Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

Who (wrote it)?: Jeff VanderMeer is an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He’s written and edited a whole bunch of stuff, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit I had never heard of him before the books from his The Southern Reach Trilogy started getting mainstream attention. Fun facts about Jeff VanderMeer: he grew up in the Fiji Islands; he lives in Florida (and it shows in these books); he has four cats; the New Yorker called him “the weird Thoreau,” which is an amazing thing.

What (is it)?: Authority is the second book in The Southern Reach Trilogy. It follows John Rodrigues (who prefers to be called Control, which… SUBTLE VanderMeer), the newly appointed Director of the Southern Reach, as he shows up to find out just what the hell is going on down there.

When (are we)?: I don’t think the time period is specified, but it feels vaguely contemporary.

Where (are we)?: Most of the book takes place within the offices of The Southern Reach, the shadowy government agency in charge of investigating Area X, a mysterious region in the southern United States where nature seems to be reclaiming itself. Annihilation took place entirely within Area X, and I have to say that moving the narrative outside of that setting took a bit of the oomph out of this book.

Why (read it)?: Because you (and I) read Annihilation and needed to know more. Because Area X is creepy af and I NEED to know what’s going to happen.

How (did I like it)?: It was… fine. I have to say I was a little disappointed to see such a long book when I bought this. I think one of the great things about Annihilation was how efficient it was; at 195 pages it packed a whole lot of punch. Long isn’t necessarily bad, but the first two thirds of the book, in which we’re following Control and his attempts to investigate the former Director and battle with the Assistant Director, just really, really drags. For me, the draw of these books is most definitely not plot; it’s the icky, creepy, weirdness of Area X. Once he gets around to the icky, creepy, weirdness in the last third or so, things turned around and I was IN it. I will definitely be reading the third book in the series, Acceptance.

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