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Authority: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy) Paperback – May 6, 2014
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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
“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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VanderMeer names his main character Control, and tasks him with investigating potential compromise in a clandestine bureaucracy. He may as well have written "I'M DOING LE CARRE NOW" in skywriting. But the convergence of Lovecraftian emphasis on spooky revelation through research / narrative summary (which "Annihilation" leaned on) and Le Carre's dense sleuthing / spy games ends up both a clever trick and an effective mesh of styles.
VanderMeer deserves credit for shoring up nearly every weakness of his first outing in this series. The writing is engaging, the mystery mostly intriguing, the plot is mostly propulsive. We even have, to do some degree, tangible characters and motivations that create stakes. Little touches, like background conversations you realize are endlessly repeated dialogue from the first book, create dread that the author struggled to elicit before. In terms of readability and fun, "Authority" is a real step up.
Some things, however, just can't seem to stick in this book. There's a cliched tragic past that doesn't amount to much or deepen Control as a character. Control having both a local connection to the Southern Reach area and a familial pedigree in espionage / Southern Reach feel contrived - that his boss is his mother strikes a false note.
And while not as narratively / thematically diffuse as its predecessor, "Authority's" grand shocks don't come off as payoff for well-built plots. There is simply so much weirdness (undying plants, the suggestion of magic, macabre ritualistic graffiti) that one doesn't know what to focus on, and when the bombs drop one thinks "Oh, THAT was important."
It has a hallucinatory intensity that allows moments of lovecraftian horror to have an almost unbearable quiet beauty at the same time.
Authority is the story of the man brought in to run the government agency that sends the expeditions into Area X as he struggles to decipher the work of his predecessors and how his own past may connect him to Area X after the return of the biologist from the prior expedition. It is a strangely intimate tale of an increasingly neglected bureaucracy trying to process unknowable horrors.
Acceptance lives up to its name and offers few answers for any of the mysteries that came before and instead pulls back in time and place to find the characters from the other novels across various times and places and becomes a series of stories of the importance of quiet diligence, loving care and self-sacrifice for those around you in the face of any kind of unknown, from the mundane to the monstrous.
Please read these, oh my god.
This book was just so boring, I could care less about "Control" and his story, boring story-
No thrill at all, so mad I wasted time reading this-
Can't wait for "Acceptance"