Jeff VanderMeer
Authority Cover



This is the second volume of Vandermeer's Southern Reach Trilogy, and yes you need to read the first one first. Or you might want to wait for the third volume and read them all as a single, longish novel. Waiting for the last novel is not much of an issue with Vandermeer's trilogy. All three volumes are coming out within a few months of one another.

It was that proximity of the pub dates that convinced me to start the series. It might seem like a publishing gimmick, a way to get thirty some odd dollars for what would otherwise be twenty dollar trade paperback, but with these first two the break of a few months offered a nice pause in a narrative that from one book to the next has found a strikingly different tone for each of its segments.

Area X is the unimaginative name the military and scientific community has given a strip of the Florida coastline that has been somehow invaded and enclosed by an alien force. We keep sending exploratory parties in through the only entrance found in its invisible barrier. One came back, many didn't, and a few individuals from other groups appear months later near their homes, somewhat dazed, and soon to die of aggressive cancers.

Annihilation tells the catastrophic story of one expedition, andAuthority picks up after the reappearance of some of its participants. John Rodriguez, known as Control, has come in as the director of The Southern Reach group that oversees Area X. The one member of the previous expedition that has not reappeared turns out to have been Rodriguez' predecessor. Rodriguez wants to focus his investigations by interrogating the biologist from the previous group, but some antagonistic office politics, some frustrating bureaucracy, and some genuine weirdness will impede his efforts. After the adventure story format of Annihilation, this new novel teeters on the edge of devolving into a scary episode of The Office, but Vandermeer keeps the revelations coming and ups the horror level chapter by chapter.

He avoids the irritating technique of the cliffhanger ending by having his central characters, on the final page of the book, literally take the plunge into unchartered territory.