Book Review – Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

The blurb dreads:

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.

The book is unsurprisingly similar to the first book in the series in that it starts off slightly uncomfortable and gradually ratchets up to seriously creepy.  The interesting twist is that this book takes place in the bureaucracy that is sending people into Area X rather than inside Area X itself.

Initially I was excited to learn more about the situation described in the first book on the assumption that the people in charge knew more than the people on the ground.  I guess I should have known better, since the hallmark of the first book was adding disturbing mysteries without really answering many questions.

It’s a bit hard to tell if the Southern Reach is despicable because of its close association with Area X or if it’s just an awful organization or if Area X has actually infiltrated it.  The book reminded me a bit of Gormenghast in that all of the characters were despicable or grotesque in some way.

Things aren’t wrapped up by the end of the book, but I didn’t really expect them to be – both because it’s the middle book of a trilogy and because this series doesn’t seem to be one that gives the reader closure.