Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book Review: Authority (Southern Reach Trilogy Book 2)

I was in the middle of reading four books at the same time.  Authority was the last one I started but the first one I finished.

The second novel in the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer I previously reviewed the start of the series, Annihilation, previously stating how much I enjoyed it.  I was worried when I picked up Authority that it would leave me disappointed as a number of other series have done of late.  Instead Authority held me by the same tendrils that the first novel did and again it was virtually impossible to stop reading it.

Again we have a "weird" almost Lovecraft like situation but with a thoroughly modern take.  We cover the destruction of the first expedition into Area X and we know that a terrible fate befell them but if in a Hitchcock film the violence takes place off camera, here it takes place off page.  Vandermeer merely surrounds the action and horror with his words leaving the reader to fill in the blanks.  I've often watched films that do this, but rarely any novels.

Authority hides is surprises well and the reader gets an inkling of what might be going on but the depths of the mystery surrounding who or what controls the Southern Reach agency tasked with managing/investigating Area X and who or what may be on the chief protagonist's side are masked well throughout the work's length.

While taking place entirely outside of Area X whereas Annihilation took place entirely within Area X, Authority does retain a familiarity even though none of the characters in the second work are found in the first.  The "feel" of being in the South is there, the "feel" of being in the woods is there.  Vandermeer also keeps the reader's attention with a new perspective as well.  While Annihilation occurred from the standpoint of a biologist and its viewpoint followed suit with tangents on flora and fauna, Authority branches off into the inner workings of a CIA-like agency and instead we get discussions of missions to disrupt domestic terrorism and sleuthing procedurals.

Authority remains firmly bound by the "odd" world created in the first volume with a mysterious Area X gradually encroaching upon the modern world, destroying (?) everything as it grows and seemingly returning some expedition members in very changed states.  Yet here it does so only on this novel's borders...here the weirdness is not the central focus of the work but it is instead the motivator behind the more detective oriented story closing with a cliffhanger that requires you to read the concluding work--Acceptance.

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