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Authority (Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 2) MP3 CD – Audiobook, May 6, 2014
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MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged
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About the Author
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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 international reviews
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.
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.
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.
(Photos taken after reading)
Our protagonist this time is Control, the agency's new director, and in his way he's as unreliable a witness as the Biologist was in book 1. Through his eyes, we see an agency on the brink of collapse. The offices are shabby, the staff are depressed, demoralised, or maybe even borderline psychotic, and collectively they are riven by internecine back-biting and petty turf wars. Control's brief is to get a grip on the Southern Reach and establish what it knows about Area X, and in particular the troubled twelfth expedition. He fails to do either. He is thwarted at every turn by his uncooperative assistant director, the incomprehensible reports of his senior scientists, the uncommunicativeness of the Biologist herself, whom he interviews repeatedly and unsuccessfully in her cell at the Southern Reach, the cryptic instructions he receives from his distant superiors, and his own inability to grasp what is happening around him. Permeating the whole narrative is an uneasy sense of non-quite-rightness, with the brooding presence of Area X somewhere just beyond our field of vision.
Inevitably, Control's bafflement leaches through to the reader. The first two thirds of the book are a struggle - like Control, I as a reader floundered to find my bearings in this disorientating hall of mirrors, and like Control I resented the agency's dull and petty office politics. Yet the picture does gradually resolve and come into focus, not least as we come slowly to understand some of the hidden agendas behind the veil of confusion that covers the Southern Reach. The final third of the book, in which the Southern Reach faces an unprecedented crisis, and Area X decisively reasserts itself into the narrative, is an absolute blast, and retrospectively makes the trudge of the opening sections worthwhile.
Two books in and I still can't quite make up my mind about the Southern Reach trilogy. Like `Annihilation', I found `Authority' frustrating at times, in asking more questions than it answers, and refusing to resolve its narrative into anything approaching a conventional sense of coherence. Yet there's something oddly addictive about the sense of existential horror that's conjured up by Area X. I find it hard to imagine anyone reading this far and not wanting to continue on into episode three.
Worth the read if you're invested in the series, otherwise you can probably just stick with Annihalation.
Here, we are presented with more backstory, which only leaves us with more questions than it answers.
One reviewer described this book as the other side of a telephone call, which is about as apt an analogy as could be asked for.
That being said, it's only a continuation of the conversation and given the nature of both books, I doubt the final book will provide all the answers. But then isn't that the best part about horror and weird fiction?
I really hope the next book continues the story of the two main characters at the end of this one, I'm emotionally invested in them and need to know what happens to them!
** edit - no I haven't found anything else as good yet!!
I liked the weirdness of the Southern Reach Centre, but if I had to pick I'd take my chances in Area X. Not too sure whether I'm rooting for "Control" as a leading character. I found him a bit too weak and too much of a "mummy's boy". If he's in the third book, I hope he toughens up a bit (he cannot rely on the "Biologist" to protect him all the time).