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Authority: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy, 2) Paperback – June 1, 2023
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|Paperback, June 1, 2023|| |
In Authority, the New York Times bestselling second volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, Area X’s most disturbing questions are answered . . . but the answers are far from reassuring.
In Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer introduced Area X―a remote and lush terrain mysteriously sequestered from civilization. This is the second volume.
For thirty years, the only human engagement with Area X has taken the form of a series of expeditions monitored by a secret agency called the Southern Reach. After the disastrous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the Southern Reach is in disarray, and John Rodriguez, aka “Control,” is the team’s newly appointed head.
From a series of interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, the secrets of Area X begin to reveal themselves―and what they expose pushes Control to confront disturbing truths about both himself and the agency he’s promised to serve. And the consequences will spread much further than that.
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“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
About the Author
- Publisher : MCD x FSG Originals (June 1, 2023)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250824052
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250824059
- Item Weight : 1.11 pounds
- Dimensions : 5 x 7.5 inches
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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We all know that fully imagined characters are essential to any captivating yarn—but in this second installment, there is way too much background story, and most of it has no bearing at all on the sci-fi theme. It's as if the author took the concept of "character back story" to such an extreme that it crowds out the actual story we want to read. On top of it all, every bit of these tedious passages is crammed full of unnecessary metaphors likening even the most prosaic locations and objects to... something or other.
So what do these backstory-rich characters do in the story? For about three quarters of the book, they engage in the kind of internecine rivalries that you can witness in most office environments or government agencies. Is reading about the passive-aggressive scrimmages between IRS employees your idea of a thrill? Then maybe you'll enjoy this. If you're here for the continuation of the story begun in "Annihilation," you may feel an urge to just give up. I for one skipped extensive swathes of the middle parts of "Authority" and never felt I missed anything essential—even once I started reading the third and final part of this trilogy, "Acceptance." That tells you just how much the greater part of this book advances the plot.
Things pick up a bit toward the final quarter of the book, with the startling suddenness of being woken from a nap by a paddle smacked on your backside. It's a bit jarring, but you feel grateful for the change. Not that you get any answers about Area X or any of the other enigmas introduced in the first book. Well, okay, maybe one, kind of sort of. But not really. Anyway, if you made it this far, you might as well start reading "Acceptance," which is a far better book. Setting you up for the finale is about all "Authority" accomplishes. It's a shame there's no CliffsNotes for it; what's in it that you need to know to enjoy the third part of the trilogy would fit on far fewer pages.
When this novel came out, I'm sure people didn't know how to define it, or what to compare it with. And even now, people are probably not understanding it because they saw the movie (which is a masterpiece but nothing like Jeff VanderMeer's own masterpiece) and neither Annihilation or Authority are anything like the movie. Let the movie be its own thing. Let the book (and book series) be its own thing.
You should not expect a mainstream, streamline, popular fiction novel. Expect weird, intelligent horror; expect weird, intelligent humor. Jeff VanderMeer does not place his scares or his jokes on a golden platter (like Stephen King does-but that's okay, Stephen King admits that he's the Big Mac and fries of writers; VanderMeer is more like organic, gluten-free, free-range, grass-fed, sugar free sushi); he doesn't dumb it down for the reader-you get it, or you don't; you understand his sense of humor, or you don't.
If you like LOST or The Leftovers (especially The Leftovers), this book and this book series is for you. The weirdness of the questions is what drives the story, not the answers. The answers really don't matter. Authority is one of my favorite novels of all time, and yet if you're expecting an action packed, science fiction, horror-thriller extravaganza, I cannot recommend this book for you.
THIS book, however, it the reading equivalent of chewing an underdone steak for half an hour. It just goes on and on and you really just wanted the meat and you're so hungry (for the story), but it gets lost in all the chewing, so you end up just irritated.
I only kept reading this book because I wanted to know about Area X and what the Southern Reach was hiding. This book only provided some answers and focused way more on Control and his family issues. Over and over again. I did not sign up for that.
Top reviews from other countries
Here in lies my problem. If the reader has read Annihilation, then the reader already knows more than John. The reader has seen the lighthouse and the tower/tunnel. The reader knows how Area X can change people. The reader probably has a decent stab at guessing who (or what) Ghost Bird is. However, this is all new to Control and therefore must be explained to him at a painful pace.
The primary issue with Authority is its pacing. Although it does carry an echo of the first book's tension, it takes a long time to find its feet. Many of the twists mirror things that happened in Annihilation and so are easy to see coming, and its not until the climax that things become especially odd. It can still be creepy - incredibly so - but it largely felt a bit lifeless.
It also doesn't really give an concrete answers. While a few new connections are implied and a hypothesis about the nature of Area X is exposited, the novel is still very vague, steeped in metaphor and open to the reader's interpretation. It certainly won't appeal to everyone.
For obvious reasons, the book also contains a largely new cast and these are actually very well rounded. We get to know them all a bit better than the Biologist and her largely unnamed team and they are all certainly curious. From Grace's devotion to the former director to Whitby's increasing strangeness as the story progresses, they are certainly unforgettable. In fact, Control was the least interesting character for me. He's a bit of a blank slate and didn't really interest me as a protagonist until close to the end of the story.
Anyhow, that's about all I have to say. I will probably read Acceptance at some point for closure, but I hope that it's a stronger novel than this one.
We did learn a few choice nuggets of information, but not enough to support a second volume which was longer than the first but in which almost nothing actually happened. The first third or so was OK as Control tried to find his way through the mess of the Southern Reach and get some answers, but the answers he is searching for were not the answers that the reader is searching for, so actually I found that I didn't much care. Especially as he didn't really find much for the majority of the book. The middle sagged with almost nothing happening of any interest at all.
Towards the end there is an exciting event which appears to be the climax of the book, except it then continues on at a slow and boring pace for another long chapter which really threw me. In fact the pacing overall was really strange.
I didn't really understand Grace at all, what her motives were or her feelings on pretty much any matter, which made all Control's experiences with her seem very odd and hard to understand.
The writing was strange and stilted throughout which in the context of being in the "normal" world was just annoying.
Perhaps the final instalment can redeem the series for me, I'm certainly willing to give it a go.
Authority is slower and bigger than Annihilation, with a larger cast of characters and more complexity in play than before. But it all works perfectly.
"Voice", Control has been drafted into to Southern Reach to investigate Area X further in the absence of the missing Director and the aftermath of the ill fated twelfth expedition.
With "Control" coming in cold with very little background on Southern Reach, Area X and the twelfth expedition, we see almost through a newcomers eyes, in the way we as readers were that newcomer with Annihilation, the surrounding strangeness of Area X and it's localised impact within the government facility and the impact it is having on it's staff.
The tension in Authority does not come from exploring once again what Area X is exactly but in how Control struggles with the discoveries he slowly uncovers on this "safe" side of the border. Not just what he finds relating to Area X but also the friction with his often resentful (and at times down right unnerving) staff and the personal struggles within himself.
Very much the middle part of a trilogy, VanderMeer gives us enough breadcrumbs to see the wider idea what Area X possibly is without us ever really going there again and I expect this to be expanded on further in the final book. But in doing so he has also masterfully constructed a character study of a man on a journey to the middle of something he can't quite get grapple with or begin to understand.
The journey is certainly one you'll remember.
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Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 21, 2020
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