Straub, author of Lost Boy, Lost Girl with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

“Haunted and haunting.” ―Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

“Original and beautiful, maddening and magnificent.” ―Warren Ellis with praise for THE SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY

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Product Details

  • Series: The Southern Reach Trilogy (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Originals; 1St Edition edition (May 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374104107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374104108
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ian K. VINE VOICE on May 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As soon as I finished Jeff VanderMeer's novel Annihilation, I bought the sequel, Authority. Soon after it arrived on my Kindle reader, I read Authority.

In Annihilation Jeff VanderMeer's writing really shined. His descriptions of the natural habitat and the artifacts in Area X were lyrical and strong. I can still see the "tower" and the lighthouse in my mind's eye. This was combined with the lurking dread of the Biologist exploring Area X, which provided the drive for VanderMeer's surrealistic plot.

Authority is told from the point of view of Control (the alias used by John Rodrigues) who is the newly appointed director of the Southern Reach, which is a sub-agency (of Central) that is assigned to research Area X.

VanderMeer's writing is still good, but the lyricism of describing the pristine wilderness of Area X is replaced by the claustrophobic description of the Southern Reach and its bureaucratic battles. The surrealism which is the hallmark of VanderMeer's writing dominates Authority. There were places where an event took place only to be explained in retrospect, which at times forced me to reread sections. In other places I found that some plot elements were not explained at all (what happens to Controls Mother?) Perhaps these plot elements will be picked up in Acceptance (which I have also ordered). The three books have the feel of a single large novel that is being published in three pieces.

By the end of the novel it is difficult to completely understand Control's motivations. Like the Biologist in Annihilation he's been so manipulated by both Central and, perhaps, Area X itself that it's hard to understand why he is doing what he does. The strangeness of VanderMeer's surreal plotting might also be sloppy plot construction.
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Format: Paperback
Whereas Annihilation took you through the creepy landscape Area X, full of forests and overgrown moss and lighthouses and tower/tunnnels, Authority takes you through the creepy landscape of the Southern Reach, full of dank examination rooms and locked drawers and cluttered offices. Right away, Annihilation will answer some of your most burning questions from Annihilation, but immediately raise more. If you are on the fence about whether to continue this trilogy, rest assured that Authority is not just a continuation of Annihilation. Rather, it's a complication of it, a counterpoint.
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You really have to read Annihilation first before sampling this middle volume in the trilogy.
In contrast with the weird expedition theme of volume 1, this one, focusing on the research and political machinations in the Southern Reach agency, reads more like an obsessive spy novel. It feels like Orwell and Kafka blended with a weird sauce.
Now this approach does slow things down, it is more a psychological cat and mouse game in a suffocating, nightmarish environment. Mind, it is still very good suspenseful reading yet I thought it could have been trimmed a bit.
Surprisingly, while the characters have names in this book, I found the protagonist less compelling than the biologist from volume 1.
The story, like detective or spy novels, will eventually lift a few of the deep layers of mystery, which is good - an imperfection of volume 1 was sometimes a sense of vagueness. Not everything needs to be explained of course (and I expect mysteries to remain at the end of the trilogy), yet I like that here the story is more crisp.
Of note, while for the large part a slower story, things really pick up spectacularly towards the end of the book, leaving us with a sense of impending apocalyptic doom.
The trilogy's movie rights have been picked up even before initial publication. I can see an adaptation working in the hands of a skillful director, but the slowly growing sense of malaise and dread, and the slow progress of discoveries would to my taste best be rendered as a high quality concise TV series - as it is a story that needs breathing space, an execution like for True Detective could do justice to these books.
These books are overhyped (or at least very well marketed).
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After the eerie mood and fast-paced drama of "Annihilation" I found "Authority" a bit of a let down. In fact, very little in terms of drama happens in this second book, just office politics and a backstory that involves a controlling mother. I found enough of interest to finish the book but, like I said, parts of it were just a slog, and I kept waiting in anticipation for something a little more pulse pounding.
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This review will contain spoilers for Annihilation, considering that you should already have read it is you're considering buying Authority.

Authority has a fantastic beginning. We as readers know that the ill-fated expedition to Area X from the first book killed off most of its participants. The anthropologist was torn apart by the Crawler, the surveyor was shot by the biologist, the psychologist died from blood loss and the biologist herself fled north. And yet as Authority opens, the surveyor, anthropologist and biologist have all reemerged from Area X and have been brought in for questioning. There's a fundamental disconnect there that is fascinating and intriguing in a lot of ways.

However, VanderMeer loses the momentum and tremendous originality that permeated Annihilation as he pulls back the curtain on some of the mysteries of the Southern Reach. Without resorting to spoilers, Authority is a revelation of the shaky nature of the organization tasked with dispatching the expedition from the previous novel. I can't help but find some of the revelations disappointing and some of the information presented redundant from the first novel. The new lead character, who refers to himself as Control, has to take a long road just to come to terms with Area X in a way remotely comparable with the reader. His past is examined in the same way that the biologist's past was in Annihilation, but its not as interesting. I understand that VanderMeer has made a calculated decision to come at the mystery of Area X from a different angle, and I can at least respect him for that. I'm just exhausted from the red herrings.

Just like I said about Annihilation, Authority is nothing if not a page turner, especially in its second half.
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