Book Review | Authority by Jeff VanderMeer (The Southern Reach Trilogy #2)

Book Review | Authority by Jeff VanderMeer (The Southern Reach Trilogy)Jeff VanderMeer makes my head explode.

Instead of returning to the scene of the crime from Annihilation, a Twilight Zone-like place called Area X, VanderMeer puts us with Control (his code name), the son of a family of spies who is being given a second chance to save his career in espionage by running The Southern Reach Facility, the government facility investigating Area X. We’re outside the zone, but things are just as weird, just as…off, and just as inexplicable.

Control is almost as clueless about his job as the reader, and he seems to stumble through the steps of his examination. His first job is to interrogate the Biologist, who also happens to be the only person to survive the most recent expedition into Area X (seen in the events of Annihilation). Her answers don’t sit right with Control and the building smells of rotting honey and the drawer has a dead bird and the employees act strangely….and it all adds to the air of surreal mystery around The Southern Reach Facility, to say nothing of the story.

But I’ll just be honest: I had no way to predict where VanderMeer was going with the story or what I would find when I got there. My biggest fear was that I would be lost (because for most of the book I felt lost, but tantalized) and that no answers would be provided, that the gimmick would overplay and leave an unsatisfying conclusion.

And yet, VanderMeer avoided leaving me unsatisfied, if just barely. In fact, if I hadn’t been so emotionally vested by Authority, I might have picked up Acceptance, the third and last book in the trilogy, immediately. I couldn’t stop thinking about the book for several days after reading, and even now thinking about it makes me wonder if I got what really happened or if I need to reread and make another effort at plumbing the reality, or lack thereof, that VanderMeer created.

In any case, I look forward to finishing the trilogy, if just to close the door on a strange, but intriguing piece of speculative fiction.

Authority Book Cover Authority
The Southern Reach Trilogy
Jeff VanderMeer
Speculative Fiction
FSG Originals
May 6, 2014

After thirty years, the only human engagement with Area X--a seemingly malevolent landscape surrounded by an invisible border and mysteriously wiped clean of all signs of civilization--has been a series of expeditions overseen by a government agency so secret it has almost been forgotten: the Southern Reach. Following the tumultuous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the agency is in complete disarray.

John Rodrigues (aka "Control") is the Southern Reach's newly appointed head. Working with a distrustful but desperate team, a series of frustrating interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, Control begins to penetrate the secrets of Area X. But with each discovery he must confront disturbing truths about himself and the agency he's pledged to serve.

In Authority, the second volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, Area X's most disturbing questions are answered . . . but the answers are far from reassuring.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.