Authority: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer
Paranoia is something that touches all of us from time to time. Whether it is from all the lights turning red while you are running late for work, or all your co-workers ceasing to laugh as you enter the room several times throughout the day. Mostly it is just coincidence. But, every so often there really is something there, just under the surface. The question is: do we really want to reveal the source of our paranoia?
John Rodrigues, also known as Control, is the new director of the Southern Reach, after the previous director vanished into Area X. Southern Reach is a secret government program designed to monitor and explore Area X. It is
the last place anyone wants to be stationed at, but Control has run out of options. Some strings are pulled and Control ends up in charge of people who want to see him fail and a project that is as dangerous as being on the front line. It was an unusual choice not to pick up from where the last novel left off but to turn the narrative on its head.
In the first book we are trapped in Area X with the biologist, in Authority we are with the men and women in charge but still have the feeling of being trapped. Control tries to sift through the notes of the previous director only to see breaks in sanity everywhere. The previous director’s staff remains loyal and does everything to undermine Control, but there appears to be another goal in mind. Control gains access to video clips of the first expedition and almost comes unhinged himself. He begins to see patterns in all the random things that are happening around him and realizes that his paranoia isn’t unwarranted. The strings that were pulled are now attached to Control, and they are being manipulated by an entity know only as “The Voice.” And The Voice may be after something other than just answers.
As ingenious as it is chilling, Authority is a book that will stick with you. Almost all of the questions that were asked in the first novel are answered in the follow up but the answers lead you down an all-new rabbit hole. Written in a similar style as the previous novel (flashbacks interwoven with present day narrative), the follow up focuses more on the fragmented data that comes into those observing Area X, where as the first followed an expedition as it came in behind something horrible. I said in my previous review that the one criticism that could be leveled at Annihilation was its length. Its short length being part of a trilogy, could lead readers to think it was just one book broken into three parts.
After reading the second installment I can say for certain that nothing could be farther from the truth. Annihilation was an exploration/horror story that I compared to At the Mountains of Madness. Authority is a thriller/horror story similar to John Farris’s The Fury only instead of a strange feeling of vindication at the end of reading it you’re afraid of patterns and plants.
A wonderful book from its beautiful cover design (inside and out) to its plot that resonates with the reader long after you put it down. I can’t recommend this book enough.
The Southern Reach Trilogy
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.
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Adam Armstrong is a life-long native to Northern Kentucky. He lives with his long-time girlfriend, Melissa, and their son, Dylan. He has had several short stories and hundreds of articles published in the past. When he is not writing he enjoys exploring the world around him.