The bone-chilling, hair-raising second installment of the Southern Reach Trilogy.
For 30 years, a secret agency called the Southern Reach has monitored expeditions into Area X - a remote and lush terrain mysteriously sequestered from civilization. After the 12th expedition, the Southern Reach is in disarray, and John Rodriguez (a.k.a. "Control") is the team's newly appointed head. From a series of interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and more than two hundred hours of profoundly troubling video footage, the secrets of Area X begin to reveal themselves - and what they expose pushes Control to confront disturbing truths about both himself and the agency he's promised to serve.
©2014 Jeff VanderMeer (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
I'm a voracious audiobibliophile, mainly interested in speculative fiction, with the occasional mimetic fiction or non-fiction title sneaking in.
In Authority, VanderMeer pivots from the first-person journal of the unnamed biologist (read by Carolyn McCormick) which introduced “Area X” in Annihilation to an exploration of a different, though as uncanny and surreal, terrain: the organization which sent her into “Area X” in the first place, the Southern Reach itself. We do see the biologist often in Authority, but it is through the eyes of agent/operative John Rodriguez (aka “Control”), newly appointed acting director of the Southern Reach, interrogating her after her reappearance along with the other survivors of the expedition depicted in Annihilation. Control finds offices in decay and disarray, a shrinking staff divided into factions loyal to the previous director and “lifers” who are in it for the weird science and/or have nowhere else, really, to go. Throughout, Control reports his progress and findings — often couched — to The Voice, a shrouded, mysterious figure known only as a (digitally masked) voice on the phone. The cast of characters here each have layers and motivations — usually inscrutable — of their own: Grace, the assistant director who believes the previous director is still alive; Cheney, the head of the science department; and fellow scientist Whitby, who frequently acts as Control’s guide. I found the Southern Reach in Authority to act as both a metaphor for the many fragments of our own labyrinthine consciousnesses while also a rejection of such abstraction or disaggregation; an organization gone feral after decades of attempting to understand the incomprehensible, having stared too long into the abyss. Meanwhile Control’s expedition into its hierarchies and storage rooms and film archives plays with and against reader expectations: again we must question the reliability of our narrator, of the purpose and use of evidence and rationality in the context of such a narrative in the first place. VanderMeer creates mystery, unease, and an escalation of the compulsion behind this series: what is “Area X”?
Narrated by Bronson Pinchot for Blackstone Audio, the audiobook is, again, fantastic, cementing my feeling that Pinchot is one of the best narrators in the business (from non-fiction like How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick’s Robotic Resurrection to the wide-ranging accents of Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides and Last Call, to Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree). Pinchot’s characterizations of Grace (annoyed, Southern, mistrustful of Control), Cheney (bombastic, seemingly oblivious), Whitby (hesitant, waffling, couching), linguist Jessica Hsyu, and indeed “Ghost Bird”, the biologist from Annihilation are all spot-on. On the latter it’s really, really interesting to get a third-person perspective on the biologist, who remains a bit flat in affect but with something else waiting underneath. Pinchot also does something a bit subtle in the first chapters: he starts voicing Control’s dialogue with a soft Hispanic accent, which slowly disappears until being read with a neutral accent. Is his identity so quickly swallowed up by the Southern Reach? It’s just one more of the layers-within-layers that draws us ever deeper in. As the sense of unease, of wrongness, of looking where we should not be looking grows (to me drawing connections between the Southern Reach of Authority and the Coburn National Laboratory and Observatory in Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere), Pinchot’s narration matches it, tension for tension, finally bursting apart like a puffball mushroom and letting the ideas aloft like spores across the terroir of the transformed landscapes, closing after a novel with a more thriller pacing of half-hour chapters with an extended last chapter three times that length which is impossible to put down. In the end, Authority like Annihilation stands alone; one can read the other without having read (or having to read) the other; reading Authority without Annihilation may if anything add to the mysteriousness at hand, though of course each offers additional layers of context for the other. Also: both novels offer by their final pages a certain closure to dramatic arcs of decision and action, while of course inviting (if not compelling!) further expeditions.
Yes, I would recommend this book and it's predecessor, Annihilation. The second installment of the Southern Reach trilogy follows the character, Control, as he attempts to unravel the mysteries of the Southern Reach organization as its new Director. Deep and suspenseful, I found this audiobook keeping me in the car long after I got home from my commute. While Annihilation focused on the inexplicable Area X, Authority adds a cloak and dagger layer to the agency charged with understanding and containing Area X.
Control was a sympathetic character.
Whitby. I won't spoil it.
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I'd categorize this book as a Lovecraftian horror, spy thriller, mystery. It takes an incredibly mundane setting and injects it with so much weird, that you can't help struggling to puzzle out what it all means. But you can't puzzle it out. It resists explanation at every turn. This is actually my fear with the final installment, that the mystery will never be fully revealed or explained, and the reader will be left with so many unanswered questions they will feel disappointed. Make no mistake, this book answers some big questions from the first book. But others just deepen the mystery.
This is almost a complete departure from the mystery and wonder of the first book Annihilation. It was, I hate to say boring. It was basically the story of a man who is something of a spy, but really a lame bureaucrat and his feelings. It is probably an ok book if you like that sort of thing, but I wanted something weirder... I wanted area X.
I gave it three stars which may be a bit generous because A. I like the way the author describes the feeling of what it is like to exist in an environment (whether natural or unnatural), and B: The ending was unexpected and opened up volume three to become awesome again.
Enjoyed this book and feel it is the best of the series. Sort of Lost meets Outbreak with a little X-Files thrown in.
Gamer, father of gamers, married to a gal that puts up with us. I work a solo job and use Audible to make my day go easier.
I picked the trilogy because Audible recommended it and did not enjoy anything of it besides Bronson Pinchot's narration in book 2 and 3. The story is incomprehensible and so full of adjectives describing each and every thing that your brain tends to shut off just trying to hurry the story to get to the point. I can't recommend any of the 3 books and feel that they I wasted my credits on all 3.
Snotty, elitist lawyer who reads too much and is kind too little.
Pinchot's performance and VanderMeer's excellent command of weird.
Control, mostly because I felt closer to him.
Inflection, tone, and varied dynamics.
IN A WORLD
WHERE STUDIO EXECUTIVES HAVE THEIR COCAINE
SWITCHED WITH LSD
WAS ABLE TO GET THIS THING PAST THE PRODUCERS
It's weird. We get it. We like it that way, though.
my mind lives in the aether
Perhaps. His narration wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible either.
This book is the second in a trilogy. I enjoyed the first - Annihilation - much more. But with as weak as I felt this book to be I am not sure I will go on to read the final book. This book solves some mysteries, and brings up a lot more, but really didn't leave a strong urge in me to continue reading and figure it all out.
I like Doctor Who.
I absolutely adored "Annihilation" and was really looking forward to "Authority." However, this book did not enthrall me in the same way "Annihilation" did. I'm viewing book 2 as a bridge to book 3, something that gives the necessary information to make book 3 make sense. It's possible that my high expectations caused "Authority" to feel like a let-down, but I genuinely did not find this book nearly as interesting as "Annihilation." However, I still wouldn't hesitate to recommend this series to my friends.
As I mentioned before, there are important revelations in this book and it has some genuinely creepy moments. And despite my feelings of disappointment overall, I was still holding my breath in anticipation at the last moment of the book. This book isn't bad, not at all.
A large portion of what I enjoyed about this book was Bronson Pinchot's narration. The man is a masterful reader. So good, in fact, that I may seek out his other audiobook work. I can't praise him enough.
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